The Swakeleys to Grand Union loop walk has all the variety you need. The path follows the Rivers Pinn, Fray and Colne, crosses a golf course and passes through lakes in a nature reserve. You will follow the Grand union canal and take in a panoramic view of West London near Uxbridge Common and all of this in just over 2 hours.
Begin this 9 km (5.5 miles) walk at the junction of Copthall Road West (UB10 8HS) and Derwent Avenue, Ickenham, where you will have no trouble parking. There is also a small car park at Swakeleys Park or you could begin the route parking at Uxbridge Common.
Just around the corner from the first parking spot is Pynchester Moat, an ancient monument. All that remains of the once medieval farmhouse is the moat itself fed by the River Pinn. The moat provided status to the farm rather than offering defensive capabilities. It might also have provided drinking water and an exit for sewage.
On to Fray Valley Nature Reserve
Follow the path on to Breakspear Road South and take care crossing the road. Walk about 25 yards along to the right before you enter the gates of Brakenbury Barn.
Do not be deterred by the two ugly looking Alsatians who will greet you. They are behind a strong fence. The property they are guarding also has a moat on three sides.
Continue over the stile and keep to the left of the field. You will see another stile in the corner of the field. This section of the route is the only slightly muddy part of the walk.
The landscape opens up and you cross a few fields as well as Harvil Road. After another stile you enter Uxbridge Golf Course. Rather oddly this is a 12 hole course.
Straight ahead you can see a path which you descend. At the bottom of the hill turn left then right and enter the Nature Reserve.
Frays Valley Nature Reserve
Frays Valley Nature Reserve consists of a series of attractive lakes, ancient wet woodland and meadows.
If you have more time you may want to explore the reserve further. The area includes South, North and Denham Lock Woods as well as Frays Farm Meadows.
The path then takes you between two sets of lakes and across the Grand Union Canal.
Grand Union Canal
Take the easy path along the Grand Union heading towards Uxbridge.
This section of the canal has many industrial barges on its banks which demonstrates that the canal is part of our industrial heritage. You pass under the A40 and hear the noise of the traffic overhead. You will already have crossed to the other side of the canal. A new estate has been built on reclaimed land on the opposite side of the canal. It is in effect an island sandwiched between the River Colne and the canal.
On your left lies the Uxbridge Alderglade Nature Reserve, a small area of marshland with plenty of willow and hawthorn. In spring you may hear chiffchaff and blackcap.
Business Park and Fray’s River
Check the map to see where you leave the towpath at this point. You will enter the area of Uxbridge Business Park. Take the path to the right hand corner of the open space and cross the stream. You will enter the empty business park. Walk around one of the large unused office block and into the vast carless car park. Head towards the exit.
As you exit the car park look over to the left and see the path on the Fray’s river bank.
Fray’s river is a man-made, semi-canalised river named after the owner of Cowley Hall. In the 15th century Fray’s River powered at least 5 mills along its banks. The river begins as a diversion of the River Colne at Denham Lock and rejoins the Colne at West Drayton.
Cross the river at the first available footbridge and turn back along the other side. You are now over half-way round the Swakeleys to Grand Union Loop
Uxbridge Common & Open Space
You will arrive onto Harefield Road. Cross the road and slightly to the left you’ll find Gravel Hill. Before you climb the hill look back at the beautiful old house.
At the top of Gravel Hill sits Uxbridge Common a 5 acre open ground with typical village green features. Here you’ll find a pond, a ditch network and perimeter trees.
As you walk alongside the common admire the attractive houses on your left. Then the Water Tower appears.
The tower opened in 1906, but has been converted to a private dwelling. It has no listed status, hence the number of mobile phone masts.
Back to North Common Road and continue to the main road ahead. Carefully cross the road and behind the bus stop enter the next open space. As you walk across this area you can see far into the distance towards central London.
Head diagonally towards the woods and follow the paved path down to the bridge over the A40.
Keep to the path which follows the perimeter of Vyners School. Soon you’ll have the River Pinn on your right and next enter Swakleys Park.
As you proceed along the path look to the right to see the historic Swakeleys Estate.
The park was originally part of the estate who’s story begins sometime in the Middle Ages with the Swalclyve family. The current property was built for Richard Wright in 1640 when he was Mayor of London. Find out more about the history of the house in the link above.
Continue to follow the Pinn until you return to the start of the walk.
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