Head to Slapton in North Buckinghamshire for a walk to the south of Leighton Buzzard following the Grand Union Canal.
The walk follows the Grand Union Canal northwards for a while to reach bridge 118, passing Slapton Lock (30) on the way. The canal was formed from the amalgamation of several independent waterways between 1894 and 1929 and one of these waterways, along which the walk travels, was the Grand Junction Canal; the canal ran from Braunston in Northamptonshire to the River Thames at Brentford and was built between 1793 and 1805.
About half a mile to the west of the canal is Bridego Bridge where the railway crosses a minor road. It was here, in August 1963, that the Great Train Robbery, classed at the time as the ‘crime of the century’, took place, when the Glasgow to Euston Royal Mail train was stopped and robbed; the gang made off with £2.5 million.
We leave the canal behind and head through fields to arrive at Slapton, home to a church and a picturesque thatch-roofed pub, the Carpenters Arms, which dates from the 16th century. The church – the Holy Cross – dates from the 13th century, although it has been much altered over the years.
First mentioned in the Domesday Book, when the village was known as ‘Slapetone’ meaning ‘farm by a slippery place’, the manor was held by a convent at Barking in Essex until passing to the Crown after the Dissolution of the Monasteries in 1547. The manor later passed through various owners, including the Duke of Bridgewater in the 1700’s.
After meandering through the village, we follow a short section of the Two Ridges Link; an 8 mile walking route connecting the Ridgeway National Trail at Ivinghoe Beacon and the Greensand Ridge Walk at Leighton Buzzard. Then we head along Slapton Lane and through several fields before rejoining the canal at Horton Wharf Farm, beside the Keeper’s Cottage and Horton Lock (31). From here, it’s an easy walk alongside the canal back to the start; published in Berkshire and Buckinghamshire Life, March 2017.