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Touring Bedfordshire

Bedfordshire is a small county, covering only 480 square miles with a population of about 550,000. Southern Bedfordshire is mainly industrial, while the northern part is more agricultural in nature. Sandy hills, valleys, chalk downs, and a river plain make up the geography of the area.

The Great Ouse river runs through Bedford, the main town of the county, before heading down to Milton Keynes. Bedford's museum in Church lane gives its history. St Paul's church dates from the 14th-15th centuries. John Wesley preached from its stone pulpit in 1758. St Peter's church has a Saxon tower and a Norman south door. The Cecil Higgins Art Gallery in gardens near the river embankment, is a combination of a recreated Victorian mansion and a modern gallery. It has a renowned collection of art, ceramics, glass and furniture by William Burgess.

North of Bedford is Broham Watermill and Art Gallery where you can see a working watermill. Further along the road is the Augustinian Bushmead priory (EH). A medieval refectory, wall paintings, stained glass, and almost intact timber framed roof can be enjoyed.

RSPB National Head quarters at Sandy Bedfordshire by Barbara Ballard Just outside the town of Sandy (east of Bedford) is the national headquarters of the RSPB, a nature reserve of 104 acres of woodland and heathland with formal and wildlife gardens, and a picnic area. There are walks through the grounds and gardens. At the entrance to the property is a great shop for bird lovers.

South of Bedford lies Barton-le-Clay, a village on the Chiltern hills escarpment. Nearby is the National Trust Sharpenhoe Clappers chalkland, a centre for walking and enjoying wildflowers and countryside views. Whipsnade Tree Cathedral, also managed by the National Trust, is a 26-acre plot of trees planted in the plan of a medieval cathedral. In the village are historic timber houses.

Wrest park gardens by Barbara Ballard Wrest Park Gardens at Silsoe, south of Bedford, is in the care of English Heritage. The 18th century gardens and 19th century formal gardens are more pleasure grounds than garden. There are woodland and canal walks, garden follies, and a pavilion with wall paintings and chambers.

The hills around the large town of Dunstable are covered with prehistoric burial mounds and earthworks. Totternhoe Knolls, just west of Dunstable is the site of earthworks, a nature reserve, and Castle Mound, a prehistoric fort site. The National Trust manages the Dunstable Downs Countryside Centre and Whipsnade Estate, southwest of Dunstable. The 510 acres of grass and farmland offer walks and a countryside centre. In the town the parish church of St Peter is part of a former 16th century priory.

Elstow village house by Barbara Ballard Elstow's medieval moot hall by Barbara Ballard Historic architecture can be seen at several villages in the area. The village of Billington has a 13th century church sitting in Iron age hillfort ramparts, a 17th century manor house, and a number of thatched cottages. At Elstow village, one mile south of Bedford is a timber framed 15th century market hall, Moot Hall. It's a museum of 17th century English life. Caddington, south of Dunstable, is home to a Norman parish church, All Saints. It has a diamond-shaped clock in its west tower and contains 15th century brasses and a Jacobean pulpit.

Church End, west of Dunstable, is full of English village atmosphere with Tudor cottages, an Elizabethan manor house, the 12th century St Nicholas church with linenfold pews, brasses, and medieval tiles. Just west of Dunstable at Eaton Bray can be found one of the finest church interiors in Bedfordshire. The parish church has an Early English 13th century arcade, while the south door has 13th century iron scrollwork.

Eggington village, just east of Leighton Buzzard, has several timbered houses and 17th century brick Eggington House. The nearby hamlet of Clipstone has a cruck cottage. Stanbridge, on the A505 just south of Leighton Buzzard, is home to an ancient village green, thatched inn, and medieval church with an early English font. Lidlington near Ampthill overlooks Marston Vale millennium country park and forest centre. The village is a traditional one full of atmosphere. The forest centre offers an information resource with wetlands views, a café, trails, and an exhibition. It's a great family day out.

The village of Kensworth, just south of Dunstable, high up on the Downs, has a number of old houses and a parish church with a Norman doorway. Houghton House (EH), eight miles south of Bedford, is a ruined 17th century manor house. The village of Tebworth, off the A5 has old cottages and pond. Nearby is Chalgrave church with medieval wall paintings.

Moggerhanger Park by Barbara Ballard Moggerhanger Park is a Grade I listed Georgian country house designed by Sir John Soane. It’s set in a 33 acre estate in which are gardens, a walled garden, and an ice house. It is used primarily as a conference centre.

Near the village of Toddington, off the A5, is Toddington Manor; the original house was built in 1560, then was dismantled and rebuilt in 1806; the current house is not open to the public. The gardens are the main attraction: herbaceous borders, peonies, delphiniums and roses, a stream, three ponds, woods, and two lakes. There's also a vintage tractor collection and a rare breeds farm.

Leighton Buzzard, south of Milton Keynes, is a very large busy town with pedestrianized streets. In the town are a 15th century pentagonal market cross, 17th and 18th century buildings, and an Early English church, All Saints, with carved misericords, and angels on its roof. The town is home to a narrow gauge railway, first opened in 1919 for industrial use. 70 minutes round trips are on offer.

Luton Hoo, three miles south-east of Luton is the site of a museum, a country house, and a park landscaped by Capability Brown. The house dates from 1903. Inside are a marble staircase, a marble and gilded dining room, and collections of tapestries, art, furniture, ivories, enamels, jewellery, and Faberge objects.

Two historic watermills, a 13th century gatehouse, and the chapel of Someries castle are part of the village of East Hyde and its surroundings. Old Warden Park, at Biggleswade, is a member of the Historic Houses Association. The grounds contain early 1800 gardens with formal walks and vistas, thatched buildings, woodland glades, a grotto, trees, ponds, and a bridge. Shuttleworth, the mansion on the grounds, is open at various times. There's also a birds of prey centre. Stanbridge is home to an ancient village green, a thatched inn, and a medieval church with an Early English font.

Woburn Abbey Bedfordshire by Barbara Ballard. Woburn abbey, built on the site of a Cistercian monastery of 1145, is the home of the duke of Bedford, contains a 3000-acre deer park with nine species. The gardens and grounds are extensive. Here is one of most important private art collections in the world and a mass of French and English 18th century furniture, porcelain, and silver. If you like viewing silver and porcelain and visiting the antique shops on the grounds, allow at least half a day. Discovering the beauty of these pieces is not to be rushed.

Bristol F2B in the Shuttleworth Collection by Barbara Ballard A view of the Swiss garden by Barbara Ballard The Shuttleworth Collection is a must visit for all early aeroplane and car aficionados. It reflects the interest of Richard Shuttleworth, whose mother was the daughter of the vicar of Old Warden. Hence its location in Old Warden park area. At the same place is a Birds of Prey Centre and the Swiss Garden.

Bedfordshire Attractions

For opening times and full details of attractions see the Attractions section of our website.

Bedford Museum
Church Lane, Bedford
Tel. 0 1234 353 323
Web: Bedford Museum

Billington Iron Age Hillfort Ramparts
Off the A505 or A4146
just south of Leighton Buzzard

Birds of Prey Centre
Herrings Green Farm
Cotton End Road
Wilstead, Bedfordshire, MK45 3DT
Tel: 01234 742362 or 01234 742766

Bromham Watermill and Art Gallery
Bromham, 2.5 miles west of Bedford off the A428
Tel. 0 1234 824 330

Bushmead Priory
Off the B660, 2 miles north-east of Bolnhurst
Tel. 0 1234 376 614

Dunstable Downs Countryside Centre and Whipsnade Estate
Whipsnade Rd, Kensworth, Dunstable
Tel. 0 1582 608 489

Dunstable St Peter Church
Church St, Dunstable, on the A5, part of the city of Luton
Tel. no office phone given; see website for vicar and administrator phone numbers

Eaton Bray St Mary's Parish Church
High St, Eaton Bray
Off the A4146 just west of Dunstable
Tel. 0 1525 220 261
Web: Eaton Bray St Mary
Tel. 0 1767 627 527

Harrold-Odell Country Park
Carlton Rd, Harrold, Bedfordshire
Tel. 0 1234 720 016
Web: Harrold-Odell Country Park

Higgins Art Gallery and Museum
Tel. 0 1234 718 618
Web: Higgins Art Gallery and Museum

Houghton House
Off the B530, eight miles south of Bedford
1 mile northeast of Ampthill, off A507-A5120 roundabout
Tel. 0 1234 228 337

Leighton Buzzard All Saints Church
On A4146, south of Milton Keynes
Tel. 0 1525 381 418 (parish office)
Web: Leighton Buzzard All Saints Church

Leighton Buzzard Railway
Page’s Park Station, Billington Road
Leighton Buzzard
Tel. 0 1525 373 888
Web: Buzz Rail

Marston Vale Country Park Forest Centre
between Stewartby Lake and the 'Wetlands' area by footpaths and cycle ways from Stewart, and by a road from Station Road, Marston Moretaine, just off the A421 at Marston Moretaine
Tel. 0 1234 767 037
Web: Marston Vale

Mead Open Farm
Stanbridge Rd, Billington
Near Leighton Buzzard
Follow brown signs from A505 or A4146
Tel. 0 1525 852 954
Web: Mead Open Farm

Moggerhanger Park
Tel. 0 1767 641 007
Web: Moggerhanger Park

Moot Hall
Elstow Green, Church View, Elstow village
Tel. 0 1234 266 889

RSPB National Headquarters
The Lodge, Sandy, on the B1042 between Sandy and Potton
Tel: 0 1767 680 551
Tourist info: 0 1767 682 728

Sharpenhose Clappers Chalkland
On the A6 south of Bedford
Near the village of Barton-le-Clay

Shuttleworth Collection
Shuttleworth, Biggleswade Road, Old Warden Park
Signposted from A1 Biggleswade roundabout, southeast of Bedford
Tel. 0 1767 627 927
For photos and more information see our articles Shuttleworth Collection

Someries Castle
East Hyde, on B653 just east of M1
Tel. N/A

St Nicholas Church
Church End, Hockcliffe, on minor road
Off the A5 west of Dunstable or A4146, south of Leighton Buzzard
Tel. not given on website

St Pauls Church
St Pauls Square, Bedford
Tel. 01234 340163
Web: St Pauls Bedford

Stevington Windmill
Stevington, Bedfordshire
Tel. 0 1234 329 348

Stockwood Discovery Centre
London Rd, Luton, Bedfordshire
Tel. 0 1582 548 600
Web: Stockwood Discovery Centre

Studham Parish Church
Signposted from A1 Biggleswade roundabout, southeast of Bedford
Tel. 0 1767 627 443

Swiss Garden
Shuttleworth, Biggleswade Rd, Old Warden Park
Signposted from A1 Biggleswade roundabout, southeast of Bedford
Tel. 0 1767 627 927
For photos and more information see our article Swiss Garden

Thurleigh Farm Centre
Cross End, Thurleigh, Bedfordshire
Tel. 0 1234 771 597

Toddington Manor
Park Road, Toddington
Tel. 0 1525 872 576

Totternhoe Wood Knolls Nature Reserve
On minor road off A505 or B5489
just west of Dunstable

Wardown Park Museum
Old Bedford Rd, Luton
Tel. 0 1582 546 722
Web: Wardown Park Museum

Whipsnade Tree Cathedral
Two miles south of Dunstable, off the B4540 (car park signposted)
Tel. 0 1582 872 406

Whipsnade Wildlife Conservation Park/Zoo
Dunstable, off the B5440/B
Tel. 0 1582 872 171
Web: Whipsnade Zoo

Woburn Abbey
Woburn village, on the A4012, south-west of Bedford
Tel. 0 1525 290 666
Web: Woburn Abbey

Woburn Heritage Centre Museum
1 Leighton St, Old St Mary’s Church, Bedford St, Woburn
Tel. 0 1525 290 631
Web: Woburn Heritage Centre Museum

Woburn Safari Park
Woburn, Bedfordshire
Tel. 0 1525 290 407

Woodside Farm and Leisure Park
Woodside Rd, Slip End, Luton, Bedfordshire
Tel. 0 1582 841 044
Web: Woodside Farm

Wrest Park Gardens
east of Silsoe off the A6, 10 miles south of Bedford
Tel. 0 1525 860 152

Bedforshire Tourist Information Centres

Bedfordshire, Hertfordshire & Luton Tourism
County Hall, Caldwell Street
Bedford MK42 9AP
Tel. 0 1234 408 063; Fax. 0 1234 228 159

Bedford TIC
St Paul’s Square
Tel: 0 1234 215 226

Dunstable TIC
Dunstable Library
Vernon Place, Dunstable
Tel. 0 1582 471 012; Fax. 0 1582 471 290

Luton TIC
Central Library, St George’s Square
Tel: 0 1582 401 579

Mid Beds/Sandy TIC
5 Shannon Court, High Street
Sandy SG19 1AG
Tel. 0 1767 682 728

Mid Beds District Council Offices
12 Dunstable Street, Ampthill
Tel. 0 1525 402 051

Woburn Heritage Centre
Old St Mary's Church
Bedford Street, Woburn
Tel. 0 1525 290 631

Photos by Barbara Ballard

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Some of our Bedfordshire Articles
Shuttleworth Collection Birds of Prey Centre
Swiss Garden
Elstow Village and Moot Hall
Other England Articles

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