This attractive waterway, full of fauna and flora and dating from 1797, winds through open fields and under leafy canopies, and was originally meant to use water from local chalk streams and springs to feed the Tring Summit, while carrying commercial traffic to and from Wendover. Quite the reverse happened as water continually leaked, from particularly the middle section, and it literally became a drain on the Grand Union. A stop lock was finally installed at Tringford and the canal closed in 1904, although water has continued to be piped from past Drayton Beauchamp to Wilstone Reservoir.
From bridge 1
at Bulbourne, the well made towpath curves round the reinforced bank, on the far side are overgrown bushes and trees. At bridge 2 the digestive biscuit hinders your progress. The Tring base of Heygates, who produce the wholewheat flour used in the nation's favourite tea time snack, is in the way and you cross to the other side. Originally also on the site was a tug, barge and boat builders. Established to construct and repair boats for the adjacent mill, from the 1870s Joseph Bushell developed it as a separate business, operating as Bushell Bros. from 1912 until his sons' retirement in 1952.
There is now open countryside before reaching Tringford Pumping Station, the stop lock and the rebuilt bridge 3. Due to the work of the Wendover Arm Trust, the canal is now navigable and walkable for another 280 yards to a winding hole. However, to reconnect with the canal you must go up to the road from the bridge, go past Little Tring Farm, then left on a public footpath to find the muddy bottom of the unrestored canal at the second five bar gate.
Very quickly on the right you glimpse Wilstone Reservoir and near bridge 4 are the partially restored remains of the Whitehouses Pumping Station which was erected in 1816-1817 at a spot 'determined by Mr Telford' and fitted with a Birmingham made Boulton and Watt steam engine. All along the canal there are masses of wild flowers, particularly at this point Traveller's Joy and Willowherb with Rosehips and Elderberries keeping them company..
The on-going work of the Trust is clearly visible after bridge 4 which is covered with donor plaques and by the time you reach Drayton Beauchamp the canal is back in water but then becomes overgrown and not navigable following the Saxon Way bridge (5A), which is named after the nearby burial site of a Saxon Princess discovered in 2001, and carries the Aston Clinton By-Pass. Just before the bridge a short diversion can be taken to St Mary the Virgin church, a smartly kept country church dating mainly from the 15th century.
After Buckland Wharf, the towpath crosses sides and there is a well situated bench to take your ease and admire the emerging Chiltern Hills with perhaps a glider overhead from RAF Halton. Bungalows are then passed with landing stages waiting for Phase 3 of the restoration to be completed. The water is clear but shallow and full of reeds and nesting birds.
The canal straightens under Wellonhead Bridge into The Narrows adjacent to Cobblers Pits, where yews hide a redundant quarry and
Green Park, an old Rothschild estate. Here the canal was lined in concrete to prevent water leaking into the now demolished grand house. A pattern now becomes established that when trees overhang the water it is clear, but when sunlight can penetrate, overgrowth takes over and the water virtually disappears from view. Overall the towpath is very quiet and even the corregated metal fence of an incongruous adjoining industrial estate is painted green.
This is not to say you are in the middle of nowhere, MoD signs warn you to keep clear of the RAF training station before you go under the blue Rothschild Bridge and reach the village of Halton where Edward VII regularly met up with Lily Langtry.
After crossing to the other side, there are tennis courts and open fields with the canal guarded by sentry trees that stud the banks. You now pass through woods that hide Weston Turville Reservoir, built in 1799 as a repository for excess water in order to placate local mill owners, it is now a wildlife sanctuary. Before Perch Bridge, the canal threatens to disappear completely but suddenly opens up at The Wides, a naturally wet area that was marshy grassland pre-canal.
After this point, it is like the Tommy Cooper bottle trick with the canal disappearing under a mass of reeds then suddenly reappearing, before the towpath finally ends at Wharf Road and the remnants of the canal disappear into a housing estate.
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Tringford and the end of the navigable section
The Wides, a natural wet land before the canal
The Narrows, where the banks were lined with concrete to prevent leakage into Anthony de Rothschild's house
The work of the Wendover Arm Trust is apparent, lining the canal during Phase 2 of the restoration
Approaching the end of the navigable waterway
A boat passes Heygates, the UK's largest flour millers