Bedford & Milton Keynes Waterway
The Bedford & Milton Keynes Waterway Trust was established in 1995 to promote the development of a broad waterway linking the Grand Union Canal in Milton Keynes to the River Great Ouse in Bedford. Creating Britain’s first major new waterway in a century, it will provide amenities and opportunities for communities at the heart of the Oxford/Milton Keynes/Cambridge Arc, recently recognised by the Government as a key location for housing and economic growth.
The waterway park will provide a green corridor linking new and existing communities, creating a unique sense of identity: a waterway park for all that will meet a wide range of recreational demands from walkers and cyclists to horse riders and anglers. It has the potential to boost the local economy through new tourism-related jobs and additional spending in the area, as well as potential environmental benefits such as flood prevention and improved water management.
The project is supported by a consortium of local authorities, the Local Enterprise Partnership, navigation authorities and charities, including the trust, whose role is to act as an advocate and mobilise support at all levels for the project. The route of the waterway park is protected in three local plans. In 2019 Campbell Park Marina opened, together with a small section of waterway park which breaks into the Grand Union Canal. At the other end of the route Bedford Business Park, north of the A421, also opened and incorporates a section of the waterway park as part of its sustainable drainage system.
In autumn 2018 the trust dredged part of the River Great Ouse, opening up a navigable route to Kempston Mill for small craft less than a 2ft water draught where the trust has completed a new landing stage; further dredging is required. It is hoped this will allow the trust’s own community boat, John Bunyan, and other craft to visit a new IWA Silver Propeller Challenge destination on the river. Since John Bunyan was launched in 2013, it has carried over 46,000 visitors and is one of Bedford’s top attractions.