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Tourist Guide: Milton Keynes

by BobCurby 

Posted: 31 May 2010
Word Count: 1334
Summary: This the 1st of many articles designed to promote visits to lesser known attractions within the Milton Keynes area (and yes, there MANY!) This is written under my real name, no nomme des plumes.

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Milton Keynes: Beauty Spots
1. Furzton Lake

by Steve Goodings

Furzton is a housing estate with a secret; nestling in a grid square with the A421 to the south and Childs Way to the north, Watling Street to the east and Shenley Road to the west it hides well the huge lake in the middle. Originally two small streams flowed through what was partly marsh and a small disused clay pit, and on eventually to the Ouse. Landscaping and drainage schemes prior to building the present houses transformed the two streams and the clay pit, then called Cold Harbour pond, into the bird sanctuary and fisherman’s delight it is today.

I would like to describe a summer walk from the south of the estate to and round this feature, worthy of a visit. From the A421, find Blackmoor Gate on the map and seek the shopping centre at the junction with Parkside. This is the best place to park without annoying the neighbours. Leaving the car, walk northwards to Blackmoor Gate, over the crossing and bear right, turn left down Parkside and follow this road to the end. Ahead of you is a hedge line with a footpath which becomes a cross-way within a few yards, for the sake of this article, I would like you to walk straight ahead until you see the wooden bridge over the brook ahead of you, then turn right and take the path with the brook on your left, that skirts the water’s edge. I will describe this from my own viewpoint as I walk.

Under oak trees the brook is slow, hardly moving, the banks filled with fern and wildflowers. Suddenly it is wider, opening out a little, giving a clue to something ahead. Mallard ducks appear, quacking and swimming in small circles and the water is deeper. Almost without warning the path is in the open, the trees left behind and into view comes the bird sanctuary and a large sparkling blue lake. I see the sign warning that it is a sanctuary and forbidding fishing or swimming. Teal and Moorhen regard me with mild curiosity as I reach the wooden slatted walkway that crosses the reedy marshy part; the swans appear and call for food, hustling the smaller birds aside. Overhead I hear more Teal calling and small gulls wheal about. A splash heralds the end of the Kingfisher’s dive, and a second or two later the shimmering green and blue of the diver emerges and flies to the hungry chicks with the wiggling fish in its beak. The path continues on and skirts the edge of a reedy pond before forking, right into the houses, left over a wooden bridge. I choose the left fork and cross the bridge, looking down at the large – leaved water lilies, bursting with cream star-shaped flowers. Small carp weave their way in and out of the string-like stems. I linger a few moments, just watching the fish and listening to the sounds of the birds before continuing on from the wooden bridge on and up a small rise where I see to my right a steel sculpture dominating the skyline yet tasteful in its design. Reaching the top of the rise, my breath is taken away as before me and stretching way off into the distance is the sparkling jewel of the main lake. In the distance I see the hotel and restaurant that bears the same name, "The Furzton Lake" and the prestigious offices that look out over the northern end of the lake.

I stand and take in the view as the warm sun reminds me that it is summer, the breeze coming off the water carries the scent of a thousand wildflowers mingled with the smell of wildfowl and fish. I walk straight down onto the green grass, to the water’s edge and look down into the clear water. Shoals of small fish, the fry of the millions of fish with which the lake was stocked by its creators. As they dart about and change direction, the shoal looks like a large animal, an otter or eel maybe. I laugh and allow my eyes to rise up from the edge to the lake itself. I see a great number of Canadian geese and almost as if by command, they take up the call, creating an echoing cacophony of sound. As suddenly as it started, the squawking stops, and peace returns to the Lake. On such a bright day the sun glinting off the water makes me squint. With the bright green grass around its edge, the lake looks to me like a sparkling sapphire in an emerald setting. There is more to see, and I retrace my steps back up to the red-coloured path, part of the network of paths in Milton Keynes known as ‘Red Ways’, and to another wooden bridge heading west. I smile as I remember childhood stories about trolls under bridges and a goat called Billy Goat Gruff, trip-trapping over the bridge. This bridge crosses a narrow part of the lake, a neck, which makes the lake from the air look like a big crescent shaped body with an oval head on a short neck. Walking up a short slope I see the recreation ground ahead to my left and some houses in the distance. A smaller path leaves the red way to skirt the west shore of the lake; I choose to take this route.

On my right is the lake, and for the first time I notice the row of small shelters on the east shore, dark green round tents with open fronts. Fishermen sit on small stools, two or three rods stretching out from each, out over the water, lines taught and floats bobbing. Only the east and north shores have fishing permits. Keep to my plan to skirt the west shore, I follow the stony path along the water’s edge, joggers pass me going the other way, and I pass by what the locals call ‘Easter Island’ – a small island where birds nest, topped by sculptures made out of redundant railway sleepers. Soon I am adjacent to the breeding lagoon and its associated island, where I see over 40 birds of more than 7 different breeds, some swimming, some on the bank, and others on the island. Pressing on down the path I come to a very reedy area well covered by overhanging willows, here is the outfall from the steel pipe that connects to the old watercourse of Shenley Brook. On around this small structure, I pick up the northerly path that runs on through more fishermen, over a wooden bridge and out into a grassy area where the path pulls away from the lake. Many people are stretched out on the grass, enjoying the sun and sounds of the birds. Onward I walk and arrive at the fork where left will take me to a mock-up of a lock with a full sized barge in it and the patio of the pub/restaurant, and right takes me down the long eastern shore and back to the hill top sculpture after passing over the outflow spillway that keeps the lake water from flooding the area. I choose right this time.

Returning to the southern path and crossing the same wooden bridge, I pass by the recreation ground and pavilion, before turning south towards Parkside. Arriving at the wooden bridge near to the start of my walk I notice that, to my right, the brook has been sculptured into many pools, one of which has nests built by the moorhens, I linger a few moments before I walk back through the hedge line and back up to where the car is parked.

Many people pass through Milton Keynes every day, many visit the shopping and recreational centre known as ‘the centre:mk’ yet, few know of the hidden jewels a few feet from the feeder roads they drive in on. I hope to change that.

©Steve Goodings

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Comments by other Members

Cornelia at 08:57 on 01 June 2010  Report this post
Bob, what a good idea to write a piece about the scenic attractions of Milton Keynes and I thoroughly enjoyed this - really drawn into the wildlife descriptions.

I wasn't quite sure what it was meant to be in terms of genre and seemed to fall between a walking guide and description, As a keen walker, and an even keener reader of walking guides, I thought at first that was what it was going to be. Then it turned into a kind of nature ramble - as I say, very enjoyable, but more in the mould of the 'Nature Notes' column that used to appear regularly in The Guardian, more of a general observation piece on the countryside than a guide.

I assume there would be sketch maps if it's to be a collection of walks in the area? I remember cutting out a collection of weekly pieces from the London Evening Standard, usually about places on the fringes of London -one that springs to mind was called 'The Blossom that Lights up Kent'. So maybe a seasonal approach would be a good idea, especially as your descriptive powers are so strong.

Have you pitched the idea to you local paper? Sorry if you mentioned this and I missed it.

Other necessary information is mileage, how long it takes to complete the walk, where you can stop for refreshments and some indication of how difficult it is, such as easy, medium or tough going, I always look at this first when reading about a walk I'm considering.

I'm reminded, too, of leaflets that appear in local tourist offices and libraries. In s. London there's a series called The Green Chain Walk, for instance, divided into sections with separate booklets, indicating landscape features and wildlife to look out for. So it may be worth approaching them, if you haven't already


Katerina at 14:34 on 02 June 2010  Report this post
I thoroughly enjoyed this - it's so comprehensive - loaded with information.

We have a newspaper type brochure down here called 'Dartmoor Life' which does exactly what you've done - gives you details of hidden gems to visit - though not as full of information as you've done - so I'm sure there must be something similar up there that would snap this up.

I spotted one thing that could maybe be worded differently -

nestling in a grid square with the A421 to the south and Childs Way to the north, Watling Street to the east and Shenley Road to the west it hides well the huge lake in the middle.

I would put a comma after 'west' and I'm not sure about the words 'hides well'. Maybe you could say - the huge lake in the middle is well hidden - I think that sounds better.

Writing it from your own viewpoint really brings the piece to life, but some editors may want it written differently, and it would be equally as good if written as a 'How To' piece.

So instead of - I pick up the northerly path that runs on through more fishermen, over a wooden bridge and out into a grassy area where the path pulls away from the lake.

You could put - If you pick up the northerly path...

I really hope you find somewhere to sub this as it's a great informative piece of writing.

Well done,


BobCurby at 22:43 on 02 June 2010  Report this post
Thanks everyone - I didn't know how to pitch it - from a walker's VP or from a bird-watcher's VP? What do you you reckon? I agree that it's got to be one or the other and as it stands it's a bit more like a handout for 11-year olds - that's my OWN criticism!

I have a lot of tweaking to get it polished and I hope you will have a second look when I've done that.

We have 14 lakes here, 17 miles of Grand Union canal, the famous Three Locks pub (where a film called 'The Bargee' was made - with Harry H Corbett as the bargee), the Great Ouse, the Little Ouse, Woburn Safari Park, The Great Brickhill, Woburn Golf Course, Gilliver's Land, Woodhill Category B prison.... (oops, no visitors...)

Much to write about I think.

Steve (Bob's my middle name)

BobCurby at 22:45 on 02 June 2010  Report this post
GULLIVAR's Land even tch! can't get the staff! :O

Katerina at 07:44 on 03 June 2010  Report this post
Hi Steve,

Oh definitely from a walker's point of view, because it's not just the birds that one sees on route is it - there's also the scenery - the trees, the brook, the wildflowers, the bridges, waterlilies and fish - so I think a walker's pov would be ideal, as there's so much to see.

You could always contact one of those 'Country Life' magazines or even a wildlife mag.

Let us know how you get on,


BobCurby at 00:10 on 04 June 2010  Report this post
Thanks Kat - OK I will tweak it and upload an edited version in a few days.

BobCurby at 00:02 on 21 June 2010  Report this post
Hi everyone - I'm sorry I've not contributed recently - I have been tucked away in West Cornwall away from phones, mobiles, internet - writing away merrily. However, now I am back and will try to be a bit more active.

I intend to tweak this article over the next few days and will then pop a note on asking for your comments.


BobCurby at 23:12 on 24 June 2010  Report this post
Sheesh - life's hectic - and no, I don't watch football - I have been in 'scalded cat' or maybe even 'blue a*s*d fly' mode - Sheila - if this does end up somewhere as a series, it will have maps, GPS grid references and pictures to support it as I have a hand-help GPS unit so can mark the start-point for people who do likewise. Thanks for pointing those little things out - this is my first ever article related to places etc. - and I do want to try and see if I can end up with 20 or so 500 - 100 word articles about the hidden attractions beyond the 'concrete cows'


500 to 1000 word - slow down boy, brain faster than fingers....

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