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 one of Britain’s first major new waterways in a century, it will provide amenities and opportunities for communities at the heart of the Oxford/Milton Keynes/Cambridge Arc, 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 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 BMKWT, 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. The trust and its consortium partners continue to commission studies which provide specific and quantifiable evidence of the benefits the waterway park can bring to the area. This work is directed at making the case for investment in the project. Current evidence is published on the trust website.
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. The trust has constructed a new landing stage at Kempston Mill on the River Great Ouse. This will enable more craft to visit the head of navigation at Kempston, already designated as a new IWA Silver Propeller Challenge destination on the river.
Since the trust launched the John Bunyan boat on the River Great Ouse in 2013, it has carried over 47,000 visitors and is one of Bedford’s top attractions. In 2021, the trust launched its new all-electric 12-seater community trip-boat Electra on the Grand Union, operating from Campbell Wharf in Milton Keynes with a successful season carrying over 1,000 customers. Electra’s first year was a success, offering two-hour charters, Fish & Bubbles cruises, one-hour walk one-way (WOW) cruises and two-hour trips along the canal from Fenny Stratford to Cosgrove.