Marsworth Canals and Reservoirs

This walk is good for both ‘Arms’ and legs. Not only that, what better way to get some fresh air into your lungs than to explore the waterways near Tring? The route includes a visit to one of the best birdwatching sites in the area, Wilstone Reservoir.

Technical sheet No. 27246018

A Marsworth walk posted on 27/09/22 by Chiltern Society. Last update : 17/11/22
Calculated time Calculated time: 2h15[?]
Distance Distance : 7.61 km
Vertical gain Vertical gain : 23 m
Vertical drop Vertical drop : 23 m
Highest point Highest point : 124 m
Lowest point Lowest point : 95 m
Easy Difficulty : Easy
Back to starting point Back to starting point : Yes
Walking Walking
Area Area : Chiltern Hills
Location Location : Marsworth
Starting point Starting point : N 51.818279° / W 0.666759°
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Grand Union Canal, Bulbourne


Start : Startops End car park, Marsworth, Tring HP23 4LJ. Grid ref: SP 919 141

(D/A) Go through the gate at the far end of the car park. Stay on the wide path between the canal and reservoir to a path junction at the top by the Startops End reservoir (A).

(1) Turn left and follow the canal for over 1km to its junction with the Wendover Arm at Marsworth Top Lock.

(2) Cross the footbridge and turn immediately left at the bottom. Go back under the footbridge and proceed along the left-hand side of the Wendover Arm (C). After 1km, go through a gate and up to a road bridge.

(3) Taking care, turn right over the bridge and immediately left to continue along the right-hand side of the canal for 1km to Little Tring Bridge. Just before the bridge, the path narrows to pass behind the historic Tringford Pumping Station (D). Bear right up to a road at Little Tring Bridge. Turn right downhill to the access track for the pumping station.

(4) Do not turn right but continue straight ahead between a hedge and fence on a path that runs parallel to the road. At a path junction, bear left to the road and turn right along it for a few metres. Cross the road onto a wide footpath and go past a gate. Follow the canal bank for 600m to a bridge. Have a look at the dedication plaques on the supporting structure.

(5) Go back a few paces, turn left through a gate in the hedgerow and follow the path down to the bottom. Turn right on a wide path and, at the end of the wood, turn left to reach the bank of Wilstone Reservoir (E). Walk straight along the top of the bank for 450m and look carefully for a set of steps that drop down to the right. Take them, go through the gate at the bottom and bear left across the corner of a field. Go through the next gate, cross a footbridge and follow the path ahead. Where the path forks take the left fork to a road.

(6) Cross into Tring Road and continue past the sign to Wilstone village (F). Just after the entrance to New Road, turn right through a gate and bear diagonally left across the field. Pass through the gate in the corner and turn left through another gate to enter New Road. Walk along the pavement to the War Memorial.

(7) Turn right along Rosebarn Lane and continue ahead as it becomes a surfaced path. Where the path bears to the left, stay in the same direction on a wide grassy track. Pass the allotments on the left, follow the field edge round to the left and go through a gap in the hedgerow on the right. Walk straight across the field and down a set of steps to reach the Aylesbury Arm (G) of the Grand Union Canal.

(8) Turn right along the towpath. Go under two road bridges and pass five sets of locks to reach the junction with the Grand Union Canal. Follow the towpath round to the right and stay on it to climb up to a road. Cross it and walk along the towpath to some steps on the right. Go down these to return to the car park. (D/A)

We hope you have enjoyed your walk. Please remember to rate the walk and add comments. We are interested in how we could improve the instructions or the route and would like to hear about any issues with paths on the walk.

Waypoints :
D/A : km 0 - alt. 108 m - Start
1 : km 0.18 - alt. 108 m - Startops Reservoir
2 : km 1.26 - alt. 122 m - Wendover Arm
3 : km 2.28 - alt. 121 m - Road Bridge
4 : km 3.46 - alt. 117 m - Waypoint 4
5 : km 4.25 - alt. 119 m - Footbridge - Wilstone Reservoir
6 : km 5.3 - alt. 98 m - B489
7 : km 5.81 - alt. 97 m - War Memorial
8 : km 6.37 - alt. 97 m - Aylesbury Canal
D/A : km 7.6 - alt. 108 m - Finish

Useful Information

Start & finish: Startops End car park (pay), Marsworth, Tring HP23 4LJ. Grid ref: SP 919 141

Parking: Startops End car park, Marsworth (£2.50 for 3hrs and £4.00 for 24hrs).

Local transport: Bus 50 runs between Aylesbury and Ivinghoe on Sundays; Bus 164 runs an Aylesbury circular stops near Point 2 of the walk on Mondays to Saturdays; Bus 167 runs between Ivinghoe and Leighton Buzzard on Mondays to Saturdays and Bus 207 runs between Hemel Hempstead and Marsworth on Fridays

Terrain: An easy waterside walk.

Food & drink: The Anglers Retreat pub and Waters Edge tearoom in Marsworth. The Half Moon pub and the Community Shop in Wilstone. Mead’s Farm Shop tearoom at point 6 of the walk

This walk was created for the book "50 Great Walks in the Chilterns" available from the Chiltern Society or from Amazon 50GW

Visorando and this author cannot be held responsible in the case of accidents or problems occuring on this walk.

During the walk or to do/see around

(A) Startops End Reservoir was opened in 1815 to feed the Aylesbury Arm and take surplus water from the summit of the Grand Union Canal.The Grand Union Canal runs for 137 miles from the Thames at Brentwood to Birmingham. The section through Marsworth was known as the Grand Junction Canal and was fully opened in 1805. One of the main problems was the lack of water to feed the canal, especially for the summit between Marsworth and Tring. Fifty thousand gallons of water are lost every time a lock gate opens, and there wasn’t enough water from local watercourses to meet this demand. To solve this, several reservoirs were built. They attract all kinds of wildlife, especially birds. In winter there are plenty of wildfowl, while in summer the reed beds are home to warblers and buntings.

(B) Marsworth Reservoir was built in 1806 to cater for the increase in canal traffic. It supplied water to the Marsworth flight of locks. It was fed by a spring near the Bulbourne and surplus water from the summit of the Grand Union.

(C) Wendover Arm: The 6.7 mile long Arm was constructed in 1799 to carry water from the springs and streams in the Wendover area to feed the Tring summit locks. From the outset there were problems with leakage and before long it was losing more than it was supplying. The middle section became dry, so the water was piped. The Arm is currently being restored by the Wendover Arm Trust.

(D) Tringford Pumping station: The Grade II listed pumping station was built in 1818 to pump water from the reservoirs into the Wendover Arm. For over 100 years water was pumped using a beam engine. It was eventually replaced by diesel engines and they, in turn, by electric ones.

(E) Wilstone Reservoir is the largest and was the first to be built, opening in 1802. Its primary purpose was to store water for later use and to feed the Wendover Arm. It’s regarded as one of the best bird-watching sites in the south of England.

(F) Wilstone village developed with the building of the Grand Union Canal and the reservoirs. New houses were built for construction workers, along with pubs, a chapel, a church and shops.

(G) Aylesbury Arm: The 6.2 mile Arm was completed in 1815. It has 16 locks and passes under 19 bridges. The original plan was to connect the Grand Junction Canal with the Thames at Abingdon, thereby forming a link with the Kennet & Avon Canal and the Wilts & Berks Canal. The Arm was used to transport grain, timber, coal and building materials until the 1960s.

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