North Bedfordshire Heritage Trail: Glorious Bedfordshire walking trail that stretches for 70 miles and 23 villages
Bedfordshire has hundreds of superb walking routes, which offer the best views in the county. But there is one that stands out from all for its landscape and its length.
It’s called the North Bedfordshire Heritage Trail and it’s a 70 mile circular walk passing through no less than 23 villages. Grab the walking shoes and explore our county in a way like no other.
What makes the North Bedfordshire Heritage Trail so special is the variety of viewpoints along the way. It will show you quaint and quiet villages, beautiful countryside, stunning views of the North Bedfordshire Wolds and lots of history. With the help of the Ivel Valley Walkers, we’ve dived into the route to show you where it passes and what to expect.
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The North Bedfordshire Heritage Trail is a circular walk around the north of the county and stretches for 70 miles or 112 kilometres. Our county is exceptionally flat so this walk has few steep inclines and can be tackled by walkers of all abilities.
The route is divided into 11 sections, each between four and nine miles long. You can start the walk at any of these sections, so if you live in North Bedfordshire you may be able to do this walk without having to drive anywhere.
The “official” starting point if you want to do the 70 miles is St Paul’s Square, Bedford. See all sections below:
- Bedford to Stagden (10km)
- Stagsden to Harrold (9 miles)
- Harrold to Sharnbrook (4 miles)
- Sharnbrook to Keysoe Row (8 miles)
- Keysoe Row to Wilden (10km)
- Wilden to Tempsford (10km)
- From Potton to Sandy (7.5 miles)
- Sandy to Old Warden (11km)
- Old Warden to Willington (5.5 miles)
- Willington to Bedford (6 km)
History of the North Bedfordshire Heritage Trail
The trail was designed around the year 2000 by Gordon Edwards of the Ivel Valley Walkers. He was a local historian who lived in Barton-le-Clay and was known as “a bit of a maverick” by fellow walkers.
He was described by a friend as “the bane of Bedfordshire County Council’s rights of way department in the 1980s and 1990s” as he was instrumental in persuading them to open and maintain the network of hold. With his wife Heather he walked, mapped and marked the North Bedfordshire Heritage Trail.
When designing the trail, Gordon wanted the walker to experience some of the county’s beautiful villages, the remoteness of North Bedfordshire and the beautiful woodland scenery. Since his death in 2004, members of the Ivel Valley Walkers have continued his labor of love, updating his flyer and posting it online for walkers.
Points of interest along the way:
St. James, Biddenham
The first part of the walk will take you from Bedford to Biddenham, one of Bedfordshire’s smaller villages. You will pass in front of a church dating from the Saxon period dedicated to Saint James the Greater. The picturesque little village still has many beautiful stone and thatched thatched cottages.
Bromham Bridge and Mill
After passing through Biddenham you will reach the medieval Bromham Bridge over the River Ouse which has 26 arches. You’ll also pass Bromham Mill, a late 18th or early 19th century reconstruction of brick, timber and stone on the site of former mills. The mill is still in operation and continues to grind corn, and is normally open to the public every weekend from April to September.
Further down the trail is Stevington, which has the only complete windmill remaining in the county, which you can usually walk into. Tucked away in the village itself is Kathy Brown’s Garden, a peaceful garden you can visit and the perfect place to stop for a coffee in normal times. The garden is in a mansion and is open all summer.
Harrold-Odell National Park
The walk passes through Harrold-Odell Country Park, a 144-acre park with two beautiful lakes. The park borders the Great Ouse and there is a nature reserve with managed habitats where it is common to see rabbits and geese. There is also a family of otters who live nearby and often visit the lake in the park.
The walk passes through a village called Odell which is full of Grade II listed buildings including the Church of All Saints, a beautiful 15th century church. You will also pass the site of Odell Castle, which was originally an 11th century Motte and Bailey castle with a stone keep. Today, the castle has been rebuilt into a mansion.
Colmworth National Park
The North Bedfordshire Heritage Trail passes through the village of Colmworth and the new National Park. On a clear day, the heights of the natural park offer a beautiful view of the Great Ouse valley. In Colmworth you will also see the Church of St Denys which was built between 1426 and 1430.
St. Nicholas Church, Wilden
Continue on the road and you will come to Wilden, home to St. Nicholas Church. It is believed that the victims of the Black Death were buried in a pit near the church.
You will also pass through the small village of Tempsford, which housed RAF Tempsford, perhaps the most secret airfield of the Second World War. Not much remains of the airfield today.
After the war it was closed and became agricultural land but small sections of the track are still visible. Near the former site of the RAF base is a memorial which was unveiled by Prince Charles in honor of 75 female WWII officers who helped resistance movements in occupied Europe.
Towards the end of the walk you will pass the Cardington Hangars. Cardington was home to RAF Cardington from where the R101, which was the largest flying craft in the world, departed in 1929. Its very first flight took off from Cardington but the airship crashed in France killing 48 of 54 people on board. . The sheds are now studios which have been used for filming scenes in many famous films including Star Wars, the Dark Knight Batman trilogy and Dumbo.
On the way back to Bedford you will pass The Castle Mould, which is all that remains of a motte and bailey castle built in 1100 by Henry I. The castle played a prominent role in many wars of the 11th century. Today, all that remains is a seven-meter-high mound with a castle monument.
This article has been updated and republished.