<div style="display:inline;"> <img height="1" width="1" style="border-style:none;" alt="" src="//googleads.g.doubleclick.net/pagead/viewthroughconversion/1028731116/?value=0&amp;guid=ON&amp;script=0">
6 ISSUES FOR £6 Subscribe to Hertfordshire Life today click here

Autumn glory: A walk around Tring Reservoirs and the Grand Union canal

PUBLISHED: 13:18 21 November 2017 | UPDATED: 13:18 21 November 2017

Opened in 1815, the Aylesbury arm runs for just over six miles

Opened in 1815, the Aylesbury arm runs for just over six miles


Mighty Georgian-era reservoirs attracting overwintering wildfowl, village pubs and a blaze of autumn leaf colour are just some of the attractions of a walk around Tring Reservoirs and the Grand Union canal in autumn, writes Liz Hamilton

Autumn is an ideal time to venture into the flatlands of the clay vale beyond the Chilterns to explore Tring Reservoirs and the canals they supply. The trees will be in their autumn colours and the hedges laden with fruit. You might spot some of the rare native black poplars locally abundant in the area – at this time their leaves turn golden. There’s good parking, numerous well-surfaced paths and several pubs and cafés.

From Wilstone village, two miles north west of Tring, a circuit of about four miles takes in the Grand Union canal, its Wendover and Aylesbury arms and all four reservoirs. The Half Moon pub in Wilstone is a good place for lunch before or after a walk.

Close to the village, Wilstone is the first reservoir you encounter, reached by a flight of steps. It’s the largest reservoir, built in 1802 and expanded twice later in the century – the lines of trees in the middle mark the original banks. A path (often muddy in winter) runs through trees fringing the western end of the reservoir. From here you can reach a hide for views of the wintering wildfowl that congregate on the reservoir, as well as resident birds. Beyond there’s a climb to the towpath of the Wendover arm.

The Grand Union canal (originally the Grand Junction canal and completed in 1805) crosses the Chilterns via the Tring summit, the highest point on its route from London to Birmingham. From the summit the canal goes downhill in either direction. Each lock operation uses 50,000 gallons of water and on a busy day four million gallons can be lost from the summit. Finding an adequate water supply was a major challenge for the canal builders.

Initially, water was supplied by the Wendover arm, a contour canal without locks which collected water from springs along the chalk scarp to feed the main canal. For a while it was also used as a waterway allowing boats to reach Wendover. Unfortunately the Wendover arm always leaked badly and eventually the central section was abandoned and became dry.

Heading along the Wendover arm towards Little Tring, you can enjoy good views over the nearby countryside and see the restoration works aiming to revitalise the waterway into Wendover.

The Grand Junction canal builders wanted to expand their network far beyond what was eventually completed, but continuing problems with water supplies at Tring frustrated many of their ambitions. In 1806 Marsworth reservoir was built to improve supplies, while the appointment of Thomas Telford to the post of chief engineer in 1814 must have raised the hopes of the Grand Junction company.

Telford added two more reservoirs, Startop’s End and Tringford, and installed a powerful steam engine in a pumping station at Tringford to lift water up into the Wendover arm from the reservoirs. When Wilstone was expanded, the mainly spring-fed reservoirs had a combined capacity of over 420 million gallons, but even then water shortages in dry periods meant that a borehole was sunk into the chalk in 1848 to augment supplies.

The construction of the canals and reservoirs must have had a very significant impact on local communities, especially in the villages to the north-west of Tring where the reservoirs are located. The huge influx of working men – the navigators or navvies – was undoubtedly unpopular, despite the extra income for local traders, since the navvies had a reputation for drunkenness and violence.

From Little Tring the walk takes you near the pumping station to reach Tringford reservoir, popular with fishermen. Beyond, the path running between Marsworth and Startop’s End reservoirs brings you to the Grand Union towpath. Keeping the canal to your right you reach the junction with the Aylesbury arm about half a mile to the north.

Close to the start of the Aylesbury arm there’s a double lock (two adjacent locks served by three sets of gates). The arm is a narrow canal, whereas the main Grand Union is a broad canal where the locks can accommodate two narrowboats side-by-side, but use much more water. Opened in 1815, the Aylesbury arm runs for just over six miles. Plans for an extension beyond Aylesbury were never achieved.

The walk leaves the Aylesbury arm just past bridge number two where a path leads through a gap in the hedge and brings you back into Wilstone village.

Tring Reservoirs is on OS Explorer Map 181. A Site of Special Scientific Interest, it is owned by the Canal and River Trust and managed by Herts and Middlesex Wildlife Trust.

Visit cpreherts.org.uk for more Herts walks.


Welcome , please leave your message below.

Optional - JPG files only
Optional - MP3 files only
Optional - 3GP, AVI, MOV, MPG or WMV files

Please log in to leave a comment and share your views with other Hertfordshire visitors.

We enable people to post comments with the aim of encouraging open debate.

Only people who register and sign up to our terms and conditions can post comments. These terms and conditions explain our house rules and legal guidelines.

Comments are not edited by Hertfordshire staff prior to publication but may be automatically filtered.

If you have a complaint about a comment please contact us by clicking on the Report This Comment button next to the comment.

Not a member yet?

Register to create your own unique Hertfordshire account for free.

Signing up is free, quick and easy and offers you the chance to add comments, personalise the site with local information picked just for you, and more.

Sign up now

More from Out & About

Monday, March 12, 2018

Volunteering in a renowned garden is a great way to gain knowledge, enjoy fresh challenges, and meet new friends. So where in Herts can you roll up your sleeves and get involved?

Read more
March 2018
Tuesday, March 6, 2018

In a village near Ware is one of Europe’s finest riding schools, the Contessa Riding and Training Centre. With stunning Iberian stallions, it is a place of pride and community created by a mother and daughter’s passion

Read more
March 2018
Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Terror, trade, forbidden love and bravery – how just five dates tell something of the remarkable history of a small market town in Herts

Read more
March 2018
Monday, February 19, 2018

Sian Price, of the Countryside Management Service, outlines six ways we can all get more from our wilder spaces during the Hertfordshire Year of Physical Activity

Read more
February 2018
Tuesday, February 13, 2018

With big views and big history, a walk around Barkway is a journey through the centuries, writes Liz Hamilton of Herts Campaign to Protect Rural England

Read more
February 2018
Monday, February 5, 2018

During January and February, elusive little white signs of spring pop up around the county in the form of snowdrops. We have gathered some of the best places to go for a snowdrop walk in Hertfordshire

Read more
Monday, January 29, 2018

Health and happiness is a walk in the park, says Charlotte Hussey, as Herts and Middlesex Wildlife Trust joins the Hertfordshire Year of Physical Activity

Read more
January 2018
Monday, January 22, 2018

Be it under the ancient oaks of Broxbourne Woods or alongside the gentle deer of Ashridge Estate, Hertfordshire is a fantastic place to de-stress with a woodland walk this autumn and winter. We count down our 8 top choices to try

Read more
Monday, January 15, 2018

The museum has won an award for its ‘outstanding’ education programme

Read more
January 2018
Monday, January 15, 2018

Farmers’ markets make it easy to buy fresh, healthy food sourced direct from local producers in a charming setting, far removed from the supermarket experience. Here are some of the best farmers’ markets in Hertfordshire

Read more
Great British Holidays advert link

Newsletter Sign Up

Sign up to the following newsletters:

Sign up to receive our regular email newsletter

Topics of Interest

Food and Drink Directory

Job search in your local area

Local Business Directory

Hertfordshire's trusted business finder

Search For a Car In Your Area

Property Search