29 December 2022
A walk through the fields
near Stony Stratford and
Wolverton to Warren Park
The people who walked in darkness
have seen a great light (– Isaiah 9: 2)
These days after Christmas Day have been relaxing and the days have been dry at times and almost sunny, with weather that has encouraged the two of us to go for walks in the fields and countryside around Stony Stratford and Wolverton.
The Balancing Lake between Wolverton and Stony Stratford is one of a pair of small balancing lakes near Wolverton Mill that connect to the wider Ouse Valley Park. This area was once agricultural land and the balancing lakes were created to help prevent flooding in nearby areas.
The water levels in the balancing lakes can be raised to store water and to reduce the peaks of river flow, a process that reduces flood risk in downstream areas. The lakes are fed and controlled by a complex system of sluice gates and weirs.
Many older trees still stand in the park, and at dusk their bare branches stood silhouetted against the dark blue skies. They serve as reminders that although we are close to the A5 this was once rich agricultural land before Milton Keynes was created half a century ago.
Walking through the fields and parkland earlier this week, Charlotte and I crossed a fence and found ourselves in Warren Park, on the outskirts of Stony Stratford and Wolverton and about three miles from the centre of Milton Keynes.
Warren Park is a purpose-built campus office development arranged in two courtyards, developed around Warren House and with extensive landscaped grounds incorporating Victorian fishponds.
There were six significant farms on the Wolverton Estate in the 19th century: Wolverton House, Wolverton Park, Manor Farm, Stonebridge House, Stacey Bushes and Brick Kiln. Other farms included Debbs Farm, then no more than 90 acres, and later absorbed by the new Warren farm.
The farms on the Wolverton Estate were inherited as family concerns, with sons succeeding fathers as tenants. Thomas Harrison at Wolverton House farmed about 400 acres. After he died in 1809, the house and farm passed to his son Richard Harrison. When Richard Harrison died in 1858, the farm was managed by his widow Grace until 1869, and then by their son Spencer Harrison until 1892.
When Spencer Harrison gave up the farm in 1892, the Radcliffe Trust separated Wolverton House from the farm and rented it as a large country house. Warren Farm was created that year and the trust rebuilt the farmhouse in the field once known as the Warren.
Henry Barrett was the first tenant and he remained at Warren Farm until he died in 1917. The Turney family then took over the tenancy of the farm. They stayed there until 1970 when the entire estate was sold to Milton Keynes Development Corporation.
Warren House or Warren Farm Cottage dates from the 18th century. This is a stone-built house that has two storeys at the front or south-west side, and three storeys and an attic at the rear or north-east side.
The south-west front has two widely spaced windows on each floor, with three-light casements and glazing bars, and a closed, stone-built porch that is gabled, with a tile roof. There is a blind window recess above the porch.
The coursed dressed rubble north-east front has a lower floor half-basement. There are four windows with keys on each floor and they have glazing bar sashes. There is one hipped dormer and the house has a steep, old tile roof and two brick chimneys.
Today, Warren Park is a purpose-built campus office development, with a mixture of traditional properties and modern buildings. The courts and yards are atmospheric and intimate in their layout and design, with a mix of brick, stone and timber board elevations, all beneath pitched and tiled roofs.
Canon Harnett Close and Canon Harnett Drive leading into Warren Park are named after Canon WHL Harnett resigned as rector of Wolverton in the 1930s after 40 years.
Warren Park has a variety of businesses as tenants. The external landscaped areas include the Victorian fish ponds, and the onsite facilities include post boxes, electric vehicle charging points and a Greek café.
When we arrived at dusk, that part of me that is Greek was disappointed that the Greek Grill Café was closed. But it offers one of many excuses to return soon again and to explore Warren Park further.
We walked back to Galley Hill as dusk turned to evening darkness under a crescent moon and a sky decorated with bright stars.
The people who sat in darkness have seen a great light,
and for those who sat in the region and shadow of death
light has dawned (– Matthew 4: 16)