Car-free walk: Cheddington to Tring – South East

Take a walk along the Grand Union Canal passing wildlife-rich reservoirs, charming villages and a thriving market town, with views of the rolling chalk hills of the Chilterns

Photo: Peter Reed

The Grand Union Canal, originally part of the Grand Junction Canal, was built in 1792 by William Jessop and James Barnes to provide a more direct link between London, the Midlands and the north of England.

The walk starts in Cheddington, which has a railway station served by regular trains to London Euston. The village has two decent pubs, the Three Horseshoes and The Old Swan, where you can fill up before setting off.

Pick up the towpath just south of Cheddington and continue south. The route passes through a series of villages and their neighbouring reservoirs – Wilstone, Startops, Marsworth and Tringford – which collectively make up Tring Reservoirs.

The pools were dug between 1800 and 1839 to supply water to the Grand Union Canal and its two arms to Wendover and Aylesbury. The reservoirs are popular with anglers and birdwatchers and there are bird hides by Tringford and Wilstone Reservoirs. For refreshments, you’ll be spoilt for choice – there’s Bluebells Tearoom and the Angler’s Retreat, both by Startops, and the Grand Junction Arms by the canal on the way to Tring.

The route winds up at Tring, which is a lovely market town boasting an array of family-run shops, cafes and pubs. The Natural History Museum, built in 1889 to house the zoological collections of Walter Rothschild, is now one of the finest collections of stuffed mammals, birds, reptiles and insects in the UK. One of its star exhibits is a catfish caught in Wilstone Reservoir in 1970, weighing a whopping 43lb 8oz. There’s a railway station just outside the town, where you can catch a train to London Euston.