Bedford River Valley Park,
Priory Country Park Visitor Centre
Access-Out-There went to do the Bedford to Sandy Walk in August 2016. Actually we only completed the half of it walking from Priory Park in Bedford to Danish Camp in Willington a distance of around 3 ½ miles. From Danish Camp to Sandy the walk continues on the same of terrain for about the same distance, or so we believe. We still have yet to go back out there to do that part of the walk. Access-Out-There was accompanied by John (but not Sue this time - well someone has to work!) and our walk from the park was a there and back again walk, of roughly 7 miles which actually covered what turned out to be the Bedford River Valley Park.
For the most part the route is along a disused railway line which has become Cycle Route 51 to Sandy and has been surfaced, for the most part, with tarmac. There are no major gradients up or down with the exception of where the path uses a bridge to cross the A421, so it is a very pleasant and easy walk for all abilities. All sorts folk are out there using the path including walkers, runners, dog walkers and of course cyclists but it wasn’t busy when we were there in August or the previous autumn when we had also paid a brief reconnaissance visit.
We started our walk on a grey August day at Priory Country Park in Bedford. We had arrived there by car heading to Bedford on the A421, taking the A4280 towards Goldington and then following the signs to Bedford Leisure Park which led us down Barkers Lane to the park entrance where there was car parking with several blue badge places. The park visitor centre and cafe are to be found here. Although we didn’t specifically investigate Priory Country Park on our day out there, there is much to do within the park, including several routes around the lakes for walking through different habitats, a marina, boating and fishing on the lake as well as canoeing. We however, after consulting one of the many signposts showing a map of the area, set out to walk towards Sandy, aiming to get to Danish Camp before returning. We found the cycle path which was the route we were to take. The surface was good to travel on so Titania would have an easy day today.
The path runs straight alongside the Great Ouse although it wasn’t very visible here except where there were occasional tracks down to the river. We carried on down this straight flat path while the river eventually turned off to the left. Instead of the river the path finds the busy A421 though it is shielded from it by high wooden fencing until it leads up the only climb on today’s journey, onto a bridge over the road.
Leaving the road behind, we found ourselves on a long straight path dividing fields of wheat. As we progressed along the path signs of woodland started to appear on either side and there were occasional tracks sign-posted off the main path into these woods. Since they looked tougher work for Titania we kept on the main route. Soon we crossed a small road which leads down to an operational concrete works (beware big trucks!).
Having crossed the road we entered a more wooded area. The path, though no longer tarmac was still firm wide and not too gravelly – suitable for a cycle path and therefore fine for Titania too. Some time previously a party of school children had obviously also come out there and been allowed to use their artistic imagination creating sculptures, mainly on the theme of creepy-crawlies, made from discarded plastic and other materials. They had done a good job too.
We were now in the area of the Grange Estate. According to the next signpost Danish Camp was a mile or so further on the main track, but here we could take a loop off to the left which would bring us through the woodland to the river again. We were on a tarmac path again with occasional sign-posted tracks into the woods over rough ground. We didn’t investigate any of these today. We were soon alongside the river which was easily visible from the path at most points. There were also viewing points where tracks led to seats at the river’s edge carefully fenced off to prevent accidently going for a swim! Fences can prevent easy views when sitting in a wheelchair, but Richard and Titania were delighted to find that in at least one spot the fence had been lowered to make watching the river an uninterrupted delight.
Unfortunately, at some point while going down this path, Titania’s eye (gopro camera) ran out of battery. So the film of the walk by the river round the Grange Estate is from our original reconnaissance visit one day the previous winter.
The trail eventually rejoins the main cycle path near Danish Camp, so called apparently because the Danes sailed up the river to this point and set up a camp and a harbour in which they could repair their ships. Now there is a visitor centre and a wild fowl collection as well as an excellent cafe serving food which we deemed very acceptable overlooking the river. There are also boat trips or boat hire you can do from here. For us it was a great find to allowing us to refuel at the cafe before returning along the cycle path to Priory Country Park.
We had a good day out there in the Bedford River Valley Park, with lots of good exercise walking an interesting path in the woods and by the river. We found various sculptures of rock, wood and recycled materials. We discovered a good refuelling spot at the halfway point. There were birds and insects spotted as we went along and towards the end of the trip an obliging toad posed for a photo-shoot. (Thanks to John who was the photographer of many of the best pictures on this page.) Finally we returned back to the visitor centre in Priory Park just in time for a cup of tea.
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Richard & Di
18 November 2018