Walking in Bedfordshire
Bedfordshire does not spring to mind as the county you should seek out for that well earned walking holiday. However, there are many great areas where you will find quiet peaceful countryside offering excellent walking. Bedfordshire may be a small county but has a varied and interesting landscape. So, if you find yourself in Bedfordshire don't despair; you can spend many happy hours discovering its rural charms.
The Great Ouse River meanders through the county, seemingly undecided as to its best course, and the meadows and pastures along its banks can be peaceful places to spend a few hours. Near Bedford the attractive village of Odell and the adjacent Harrold and Odell Country Park provide riverside access and there are lakes and a wildlife reserve between the villages.
The southernmost part of Bedfordshire has the most varied scenery where the Chiltern Hills sweep across the county with their steep escarpment facing north west, best seen at Dunstable Downs which provides some splendid walking. The Downs are the Mecca of British gliding due to the perfect thermal soaring conditions. Nearby is Whipsnade Wild Animal Park with its rare and endangered species.
A little further north is Woburn, sited on a ridge of sandstone running south west to north east, a landscape of pine woods and heathland. Between this ridge and the Chilterns escarpment lies an area of intensive cultivation. In the north east the area around Sandy and Biggleswade is home to many market gardeners exploiting the rich river gravel soils of this region. Water seems to dominate in the pasturelands of northern Bedfordshire where the Great Ouse meanders. This is a peaceful area with quiet unspoilt villages, many with thatched cottages and stone spire churches. This is relaxing walking country through watermeadows edged with willow and Alder and sleepy country lanes.
Rural central Bedfordshire, stretching from the Georgian splendours of Woburn and Ampthill in the west to the old market towns of Sandy and Biggleswade in the east, is an area of gently rolling countryside peppered with woodland, heath and parkland. It is an area that has a celebrated past as seen through the architecture and landscape that exists today. It was a place to visit and live for many noted people including royalty, writers and musicians. It has also been home to rouge characters, not least Dick Turpin the famous highwayman, whose cave can be visited deep in the wooded countryside.
Bedford is an elegant county town renowned for its lace-making, museums and galleries. John Bunyan, author of Pilgrim's Progress, lived here, as did US bandleader Glenn Miller during the Second World War. The River Great Ouse embankment and gardens in the centre of Bedford are very attractive and provide a relaxing place for office workers and visitors to enjoy a picnic lunch on warm summer days.
Woburn, situated in picturesque wooded countryside, is an historic village with thatched red and white brick cottages and several old inns. The Bedford Arms was formally a posting-house and has extensive stabling at the back. The village is often frequented by enthusiasts attracted by the Antique Market for which it is well known. Nearby is the famous Woburn Abbey, home to the Duke of Bedford, with its vast parkland containing a wide variety of deer and many other animals. The house has an astonishing collection of important paintings by artists such as Gainsborough, Rembrandt and Van Dyck.
A Walk from Woburn through the Abbey deer park
[GR SP 951332]
The picture book village of Woburn is well worth visiting, especially if you are interested in antiques, and provides the start of a lovely walk around the village and Woburn Abbey. Public footpaths enable you to stroll amongst the ten different types of deer in the Deer Park as well as skirt around the formal landscaped grounds surrounding the Abbey, occasionally passing through woodland or more often walking alongside one of the many ornamental lakes. Leave the village along the lane towards the Park and take a path on the right shortly after the church which will take you to Park Farm and the stables. Follow the track to the right, enter the Deer Park and continue until you meet a cross track which is the Greensand Ridge Walk. Follow this eastward past the Abbey and leave the Park. At a cross path (GR SP978322) turn right following the Park perimeter until you see a path on your left which re-enters the Park (GR SP966312). Follow this path through the park following public right of way signs until you meet the main road. Turn right to return to Woburn. About 6 miles
Best Pub for this walk
Black Horse, Woburn Tel: 01525 290210 (Good Pub Guide)
The Black Horse, on the main road through Woburn has a charming courtyard garden. Inside you will find traditional wooded beams and polished floorboards. An open fire adds to the relaxed atmosphere on cold days. The menu offers a selection of light snacks in the bar or more formal restaurant dining. Bar meals range from sandwiches and baked potatoes to steaks and fish cut to order and grilled in the bar.
This walk is fully described in the guidebook 'Pub Walks for Motorists - Bedfordshire, Buckinghamshire and Hertfordshire by Nick Corble
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