Page 1

WELCOME TO

BEDFORDSHIRE KINGFISHERVISITORGUIDES.COM

FOLLOW KINGFISHER VISITOR GUIDES

NOT FOR SALE PLEASE DO NOT REMOVE


MANAGING DIRECTOR

Ian David Heads ian@kingfishervisitorguides.com EDITORIAL DIRECTOR

Angela Upex angela@kingfishervisitorguides.com PUBLISHING ASSISTANT

Zoe Smith WRITER

Greensand Country is the name for the distinct, beautiful and loved countryside that stretches from Leighton Buzzard to Gamlingay.

Darragh Murphy

Rich in wildlife and cultural heritage, Greensand Country is the ideal location for a weekend walk, a rural run, an exhilarating cycle or a gentle trot on horseback.

ART DIRECTOR

Howard Malone howard@kingfishervisitorguides.com

Following the success of the first Greensand Country Festival, a programme of events, activities, talks and exhibitions will once again take place across the landscape throughout May 2019 and 2020.

DESIGNER

Ashleigh Cook PRODUCTION MANAGER

Ashleigh Heald Visit www.greensandcountry.com for further information.

PRODUCTION ASSISTANT

Georgia Baddeley HEAD OF ACCOUNTS

Joanne James joanne@kingfishervisitorguides.com ADVERTISING ACCOUNT MANAGER

Liam Anderson​ liam@kingfishervisitorguides.com Tel: 0191 917 0732

FAR M SHO P & C A FÉ

GENERAL ENQUIRIES

info@kingfishervisitorguides.com Tel: 0191 482 5799 WWW.KINGFISHERVISITORGUIDES.COM WE’RE SUPPORTING:

Good food, locally produced Tues-Sat: 8:30am-5pm Sun: 10am-4pm Printed by Latitude Press Ltd Published by Kingfisher Media Ltd

• Butchers and delicatessen • • Café serving home-cooked food •

PUBLISHER’S NOTE: This publication, its title and content, is wholly owned by and the copyright of Kingfisher Media Ltd. It is entirely independent and does not endorse, and is not supported or endorsed by, any official or private body or organisation. Reproduction in whole or in part by any means without written permission from the publisher is strictly forbidden. The publisher accepts no responsibility for errors, omissions or the consequences thereof. The publishers cannot accept responsibility for the views expressed by contributors, or for the accuracy of claims made by advertisements appearing in this publication.

• Fruit and veg stall • • Store cupboard goodies • • All profits support local rural communities •

KVGWTB-72-0119

thebarncardington.com Cople Road • Cardington • Bedford • MK44 3SH • 01234 831222 5 mins from Bedford off the A421/A6093

WELCOME TO BEDFORDSHIRE

4

FRONT COVER IMAGES: ©DAVID PRADO/ADOBE STOCK; ©ENGLISH HERITAGE; MARTIN CHARLES HATCH/SHUTTERSTOCK.COM; PARIS HOUSE, WOBURN; RADOVAN/UNSPLASH STOCK IMAGES IN THIS PUBLICATION ARE USED FOR ILLUSTRATIVE PURPOSES ONLY

kingfishervisitorguides.com


CONTENTS

48 hours

History and heritage

Find out how to spend a weekend in Bedfordshire... Page 34

Discover the county’s Roman heritage... Page 10

36

24 22

CONTENTS Welcome...................................................................................... 09 Bedfordshire is a county like no other!

History all around.......................................................................10 Bedfordshire is steeped in history – it’s in the very fabric of the region.

A taste of Bedfordshire – and the world................................ 14 Top-end fine dining, adventurous independents and a great range of ethnic cuisine means you’ll never go hungry here.

Ten things you must do........................................................... 22 ©ALAN JAMES/JULIAN VALENTIN/ADOBE STOCK; PARIS HOUSE, WOBURN; SHUTTERTSTOCK.COM; URIEL SOBERANES/UNSPLASH

There are loads of things to do here – make sure you don’t miss these.

14

Let’s go there.............................................................................. 24 Whatever the time of year, and whatever the weather, there’s always plenty to do here.

If you’re only here for 48 hours.............................................. 34 You can pack a lot into a couple of days – try this itinerary to make the most of it.

Like to shop? You’ll love it here............................................. 36 High street chains, one-off independents and quirky specialists – they’re all waiting for the shopaholic.

kingfishervisitorguides.com

5

WELCOME TO BEDFORDSHIRE


Set in 380 acres of beautiful countryside, with stunning lakeside views The Waterfront Hotel, Spa & Golf at Wyboston Lakes Resort is the perfect place to escape to for a relaxing break. With ample on-site facilities including The Waterfront Brasserie, the award winning Y Spa, 18 hole golf course, Health & Leisure club and Ride Leisure outdoor activity centre, there is something for everyone.

The Waterfront Hotel, Spa & Golf is a beautiful 4 star hotel situated in a wonderful lakeside setting. We have a wide range of leisure breaks available. For more info visit www.thewaterfronthotel.co.uk

Y Spa at The Waterfront Hotel is the perfect place to relax and rejuvinate the body and mind. Plan your visit by looking at one of our amazing days, stays or treatments. Days start from only ÂŁ42 per person. www.yspa.co.uk

Tel: 0333 7007 667 Web: www.thewaterfronthotel.co.uk The Waterfront Hotel Great North Road, Wyboston, Beds, MK44 3AL

Scan me!


CONTENTS

Sport

Bedfordshire is a haven for professional and amateur sport... Page 62

Property

Ever fancied relocating to this beautiful county? Page 66

58

48 Ten reasons to love this region.............................................. 46 There are dozens of reasons to love it here – check out a few of our favourites.

A region at the heart of art....................................................... 48 Immerse yourself in a region that’s crammed with art and culture.

Getting here and getting around............................................ 54 Getting to and around Bedfordshire couldn’t be easier.

Welcome to the night............................................................... 58

©ENGLISH HERITAGE; ©GARETHOWEN/LTFC; SHUTTERSTOCK.COM

From cocktail bars to country pubs, you won’t be bored here.

64

Our sporting life......................................................................... 62 Whether you want to watch or take part, there’s plenty on offer.

Let’s explore................................................................................ 64 Although you’ll never run out of things to do here, there’s also lots to do and see further afield.

If you’re planning to stay longer............................................ 66 Properties in Bedfordshire make a solid investment prospect.

We’re open for business........................................................... 68 With a highly-skilled workforce employed in diverse sectors, this region’s economy is performing well.

kingfishervisitorguides.com

7

54 WELCOME TO BEDFORDSHIRE


CREATING A

Buzz ABOUT

Bedford

From Armani to Zizzi, the county town of Bedfordshire now has everything to make it a desirable destination. Whether it is for a relaxed retail Sunday with FREE parking all day in this historic riverside town or a seasonal shopping excursion. Bedford is now an exciting experience for everyone. Riverside Bedford a new development including Wagamama and Miller & Carter, a Vue cinema and Premier Inn. The new look Harpur Centre has its own convenient underground car park with lift. Top Fashion including quality designer store Maysons on the High Street. Big brands to suit all budgets. 100s of independents - shops, cafes, museums, Castle Quay restaurant area, historic Bedford Swan Hotel. FREE parking for two hours every Saturday and all day Sunday in council-owned car parks. Full details of parking, shopping, eating, what’s on and special offers at the guide, paid for by 500+ local businesses:

www.lovebedford.co.uk


WELCOME

WELCOME

©ANDY SEARS/ADOBE STOCK; JAKE AUSTIN/UNSPLASH

W

kingfishervisitorguides.com

hether it’s a weekend break to see the breathtaking Woburn Abbey, days out with the children or a taste sensation at some of England’s finest restaurants, Bedfordshire has got it all. You can get a taste for fine dining at the end of a hard day’s shopping. Browse the local produce at the picturesque towns and villages offering all the temptation presented by independent retailers. Step back in time at crumbling ruins and beautiful manor houses or take a trip to Whipsnade Zoo or Woburn Safari Park where you can get up close and personal with some of the world’s most majestic animals. Bedfordshire is packed with historical interest but, as you’ll see it’s also a thriving region. Whether you’re visiting for business or pleasure, you can always be assured of finding something exciting to do, tasty to eat or interesting to explore. So whatever you do during your visit to the region, please enjoy – and come back soon! l

9

“TAKE A TRIP TO WHIPSNADE ZOO OR WOBURN SAFARI PARK WHERE YOU CAN GET UP CLOSE AND PERSONAL WITH SOME OF THE WORLD’S MOST MAJESTIC ANIMALS”

WELCOME TO BEDFORDSHIRE


HISTORY & HERITAGE

HISTORY ALL AROUND! Bedfordshire is steeped in history – it’s in the very fabric of the region

SHUTTERSTOCK.COM

B

edfordshire is steeped in history. Dunstable Priory, in the south of the county, was the scene for the annulment of Henry VIII’s marriage with Catherine of Aragon. Presided over by the Archbishop of Canterbury and the bishops of Winchester, London, Bath and Lincoln on 24 May 1533, it effectively marked official Britain’s breach with the Catholic Church, and the start of the English Reformation. Today, you can visit the superb St Peter’s Church, which is all that remains from what was a much larger Augustinian Priory, founded in 1132 by Henry I. Bedfordshire is at the heart of ancient Britain. The Icknield Way – possibly the oldest footpath in the country – runs through the area along the Dunstable Downs and skirting the Barton Way Nature Reserve. (Dunstable itself is traceable back to Roman times, when its name was Durocobrivis.) Following the end of Roman Britain in 410 AD, the area now known as Bedfordshire became a boundary between Norse and Danish peoples that settled the east of England, and the Anglo-Saxons who settled in the south (including Kempston, in the fourth century AD). p13

“BEDFORDSHIRE IS STEEPED IN HISTORY – IT WAS EVEN THE SCENE FOR THE ANNULMENT OF HENRY VIII’S MARRIAGE WITH CATHERINE OF ARAGON”

WELCOME TO BEDFORDSHIRE

10


EE Y FR TR EN

JOHN BUNYAN MUSEUM Bedford

Telling the story of the famous author of The Pilgrim’s Progress, museum visitors walk through Bunyan’s Telling the story of Telling the story of life and times. the famous author Part of Bunyan author the famous of The Pilgrim’s Meeting church of The Pilgrim’s which stands museum Progress, Progress, on the site ofmuseum visitors walk Bunyan’s original visitors walk church where he through Bunyan’s through Bunyan’s was minister from Open February to end of October life and times. Tues – Sat 11am-4pm, life and times. 1671 to 1688.

DISCOVER THE BEDFORD MAN

WHOSE WRITINGS

Part of of Bunyan Bunyan Sat only Nov and Jan 11am-4pm Part Meeting church church*Closed Good Friday and all Dec Meeting John Bunyan Museum & Library, Bunyan Meeting which stands stands which Street, Bedford, MK40 3EU, UK theMill site of on the site of www.bunyanmeeting.co.uk/museum Bunyan’s original Bunyan’s original curator@bunyanmeeting.co.uk (0)1234 church+44 where he270303Open February to end of October church where he February to end of October minster from Open was minister Tues-Sat 11am-4pm Tues – Sat 11am-4pm, 1671 to to 1688. 1688. Sat only Nov and Jan 11am-4pm Sat only Nov and Jan *Closed Good Friday and11am-4pm all Dec *Closed Good Friday and all Dec

TOUCHED

©HARLEQUIN9/MARTINCP/ADOBE STOCK

THE WORLD...

John JohnBunyan BunyanMuseum Museum&&Library, Library,Bunyan Bunyan Meeting Meeting, Mill MillStreet, Street,Bedford, Bedford,MK40 MK403EU, 3EU,UK UK www.bunyanmeeting.co.uk/museum www.bunyanmeeting.co.uk/museum curator@bunyanmeeting.co.uk curator@bunyanmeeting.co.uk +44 +44(0)1234 (0)1234270303 270303

Free Free Admission Admission 99 Newnham Road, Newnham Road, Bedford Bedford 01234 01234 353178 353178 www.panaceamuseum.org www.panaceamuseum.org

WELCOME TO BEDFORDSHIRE

12

kingfishervisitorguides.com


HISTORY & HERITAGE

“BEDFORD TOWN ITSELF IS NAMED AFTER A LITTLE-KNOWN SAXON CHIEF CALLED BEDA, WHOSE FOLLOWERS SETTLED AT A FORDABLE SPOT ALONG THE RIVER OUSE”

Most Bedfordshire towns were founded in the Middle Ages. Bedford town itself is named after a little-known Saxon chief called Beda, whose followers settled at a fordable spot along the River Ouse. From the early Middle Ages it was a market town for the agricultural region, and by 886 AD was a boundary town separating Wessex from the Danelaw. The region as a whole became the scene for raids and battles, featuring famous kings like Sweyn Forkbeard, and King Canute (crowned King of England in 1016), and the Saxon victory at Tempsford. In 919 the Anglo-Saxon King Edward the Elder built a fortress at Bedford, which later burned down. In the 12th century, the Normans built a much larger fortress there, forever altering the town’s medieval layout. Visit its remains at Castle Mound. Bedford was granted a town charter in 1166 by King Henry II and grew as a centre for the wool trade. It later became a powerhouse of England’s lace industry, aided by the River Great Ouse becoming navigable in 1689. It was also a centre for religious thinkers. In 1660, the famous preacher John Bunyan was handed a 12-year sentence in Bedford Gaol. It was here he wrote The Pilgrim’s Progress, a famous Puritan tract. Bedford also had a minor role during the Second World War. On 7 September 1941, with German armies at the gates of Leningrad and Moscow, France defeated, America yet to enter the war, and a bombed-out Britain facing its most perilous hour in its modern history, households across Britain tuned into BBC radio, which broadcast the august tones of the Archbishops of Canterbury and York leading the nation in worship from St Paul’s Church of Bedford. St Paul’s, of course, is the reputed burial site of King Offa (of Offa’s Dyke fame) in 796 AD. It’s another reminder of the historic treasures on your doorstep. l

kingfishervisitorguides.com

13

WELCOME TO BEDFORDSHIRE


EATING OUT

A TASTE OF BEDFORDSHIRE – AND THE WORLD! Top-end fine dining, adventurous independents and a great range of ethnic cuisine means you’ll never go hungry here

©ADOBE STOCK; ING IMAGE

B

Buckingham House. Woburn was a Saxon hamlet as far back as 969, and is named after Wo meaning crooked, and ‘burn’, meaning small stream. Here, Galloways is the standout offering, a family-owned restaurant at Aberdeen House serving a mix of European and British cuisine (including haggis), with great wine. Woburn Brasserie on Bedford Street, meanwhile, offers a great brunch, plus superb venison and local Woburn lamb shank. The Devonshire crab thermidor is also worth trying. There are enough restaurants in Woburn to keep you occupied for weeks. Flootes Food on the marketplace is an affordable combination of champagne and wine bar, with a range of retro basket meals. For a weekend afternoon tea in the most elegant of settings, pop into the boutique Woburn Coffee House and Woburn Orangery, with its wonderful walled garden. The Olivier Restaurant, in the heart of the village, is owned and managed by the Woburn Estate at the Woburn Hotel, and has a rustic Italian feel and flavour. For high-end dining, Paris House, p16

edfordshire has foods for all palates, whether exotic or British, homely or lavish. In Elstow, south of the county town, the elegant St Helena Restaurant is a must-visit restaurant, situated in an elegant, 16th-century country house which was once the home of author John Bunyan. Dine to a backdrop of fine antiques and paintings, or in the new conservatory or outdoor walled garden in the charming country village. Raffaele and Franco, brothers in law, have been wining and dining locals and visitors alike here for two decades. For food in a glorious Tudor setting, pop into The Plough at Bolnhurst, meanwhile, with its low beams, cosy feel – and a curious lack of windows, due to the building’s historic origins. The kitchen is open to view from the bar and restaurant. Try the roast pigeon. In the west of the county, the stately village of Woburn has more than its fair share of culinary offerings, many of them around The Pitchings, which is dominated by a Town Hall designed by Sir Edward Blore, architect to William IV and Queen Victoria, and the man behind

“THIS FAMILY-OWNED RESTAURANT SERVES A MIX OF EUROPEAN AND BRITISH CUISINE (INCLUDING HAGGIS), WITH GREAT WINE”

kingfishervisitorguides.com

15

WELCOME TO BEDFORDSHIRE


PARIS HOUSE, WOBURN

EATING OUT

offers sumptuous creations set in 22 acres of beautiful deer park on the Woburn Estate, with seasonal food-related art on the walls. The restaurant works with local craftsmen, sculptors, furniture makers and silversmiths to adorn their dining room. It offers different tasting menus (some of which run to eight courses) with highlights including rabbit, mackerel, Malaysian beef and Fideua. For a wonderfully bespoke experience ask for the Chef’s Table, with 14 courses, including quail, Hamachi, Hua Juan Bun, and pineapple cake. Back in Bedford, the town’s substantial Asian and Italian communities combine with the town’s own traditions in serving up a mouth-watering, multicultural feast. The Italian community has lent a decidedly continental air to much of the town’s offering, liberally sprinkled around the city centre. On Castle Lane, try the Higgins Pantry, Kremo’s Restaurant and Pizzeria and Spaghetti John’s. Around the corner on Castle Road, you’ll find 2likeusbistro. Peter’s Street, meanwhile, has Amici Italian and Mamma Mia. For the best pizza in Bedford, try Bellini’s, Mamma Concetta, or Zizzi on Riverside Square. Other Italians include Eatalia on High Street, Figaro on Commercial Road, Riobello Italian Ristorante on

WELCOME TO BEDFORDSHIRE

Mary’s Street. Riobello, owned by Giovanni, is the quintessential Italian restaurant, serving specialities like Ortolana vegetarian pizza and pollo con funghi. For lunch or dinner in a hotel setting, try d’Parys in Bedford; the River Room Restaurant in the Bedford Swan Hotel on the Embankment; the Embankment Hotel itself; or RVG Bar and Grill on St Mary’s Street. It has a great selection of restaurants offering cuisine from South Asia. Look no further than Tavistock Street, just northwest from High Street via the Broadway. There you have a dozen restaurants from the Subcontinent competing for your attention. The standouts include Magna Tandoori No 1; the Cochin, Alamin and the Grand Indian Restaurant on Tavistock Street; while on the Broadway, go for Indiya, Choudhury and the Bengal Brasserie. Three Rooms on the Kimbolton Road, Deshi Spice, and Saffron are also worth popping into. For other excellent Indian restaurants, visit Diya Royal in Kempston. Bedford’s coffee culture is booming. For a good introduction, just pop into Coffee with Art on High Street. Opened five years ago and locally owned by Mike and Ian, it takes a wonderfully idiosyncratic approach to décor, with a full wall made up of salvaged books. The home-made décor has been p19

16

“EXPECT DIVERSE TASTING MENUS (SOME OF WHICH RUN TO EIGHT COURSES) WITH HIGHLIGHTS INCLUDING RABBIT, MACKEREL, MALAYSIAN BEEF AND FIDEUA”

kingfishervisitorguides.com


Freshly-made sandwiches, home-made cakes and locally-roasted coffee. Papillon Coffee House is situated in Castle Road. Which is an exciting part of Bedford. With the River Ouse & Embankment parallel to us. It’s a great place to pop into after a lovely walk.

You can sit in our new seating area for a sophisticated but relaxed atmosphere. Then order one of our freshly-prepared sandwiches, baguettes or paninis. Whilst sitting you’ll often be able to smell the aroma of our freshly-baked cakes which we bake on site. Then of course get to sample them with an amazing cup of coffee.

Our coffee beans are locally roasted which goes with the ethos of the shop. We try and support local businesses as much as possible. All in all it’s a lovely place to come and visit either on your own or with your friends and family. We’re open 7 days a week Monday – Saturday 8.30-5.00

Sunday 10-4

We look forward to seeing you 133 Castle Road | Bedford | MK40 3RF

T. 01234 965265

E. Lisa@papilloncoffeehouse.co.uk


Drink locally-roasted Italian-blend coffee. Taste scrumptious cakes, tarts and biscuits and handmade and baked in small batches using natural ingredients from local suppliers.

Taste Portugese-style custard tarts. Enjoy crisp, flaky pastry filled with smooth, creamy custard with a hint of cinnamon and dusted with icing sugar.

www.vanillatreecakes.co.uk 29 St Cuthbert’s Street • Bedford • MK40 3JG • T. 01234 341165

J4120 TWH Olivier's Kingfisher Visitor Guides ad 185x120 Nov18.indd 1

WELCOME TO BEDFORDSHIRE

19/11/2018 13:42

18

kingfishervisitorguides.com


EATING OUT

“THIS CAFE SERVES UP A MEAN BRUNCH FEATURING BRITISH SAUSAGES AND EGGS AND YOU MUST TRY THEIR LIP-SMACKING PANCAKES”

Street you’ll find Frescoes Coffee House and Wine Bar, which does fantastic breakfasts, including gluten-free scones. It’s the type of place to while away an afternoon with a coffee – or a glass of wine – while reading a good book. There are plenty of options nearby. The Mill Yard Coffee Lounge on Mill Street is a great lunch spot. The Vanilla Tree Bakery on St Cuthbert’s Street do a great selection of Portuguese-style custard tarts, plus hand-made cakes and biscuits, with their signature Italian blend coffee. For a coffee shop at the heart of the River Great Ouse, try the Longholme Café on the Embankment, a destination coffee shop if there ever was one. As well as offering great coffee and food, it hires out boats and bikes seven days a week. The cafe also serves up a mean brunch featuring British sausages and eggs and you must try their lip-smacking pancakes. The Cappucino Bar Newnham also does excellent vegetarian and vegan-friendly offerings, while Papillon Coffee House on Castle Road serves up tasty home-made cakes and other treats. The Harpur Coffee Company in the Harpur Centre provides a perfect mid-shopping pick-me-up, while if you’re popping out to one of Bedford’s many parks, there are plenty of places to grab tea and a slice. Priory Country Park has the Cloverdale Retreat coffee shop; Mowsbury Park has the Four p20

©GEMENA COMMUNICATION/ADOBE STOCK; RAWPIXEL.COM/TOA HEFTIBA/TOMAS JASOVSKY/UNSPLASH

designed by the owners. There are comfortable leather seats at tables made from whole slices of tree, and a floor reclaimed from factory floorboards over a century old. One wall section has books bursting through a crack, while gorgeous old-fashioned lightbulbs dangle from the ceiling, illuminating the photography and artworks on the walls. This spacious eatery is perfect for a quick panini, or somewhere to grab some wonderful cake and work on the laptop amid a perfect atmosphere. The ice-cream sundaes and vegan orange and chocolate cake are ridiculously nice. They even do great gluten-free cakes and direct-trade coffee. Also on High Street is Café Crema Restaurant, which has better, fresher food than some of the fancier international coffee chains. Moving down High Street to the Old Arcade, you’ll find Seventh Heaven, which supplies the finest wedding cakes to the area – and also does a mean ‘sugar school’ course in cake-making. Its window display alone is worth a visit. Pop in and grab a slice of what’s on offer, or get a celebration cake made specially. Speaking of cakes, Delices French Bakery on Howard Street is an authentic boulangeriepatisserie, offering tasty Parisian pastries and some fine coffee. Try the lemon citron tart, or grab a £5 takeaway roll (the Brigitte Bardot is delicious), possibly the best value lunch in the town. Down Howard Street, on the corner with Mill

kingfishervisitorguides.com

19

WELCOME TO BEDFORDSHIRE


Seasons Café. Gunn’s Bakery, meanwhile, is one of the last places you will find that old Bedfordshire delicacy the Clanger, a suet pudding with a meat filling and a dessert side, once the favourite food of food of field labourers due to its ability to be eaten portable cold or hot on returning home. Gunn’s make their clangers using the same ingredients as of old, with suet pastry and a combination of savoury and sweet fillings at either end. They also cater for vegetarian clanger-lovers. They have has branches on the High Street in Bedford, on Hitchin Street Biggleswade and at their flagship shop in Market Square Sandy. If you’re a fan of baked goods, the Companions Bread Club meet on the first Saturday of the month on Mill Street at the Companions Real Bread bakery. The location alone is worth a visit: the bakery is based in an old fire station across the road from the John Bunyan Meeting Church. They also train ex-offenders to bake, helping them learn new skills, build confidence and rehabilitate back into society. See if you can meet Maggie Rich, the social entrepreneur behind the bakery, and a very inspiring woman indeed. It’s not just a bakery – it’s a growing community hub. For a dessert with a hint of Italian cuisine, there are also ice cream parlours aplenty, from the twin choices of Gallone’s and Sundaes Gelato in the Old

Arcade and High Street respectively, to Creams Café on High Street, or Dessert Island on St Loyes Street. For some top-quality steak and beef, you’re in luck. Miller and Carter is in the revitalised Riverside Square, where you’ll also find Gourmet Burger Kitchen; while for a mix of burgers and other pub grub, try the Bedford Brewhouse and Kitchen. For Japanese, pop into Wagamama on Riverside Square or Hoku Hoku on Peel Street. There is an excellent Lebanese place on the High Street called Reem, with a kebab place called Shish Restaurant on Castle Lane. There are also fewer than two Mexican restaurants – Baja on Castle Lane and El Picanto on Allhallows. There is also a nice selection of Thai places in Bedford, including Rice on the destination location Cuthbert’s Street and Thai Lagoon on Broadway. The standout is the superb Tana Thai on Cauldwell Street, opened by Tana herself, and now open on Sundays. A particular speciality is the gaeng massaman. Nazar Turkish Restaurant on High Street serves Turkish meze and mangal – and has a very reasonable family platter. La Piazza on nearby St Paul’s Square, meanwhile, is a great place for a pre or post-meal coffee. Continuing on the Italian theme, to the east of Bedford, in Sandy, you’ll find in Pecoro an excellent Mediterranean-style restaurant with

Multi-Award Winning Freehouse Nestled in the Countryside

The Bell in Studham

"...For Food & Gifts we Love"

Email: info@thebellinstudham.co.uk 01582 872460 www.thebellinstudham.co.uk 10% OFF WITH A PHOTO OF THIS ADVERT

THE BELL, Dunstable Road, Studham, Bedfordshire. LU6 2QG WELCOME TO BEDFORDSHIRE

20

kingfishervisitorguides.com


EATING OUT

ARTUR RUTKOWSKI/IGOR MISKE/JAKUB KAPUSNAK/PATRICK BROWNE/UNSPLASH

“HEAD CHEF KEVIN CLARK CREATIVELY USES LOCAL AND SEASONAL PRODUCE, SPECIALISING IN EXQUISITE MODERN BRITISH DISHES LIKE DOVER SOLE WITH SAUCE GRENOBLOISE; OR GUINEA FOWL WITH SWEET POTATO GNOCCHI”

vegetarian options in the market square, specialising in pizza and salads. In Dunstable, you have a choice of Indian restaurants plus a Greek restaurant (the Olive Garden), Lombardo’s for Italian, Chez Jerome on Church Street for French cuisine; and the Old Palace Restaurant for the best of British. Dunstable also has the White Swan Inn, known to its regulars as ‘the mucky duck’, which dates back to before 1769 and has an open fireplace, lending a domestic air to the home-cooked lunches, which include a hearty mixed grill known as the Dirty Duck Delight. For those visiting the town’s Norman church, there is a wonderful restaurant at Priory House Heritage Centre serving exquisite sandwiches, scones and cakes. It’s a perfect way to take in the majesty of St Peter’s Church, the last remaining building from the magnificent Augustinian priory founded in 1132. The jewel in the crown of the dining scene around Luton, meanwhile is the decadent Wernher Restaurant, a great dining room superbly situated in a five-star hotel surrounded by rolling parkland and an excellent golf course a few miles south of Luton

kingfishervisitorguides.com

town. Head chef Kevin Clark creatively uses local and seasonal produce, specialising in exquisite modern British dishes like Dover sole with sauce grenobloise; or guinea fowl with sweet potato gnocchi, all at a very reasonable rate. Or try out Adam’s Brasserie at the same location, which offers an excellent afternoon tea. Luton’s most intriguing Indian restaurants – one of many – is Stopsley Cuisine on Hithcin Road, drawing cuisine from all corners of the subcontinent. There is a buffet on Sundays, but there are some intriguing specials in the evening set menu, including Bengal fish lasooni, duck tamarind, and deshi chicken curry, with meat on the bone. The lamb shank is also worth trying – but not for the fainthearted! Luton has its own fair share of Italian restaurants: the Monna Lisa on Guildford Street or La Trattoria providing perfect romantic locations for a date. The Frog and Rhubarb on Church Road in Slip End is a country pub with great dining, and perfect for couples. Try the frogs legs for starters, or the Morrocan warm salad. Whatever part of Bedfordshire you’re in, you won’t go hungry! l

21

WELCOME TO BEDFORDSHIRE


10

THINGS YOU MUST DO!

WELCOME TO BEDFORDSHIRE

22

kingfishervisitorguides.com


10 THINGS

[01] WHIPSNADE ZOO

©ALAN JAMES/SERGII MOSTOVYI/ADOBE STOCK; FOTOLIA; PETER MOULTON/SHUTTERSTOCK.COM

The UK’s biggest zoo is set in 600 acres of the rolling Chiltern Hills near Dunstable, in the south of Bedfordshire. Highlights include African elephants, rhinos and lions, and a nine-foot-high Giraffe Heights exhibit, bringing you face-to-face with the tallest animals on the planet.

[02] WOBURN ABBEY Take in the splendour and architectural magnificence of one of England’s finest country houses. Built almost 900 years ago to house Cistercian monks, and later handed to the first earl of Bedford in 1547, it is today the stately country pile of Duke of Bedford and his family. It is also the original home of the English tradition of afternoon tea, started by Anna Russell, Duchess of Bedford. The Abbey is open to visitors from April through to the end of October, and contains three superb building complexes, surrounded by rolling parkland and festooned with statuesque trees. The Abbey hosts open-air theatre, a charity triathlon, and an annual Garden Show. Drive through the stunning, 3,000-acre deer park and soak up the gardens before plunging headlong into the riches that lie within.

proportions, is an aesthetic and spiritual treat for religious and secular visitors alike, hosting recitals, concerts and exhibitions. A statue of prison reformer John Howard stands outside.

[03] SAFARI PARK The huge Woburn estate is also home to Woburn Safari Park, the most extensive drive-through nature reserve in Britain with 1,000 animals, not including the 1,200 roaming deer.

[07] SOME OF THAT OLD-TIME RELIGION An important figure in the history of Christianity in England, John Bunyan became famous for publishing the famous Puritan novel A Pilgrim’s Progress. The museum on Mill Street tells his story, including his 12 years in prison for unlicensed preaching.

[04] ST PAUL’S CHURCH, BEDFORD Standing near the River Great Ouse, St Paul’s Square has been the site of a church for over a thousand years. Its current 400-year-old incarnation, a building of cathedral

kingfishervisitorguides.com

[05] SKYDIVING Balance out the visits to historic, natural and spiritual sites with a modern-day adrenaline rush! Twinwood Adventure near Bedford will set your pulses racing. [06] CARDINGTON AIRSHIP SHEDS These huge airship hangars were originally designed for the construction of large airships during the First World War and have since been the site of iconic films like Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and Batman Begins. One airship shed remains in operation and is used to build modern British airships.

“THE HUGE AIRSHIP HANGARS WERE ORIGINALLY DESIGNED FOR THE CONSTRUCTION OF LARGE AIRSHIPS DURING THE FIRST WORLD WAR. ONE STILL REMAINS AND IS USED TO BUILD MODERN BRITISH AIRSHIPS”

Maulden Wood, or the newer 365-acre forest at Centre Parcs just outside Bedford. [09] HISTORICAL SITES Climb back through history at Bedford Castle Mound, part of an archaeological park, and follow it up it with visits to the nearby Higgins Gallery and Museum, combining on one site Bedford Museum, the Cecil Higgins Art Gallery, and Bedford Gallery, all housed in 200-year-old buildings. In the south of the county lies Dunstable Priory, the historic site of King Henry VIII’s momentous first divorce, sparking the English Reformation which shapes Britain and Ireland to this day. [10] HIKE ALONG THE ICKNIELD WAY One of Britain’s oldest footpaths, the Icknield Way runs across Bedfordshire. Walk it across the Dunstable Downs and fly a kite or paraglide with one of the many groups in the area. l

[08] A WALK IN THE WOODS Bedfordshire has some excellent woodlands, whether ancient forests like King’s Wood,

23

WELCOME TO BEDFORDSHIRE


DAYS OUT

LET’S GO THERE! Whatever the time of year, and whatever the weather, there’s always plenty to do here

WELCOME TO BEDFORDSHIRE

24

kingfishervisitorguides.com


©PXL.STORE/ADOBE STOCK

B

edfordshire is the secret heart of England, with ancient forests, historic churches, animal magic and whopping great country houses crisscrossed by Britain’s oldest walkways – and all framed by the chalky Chiltern hills. Your first port of call should be the dazzling Woburn Abbey, an extravagant Georgian mansion overlooking sumptuous parkland right in the middle of the county, about a 30-minute drive from Bedford town. The stately pile, built on the site of a Cistercian Abbey awarded by Henry VIII to the ancestors of

kingfishervisitorguides.com

today’s Duke of Bedford, is home to art galore, including paintings from Rembrandt, Gainsborough, Velasquez, Van Dyck, and Canaletto – and a fine set of Tudor portraits. Exhibitions traverse the 400 years of interior decoration at the Abbey; a section charting the royal visit of Queen Victoria in 1841, and some superb gardens. You can either get a ticket to the Abbey or just to visit the gardens. It’s impossible to do so without marvelling at the herds of magnificent stags in the 3,000-acre deer park, modelled by Humphrey Repton on the principles of Lancelot p27

25

WELCOME TO BEDFORDSHIRE


NEW ESCAPE ROOM

Locked in a room… can you escape in under 60 minutes by solving a series of clues, riddles, locks and puzzles? You and your team of explorers must retrieve the Cluetan Crystal, but watch your step – who knows what happened to the last exploring party… Teams of 2-6 players can enjoy this fun, immersive experience and work together to escape the room.

Suitable for Family & Friends Children’s Birthday Parties Team Building & School and Colleges Stag & Hen Parties

Book your experience now: cluehq.co.uk/bedford Clue HQ Bedford Ltd, 5 Tyne Road, Sandy, Beds, SG19 1SA T: 01767 699199 E: bedford@cluehq.co.uk

Registered Charity No 307534

W W W. S H U T T L E W O R T H . O R G

SHUTTLEWORTH, OLD WARDEN AERODROME, BEDFORDSHIRE, SG18 9EP - 01767 627927

Individual visitors and groups can explore the Swiss Garden, look around The Collection, or simply to enjoy our on-site restaurant and gift shop. Parking is free and there’s a Play Area for children that is also disabled friendly. Events run throughout the year and group visits for Afternoon Tea in The House can be combined with Swiss Garden tours and/or entry to The Collection. Finding us is easy - we are just off the A1 at Biggleswade! HP Welcome to Bedfordshire.indd 1

WELCOME TO BEDFORDSHIRE

20/09/2018 13:53:54

26

kingfishervisitorguides.com


SHUTTERSTOCK.COM

DAYS OUT

‘Capability’ Brown, the grandfather of British landscaping who influenced so much of that which is naturally wonderfully in England’s countryside. Owned by the Duke of Bedford – a descendant of Mary Boleyn, mistress to Henry VIII (and sister to that king’s second wife, Anne Boleyn!) – Woburn is one of the largest conservation parks in Europe. The huge estate is also home to Woburn Safari Park, the most extensive drive-through nature reserve in Britain. It numbers 1,000 animals, including the endangered white rhino, the bongo antelope, Ankole cattle, and some exceedingly charismatic Humboldt penguins. There are also elephants, giraffes, lion, zebra and innumerable animals of all species. Take the car safari trail, or a foot safari which includes a trek through the Himalayan heights, home to the red panda. If you prefer the surrounds of a zoo, head to Whipsnade Zoo just outside Dunstable – the biggest in the UK. It offers Nature Night camping, allows patrons to be ‘keeper for a day’, and has a huge variety of animals. One unique area allows visitors to go back in time to when huge mammals stalked Britain, including the European brown bear, the

kingfishervisitorguides.com

“TAKE A TRIP TO THE BIGGEST ZOO IN THE UK – IT ALLOWS PATRONS TO BE ‘KEEPER FOR A DAY’, AND HAS A HUGE VARIETY OF ANIMALS”

27

Eurasian lynx, and the wolverine – all since hunted to extinction in the wild in these islands, if not the European mainland. Check out Whipsnade Tree Cathedral, a garden laid out in the form of a cathedral. Bedfordshire has lots to do for families with children, from Mead Open Farm in Billington, to Jungle Jim’s Playland in Sandy, to Addison Howard Park in Kempston, and a Birds of Prey centre at Wilstead just outside Bedford town. The Stockwood Discovery Centre in Luton, meanwhile, provides a more stately form of activity. For a slightly more taxing play area, try Snakes and Ladders in Dunstable. The remarkable market town of Dunstable itself was the home to one of the most seminal acts in British history: the annulment of the marriage between Henry VIII and Catherine of Aragon, setting in motion the English Reformation from the unassuming location of Dunstable Priory. Today, St Peter’s Church remains from what was a much larger Augustinian Priory church, founded in 1132 by Henry I. It remains one of the finest examples of Norman architecture in England, and is well worth exploring. Luton town, meanwhile, is the home of one of the world’s oldest football clubs: Luton Town, p29

WELCOME TO BEDFORDSHIRE


Visit the only Public Park in England designed by Lancelot “Capability” Brown. Situated in the historic Georgian Town of Ampthill.

CANOE

|

K AYA K

WILD CAMPING

|

S TA N D U P PA D D L E B O A R D

|

ADVENTUROUS ACTIVITIES

Develop Your Adventurous Side with Canoe Trail...

The Park offers 70 hectares of historic park with origins as a Tudor deer park, site of Ampthill Castle, residence of Henry VIII and Katherine of Aragon and was redesigned in the 18th century by Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown.

• Wild camping at Matchstick Wood • Multi Day Trips & Bushcraft Skills • Stag/Hen Do’s & Corporate Events • British Canoeing & 1st Aid Qualifications • Canoe & Kayak Expeditions

Land

of th Yukon e Midng ht Expe dition Sun s

The Park hosts the annual AmpRocks and Fireworks Festivals. The varied topography is great for a challenging walk and offers expansive views across the Bedfordshire countryside.

SUP & Expe Kayak dition s

rip

noe T

y Ca

r Spe

Rive

ess ildern tish W s Scot anoe Trip C

Rive

r Tw

eed C

anoe

Sea

Trip

nal

essio Prof ses & ications Qualif

Cour

king Kaya Trips

Padd lin Onta g Retrea rio’s Wilde t to rnes s

Professional coaches and guides and all equipment and tuition provided to develop your skills from novice to advanced paddler.

T: 01234 825499 / 07934 861692 E: info@canoetrail.co.uk

Situated at the stunning Wyboston Lakes Complex, near St Neots just off the A1, our purpose built facilities, lakes and off road course are in the perfect location to offer a variety of top class exhilarating experiences. Experience the thrill of being a hovercraft pilot, the exhilaration of riding a jet ski, the adrenaline of zooming a zego, the rush of wakeboarding/water skiing or combine them all for a physically charged experience. Either in or on the water, we offer fun activities and experiences for all the family.

LAND AND WATER ACTIVITIES PERFECT FOR GROUPS • FULLY-LICENCED RESTAURANT PUBLIC AQUA PARK • VENUE HIRE

T. 01480 213100 • E. shout@rideleisure.co.uk Wyboston Lakes • Wyboston • Bedfordshire • MK44 3AL

www.rideleisure.co.uk

WELCOME TO BEDFORDSHIRE

28

kingfishervisitorguides.com


SHUTTERSTOCK.COM

DAYS OUT

founded in 1885, and with a storied history to match. The area around the Hatters’ home ground at Kenilworth Road is due to be developed as the Power Court development, so it’s worth getting a taste of the ground at its vintage best. It’s a perfect spot to catch an FA Cup match – Luton are cup specialists. While you’re there, you might like to check out the superbly medieval St Mary’s Church, which is right next to the stadium. Over 850 years old, it was built by King Athelstan in 930 AD and provides a lovely ancient counterpoint to the new Luton which is soon to rapidly emerge. How about some adventure holidaying? Fifteen minutes from Bedford is the exhilarating skydiving centre at Twinwoods Adventure. It also offers indoor surfing, racing, shooting and climbing, plenty to set the pulses racing. Although Bedford also has family-friendly activities, such as the Oasis Beach Pool (there are also swimming pools at Luton and Dunstable), the town comes into its own as a historical treasure trove. Start with St Paul’s Church – according to some sources, the reputed burial site of King Offa of

kingfishervisitorguides.com

Offa’s Dyke fame. There has been a church here for over a thousand years, and the iconic spire still dominates the town from its vantage point at St Paul’s Square. It provided the religious backdrop for one of modern Britain’s most formative moments, when the Archbishops of Canterbury and York led the nation in worship during the Second World War, as transmitted over the wireless by the BBC into homes across the country on 7 September 1941 (St Paul’s also saw Roman Catholic Masses led by a Cardinal). Next door is the Corn Exchange, which hosts theatre, comedy and concerts. The town was also instrumental in older, more revolutionary religious currents. John Bunyan Meeting House and Museum commemorates the life and writings of the eponymous 17th-century Nonconformist Christian writer and preacher famous for A Pilgrim’s Progress. Elsewhere in Bedford is the Panacea Museum – once the headquarters of a small religious community – and the adjacent Bedford Castle Mound, site of the ancient successive castles p31

29

“THERE HAS BEEN A CHURCH HERE FOR OVER A THOUSAND YEARS, AND THE ICONIC SPIRE STILL DOMINATES THE TOWN FROM ITS VANTAGE POINT AT ST PAUL’S SQUARE”

WELCOME TO BEDFORDSHIRE


Santa Pod Raceway

FESTIVAL OF P OWER 19-21 AP RIL

There’s fun for all the family over the Easter weekend with the action-packed season opener Festival of Power. Explosive track action comes in the form of nitro-burning Top Fuel Dragsters and Nitro Funny Cars as well as the spectacular Jet Jamboree, all supported by National Drag Racing classes and the first round of the MSA British Drag Racing Championship. www.santapod.com

THE EURO FINALS FIA/FIM EUROPEAN DRAG RACING CHAMPIONSHIPS

The Spring Bank Holiday weekend presents Round 1 of the eagerly anticipated FIA/FIM European Drag Racing Championships. This hugely popular extravaganza features over 250 teams across 17 classes of cars and bikes. Witness ground-shaking, nitro-burning, 10,000-horsepower Top Fuel Dragsters accelerating from 0-100mph in less than 1 second, plus 200mph Drag Bikes, plus a full range of supporting classes. www.santapod.com

DRAGSTALGIA

12-14 JULY

Santa Pod goes ‘back to the way we were’ with a nostalgic weekend dedicated to historic drag racing from a bygone era. The dragstrip takes a retro twist with everything from classic Dragsters & Funny Cars to Altereds and Hot Rods. Saturday night brings back the traditional fire burnouts and ‘Cracklefest’ which typify the nostalgic drag racing scene. www.dragstalgia.co.uk

26-28 JULY

The original and best VW festival, Bug Jam enters its 33rd year and is a true VW festival in every sense. With a vibrant, fun-filled atmosphere, it brings to life the very essence of VW and Campervan culture over three days of unadulterated delight. Europe’s largest VW event incorporates an eclectic mix of all things Vee Dub, with Drag Racing, Run What Ya Brung, Show & Shine, top flight comedy, nightlife, stunt displays, funfair, massive trade village and much more. www.bugjam.com

THE MAIN EVENT

24-27 MAY

BUG JAM 33

5-8 SEP TEMBER

FIA/FIM EUROPEAN DRAG RACING CHAMPIONSHIPS

Santa Pod’s most prestigious Drag Racing event features over 250 of Europe’s finest teams. Witness the awesome power of 300mph Top Fuel Dragsters, 200mph Drag Bikes and over 20 supporting classes. See Europe’s elite do battle on the quarter-mile in a bid to be crowned 2019 European Championship winner. The Friday Evening Nitro Session provides a rare opportunity to witness Nitro Cars running at dusk in their flaming-header glory with a grand finale of side-by-side Jet Cars before the firework display ends the day in spectacular fashion. www.santapod.com

FLAME & THUNDER

26 OCTOBER

Santa Pod’s season finale Flame & Thunder is an action-packed day for all the family featuring a deluge of motorsport stunts and Drag Racing. It’s an event where anything goes with wild & wacky drag racing demos, 300mph nitro-guzzling Top Fuel Dragsters and a Jet extravaganza along with cars and bikes from various supporting classes. Add in the roaring bonfire and a show-stopping firework display and you’re guaranteed to have a thrilling day out. www.santapod.com

www.santapod.com

*Included as part of your sporting entrance ticket.


ING IMAGE; WARNER BROS. STUDIO TOUR LONDON – THE MAKING OF HARRY POTTER

DAYS OUT

built and destroyed over the centuries. There are some splendid parks around Bedford meanwhile. Try the leafy Priory Country Park, or Bedford Park. There’s a plethora of wild places in which to hike and explore in this handsome county of steep, forested ridges, rolling hills and sudden valleys. In the south-eastern corner of Bedfordshire lies the Dunstable Downs, chalky escarpments perfect for a day’s walking, and popular among kite-fliers and paragliders. If you want to follow in the literal footsteps of ancient Britons, hike the Icknield Way, which runs from south-west of Bedfordshire in Buckinghamshire, and continues across Bedfordshire, skirting the Ivinghoe Beacon, the Dunstable Downs, and Barton Hills National Nature Reserve. Maulden Wood sits on the greensand ridge which stretches from Leighton Buzzard to Gamlingay. The northern end of the wood, sitting on a cap of glacial boulder clay, is one of the county’s largest remnants of ancient woodland. Parts of the wood are filled with bluebells in spring, along with snowdrops and cowslips. Around the edges you’ll find sticky willy, honeysuckle, and trumpet flowers (bindweed). The north of Maulden Wood includes several

kingfishervisitorguides.com

Roman and Iron Age archaeological sites. Nearby lies King’s Wood, which combined with Rammamere Heath also makes for wonderful hiking and rambling. This magnificent wood, part of the largest area of deciduous forest in the county, can be traced back before the 15th century. Just over the border of Bedfordshire there is a real treat for children – the Harry Potter Tour in Leavesden, less than half an hour’s drive from Luton. All seven of JK Rowling’s magical books were transformed into movies in the Warner Brothers studio here over the course of a decade. And there is a treasure trove of artefacts from the iconic films, which traversed the first decade of the 21st century and provided the film backdrop for millions of childhoods. It’s here you can experience the majesty of the Great Hall of Hogwarts; Dumbledore’s office; and the Ministry of Magic, in fascinatingly created sets. Even Muggles are allowed, so bring your parents and pop into 4 Privet Drive. If great fiction is your thing, visit the Roald Dahl Museum and Story Centre in Great Missenden, a leafy commuter town nestled snugly in the Chiltern hills and a beautiful 50-minute drive from Luton. p33

31

“THERE’S A PLETHORA OF WILD PLACES IN WHICH TO HIKE AND EXPLORE IN THIS HANDSOME COUNTY OF STEEP, FORESTED RIDGES, ROLLING HILLS AND SUDDEN VALLEYS”

WELCOME TO BEDFORDSHIRE


T H E H O M E O F D I S C O V E R Y & A DV

Herrings Green Activity Farm

Cotton End Road | Wilstead | MK45 3DT 01234 742 362 | 01234 742 766 www.birdsofpreycentre.co.uk

E NT U R E !

IT’S A REAL HANDS-ON EXPERIENCE

BORN AND BREWED IN BEDFORD At Eagle, we embrace different perspectives. While others move cautiously, We soar fearlessly. Take a different view.

WELCOME TO BEDFORDSHIRE

32

kingfishervisitorguides.com


DAYS OUT

“JUST OUTSIDE BEDFORDSHIRE LIES BLETCHLEY PARK, ONCE THE FABLED “STATION X”, ACTING AS HEADQUARTERS TO BRITAIN’S LEADING CODE-BREAKERS IN THE SECOND WORLD WAR”

©NATIONAL TRUST IMAGES/CHRIS LACEY/JOHN MILLAR/ NATIONALTRUST.ORG.UK; ©SHAUN ARMSTRONG/MUBSTA.COM/BLETCHLEY PARK

The famous Norwegian-British author’s house is inaccessible, but the centre is a superb treat, and a huge attraction for creative writers and fans alike. Also just outside Bedfordshire, meanwhile, lies Bletchley Park, once the fabled “Station X”, acting as headquarters to Britain’s leading code-breakers in the Second World War. It was here that they broke the German ‘Enigma’ encrypted code intercepts, which allowed Britain to win – or at least not lose – the Battle of the Atlantic. The original Victorian mansion of Bletchley is still surrounded by the Nissen huts in which this crucial secret work was carried out, and it’s possible to see up close the stolen Enigma machine which enabled the Allies to break the Nazis’ code. On the western side of Bedfordshire, meanwhile, lies Ashridge Estate and Ashridge Forest, managed by the National Trust. The start of the Chiltern Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, it’s just 20 minutes from Dunstable – and another reminder of the historic and natural riches that lie in and around Bedfordshire. l

kingfishervisitorguides.com

33

WELCOME TO BEDFORDSHIRE


48 HOURS

IF YOU’RE ONLY HERE FOR 48 HOURS… You can pack a lot into a couple of days – try this itinerary to make the most of it

WELCOME TO BEDFORDSHIRE

34

kingfishervisitorguides.com


DAY ONE

©TOYECHKINA/ADOBE STOCK; ING IMAGE; RITCHIE VALENS/UNSPLASH; SHUTTERSTOCK.COM

MORNING Breakfast at Coffee With Art in Bedford, taking in the sumptuous hand-made design. Grab one of their excellent smoothies, and some porridge, or just sample the array of coffee while mesmerised by the artistic surrounds. Walking down High Street, turn right at the installation outside Debenhams, and wander through the Old Arcade – maybe stopping for an ice cream or an outfit – into Harpur Square around the Harpur Shopping Centre. Visit the John Howard statue at St Paul’s Square, and drink in the majesty of St Paul’s Church, with its gold-plated interior. Walk down Castle Lane to the Higgins Bedford, with its ongoing exhibitions, and wander around Castle Mound, maybe visiting the nearby John Bunyan or Panacea Museums. AFTERNOON For lunch, get out of town and visit the St Helena Restaurant in Elstow, once Bunyan’s home, before making the short drive to Woburn Abbey, one of the finest country mansions in England. Drive slowly through the deer park, and marvel at the parkland partly designed by Humphrey Repton. Look around the Abbey itself, a treasure trove of artwork and interior design, and drink in the paintings

kingfishervisitorguides.com

by Dutch, Flemish, Venetian and English masters. Take afternoon tea at the home of afternoon tea, and go for a stroll in the gardens. If you’re really adventurous, take in the Woburn Safari Park, too. EVENING For dinner, pop back dinner at Galloway’s, one of many excellent restaurants in Woburn itself, followed by late drinks at the Woburn Ale House.

DAY TWO MORNING After brunch at the Woburn Brasserie on the Woburn Estate, drive to Leighton Buzzard’s House of Coffee to stock up on your beans, before arriving mid-morning at Whipsnade Zoo, the largest in the UK. Become a “keeper for a day”, and go back in time to see what kind of animals stalked Britain before agricultural and industrial revolutions: the European brown bear, the Eurasian lynx, and the wolverine. Daily activities include the Lemur Breakfast at 10.30am, and talks on otters, birds of the world, wild boar, tigers and sea lions. AFTERNOON For lunch, enjoy uncomplicated and beautiful French cuisine at Chez Jerome in Dunstable, or

35

the White Swan Inn, which dates back to before 1769. You’ll need filling up for an energetic afternoon hike along the Dunstable Downs and the Icknield Way, reputedly the oldest footpath in Britain. Drink in the spectacular views from the highest point in Bedfordshire – and the largest stretch of chalk down land in this region. If needs be, pick up a dessert coffee at Dunstable Gateway to fortify you before or after the walk. EVENING For dinner, head to the Wernher Restaurant a few miles south of Luton. It’s a great dining room surrounded by rolling parkland next to a five-star hotel. Bringing a bottle of wine, return to the National Trust’s Dunstable Downs for a beautiful sunset, watching the gliders sway in the breeze. l

“YOU’LL NEED FILLING UP FOR AN ENERGETIC AFTERNOON HIKE ALONG THE ICKNIELD WAY, REPUTEDLY THE OLDEST FOOTPATH IN BRITAIN”

WELCOME TO BEDFORDSHIRE


SHOPPING

LIKE TO SHOP? YOU’LL LOVE IT HERE! High street chains, one-off independents and quirky specialists – they’re all waiting for the shopaholic

©ALIC JANE/TATIANA/ADOBE STOCK

W

elcome to Bedfordshire, the shopping hub of the Home Counties. You can start with Bedford town itself, with its unrivalled shopping, from large household names like Marks and Spencer, Debenhams and Beales to an increasing array of independent small shops and traders. And you can do all of this in the context of Bedford’s historic centre, which has been drawing shoppers since the Middle Ages. Bedford’s unique offering includes undercover shopping malls and arcades, winding streets with hidden treasures, with character and history galore. Council carparks offer free parking for two hours on a Saturday – and all day Sunday, so there’s no excuse in not exploring the town centre’s treasures. A particular delight – and a good place to start – is the Harpur Centre, smack bang in the middle of the town. Housed in a Grade 2-listed building, the Harpur Centre is being renovated to further improve its shopping offerings, which already includes Pandora, New Look, TK Maxx, Topman, Primark, Argos, Boots, WH Smith and the Fragrance Shop. Also on Harpur Square – the area between the centre and the central library – is the venerable Beales department store. Around the corner, on Silver Street, you’ll find a splendid Debenhams (which has a lovely coffee shop). Right outside is a great piece of street art, redolent of a Pink Floyd cover – two huge stainless steel faces (five metres in height) staring at each other. p39

“YOU CAN EXPLORE UNDERCOVER SHOPPING MALLS AND ARCADES OR DISCOVER THE WINDING STREETS, FULL OF HIDDEN TREASURES”

WELCOME TO BEDFORDSHIRE

36


Maxim Goldsmiths and diamond setters Wedding band specialists

Small, traditional, award-winning jewellers with some big surprises. Come and visit us to have a friendly chat about your requirements. maximjewellers

www.maximjewellery.co.uk Open Monday to Saturday 9am – 5pm 11 Manchester Street | Luton | Bedfordshire | LU1 2QB | Tel. 01582 725651


©CRIN/ADOBE STOCK; FOTOLIA

SHOPPING

Looking closer, their faces are made up of steel squares with a lace design, reflecting the town’s historic links to brick and lace. The pieces are also intended to reflect the town’s ethnic diversity. From a certain angle, the faces resemble two crescents. It cost £100,000 to erect back in 2009, which along with its jolting form and size, caused some amount of consternation in the town. It certainly livens up the town’s central crossroads, joining Silver Street and Mill Street to the central thoroughfare of High Street There’s an excellent Waterstone’s on Silver Street too, a couple of doors down from Next; JD Sports; Miss Selfridge, and a branch of the Body Shop for all your natural cosmetic needs. Also on Silver Street is a bust of the late Trevor Huddleston, Anglican bishop, anti-apartheid activist and Archbishop of the Indian Ocean who was born on Chaucer Road. Nelson Mandela himself visited the town to view the bust in 2015 in honour of Huddleston’s leadership of the anti-apartheid movement. Bedford also offers two lovely arcades bedecked with independent retailers: the original historic Arcade, St Cuthbert’s Arcade, and Church Arcade. The latter is on Harpur Street just the other side of

kingfishervisitorguides.com

“BEDFORD IS GREAT FOR THOSE LOOKING FOR BARGAINS. IN THE NORTHERN HALF OF HIGH STREET ALONE YOU’VE GOT A FANTASTIC RANGE OF CHARITY SHOPS”

39

M&S from the Harpur Centre. Refurbished in recent years, it contains superb artisan traders like Baker’s Best, DP Clarke Butchers; Millman Jewellers, Sena Jewellers, Paul’s Café, Red Tag fashion, Simi and Lola (a “treasure trove for all things girls”); and – a particular favourite – Rollback World. St Cuthbert’s Arcade is a stylish redevelopment in an up-andcoming area. Visit the Secret Garden showcase! Bedford is great for those looking for bargains. In the northern half of High Street alone you’ve got a Marie Curie charity shop; a CRUK charity shop; an Oxfam branch (across the way from the beguiling Narnia Fancy Dress) and a Salvation Army shop. For the complete circuit, take a left down Lime Street for Caffe Charity Shop in Clair Court, and round off your charity shop tour by popping into Save The Children and Sue Ryder on Harpur Street, and the British Heart Foundation shop on Silver Street. For other jewellery offerings, see Epanoui independent fine jewellery, which also supplies home wares, beauty products and other artisan gifts from their Mill Street shop. Although less salubrious than other parts of the town, High Street is also worth a mosey. There is Harrison and Simmons, an excellent hobby shop worth at least a window shop. There are also p41

WELCOME TO BEDFORDSHIRE


The Jewel in Bedfordshire’s Crown

21 St Peter’s Street, Bedford MK40 2PN 01234 352005 sales@johnbulljewellers.co.uk www.johnbulljewellers.co.uk


©ARIWASABI/ZHU DIFENG/ADOBE STOCK

SHOPPING

plenty of ice cream outlets, a nod to Bedford’s large Italian community – including Sundaes Gelato shop and Gallone’s Parlour, inside the Old Arcade. For a shopping experience steeped in history, look no further than the Bedford Old Arcade. It’s just behind Sundaes Gelato and Coffee Republic, closely parallel with Silver Street, where it has existed for over a century. In 1905 it was described (by local newspaper the Bedfordshire Mercury) as a “crystal palace”, following its construction by George Haynes and the architects Usher and Anthony. The highlight of the arcade is Arcadia sweetshop, a family-owned shop in business for over a century, continuing to specialise in some sumptuous chocolates, as well as over 300 jars of various sweets. The Old Arcade catches the eye in myriad ways. Make sure you visit Boutique Planet, an intimate outlet offering premium ladies clothing, with bespoke one-off items jostling for space with well-known brands like Superdry, Vans and White Stuff. It’s also got the colourful Charisma gift shop, Kean and Co menswear, Pegalicious balloon and gift boutique and – for that certain someone in your life – Magic Garden florists. For an after-shopping treat, there is Gallone’s ice cream showing the best desserts Bedford’s large Italian community has to offer or, on a cold day, Uppercrust deli and sandwich bar. The

kingfishervisitorguides.com

arcade also boasts a superb record shop, Slide, which acts as a community hub for independent music of all genres, Simply Dance for the nimble-footed movers in your life. Planet Clothing in the Arcade, an independent fashion store featuring everything from G Star to Firetrap and Luke. On nearby High Street, meanwhile, is a branch of Maysons premium designer menswear, one of four branches in the UK. It offers the most in-demand brands, from Paul Smith, Vivienne Westwood, Stone Island, Armani and Diesel to True Religion and Belstaff. If you’re in the Harpur Centre, pop around the corner to the Howard Centre on Home Lane (with access from the West Mall of the Harpur). There is an excellent oriental food and gift store (Fusion O), a TK Maxx, plus some very useful stores for the travelling tourist: a luggage store (Rhino Bags); One Stop Connections for mobile phones and accessories, and a branch of Timpsons, the shoe repair, keys and dry cleaning specialists. Bedford also offers a raft of superb speciality shops, including Rogan’s Books; the Eagle Bookshop; and Tudor Rose Patchwork. For jewellers, pop into Baker Brothers diamonds for some pre-war charm and elegance, or Pandora in the Harpur Centre, or H Samuel at Clifton’s Corner. The town also offers a treat for fans of comic p42

41

“THE ARCADE BOASTS A SUPERB RECORD SHOP WHICH ACTS AS A COMMUNITY HUB FOR INDEPENDENT MUSIC OF ALL GENRES”

WELCOME TO BEDFORDSHIRE


books. If you’re a fan of DC, Marvel and Dark Horse comics, be sure to stop at Close Encounters on the Midland Road, which offers trading cards, graphic novels, figures and manga. Fancy yourself as a wine, beer or spirit connoisseur? Be sure to visit the Blue Glass in St Cuthbert’s Street in Bedford town, where qualified staff are on hand to help you choose from over 400 global wines, plus niche beers and spirits. For fresh food sourced locally, visit the Limes on Linden Road. If it’s markets you’re after then, there is a huge variety in Bedford, all taking place in Harpur Square and St Paul’s. The Charter Market gives a variety of shopping experiences. Pop in on Wednesday and Saturdays to grab a bargain, buy fresh

“POP TO THE CHARTER MARKET ON A WEDNESDAY OR SATURDAY TO GRAB A BARGAIN, BUY FRESH FRUIT AND VEG, OR JUST SOAK UP THE URBAN MARKET ATMOSPHERE”

Like what you see…

Our superb visitor guides are packed with useful articles and information.

Established in 2016, Willow Tree Distilling is run by a small, but passionate team inspired by nature to bring you a uniquely-blended botanical gin. Distilling takes place on the family farm in the beautiful Bedfordshire countryside, which means inspiration and ingredients are never very far away.

Follow us, like us, share us on: /KingfisherVG

Willow Tree Gin is a premium spirit, lovingly hand-crafted in small batches. We use a unique combination of 12 botanicals including freshly-picked herbs from the family farm. Our process of selectively smoking botanicals gives Willow Tree Gin its distinctive flavour.

@KingfisherVG

kingfisher_vg

Available to buy online at www.willowtreedistilling.co.uk You can also find a full list of stockists on our website.

willowtreegin

WELCOME TO BEDFORDSHIRE

willowtreegin

www.kingfishervisitorguides.com

willowtreegin

42

kingfishervisitorguides.com


©BERC/HOMY DESIGN/ADOBE STOCK

SHOPPING

fruit or veg, or just soak up the urban market atmosphere. The market also operates on the second and fourth Thursdays of each month, with local produce including fruit, vegetables and flowers. For a particular local treat, pop along on the second Saturday of the month between March and December for the Handmade in Bedford Market, when traders show unique or idiosyncratic goods they have made or produced themselves (most also take on commissions from prospective clients). The Charter Market takes place on Harpur Square and also St Paul’s Square, in the shadow of the historic St Paul’s Church and the Corn Market. Every Thursday sees the Bedford Gourmet Market take place in Harpur Square, with a cornucopia of foods and culinary products. On the second and fourth Thursdays of each month, the market is complemented by the Bedford Farmers Market, feature some splendid WI cakes. On Fridays, meanwhile, the Home and Garden Market takes place on Harpur Square, offering garden products, plants and flowers in the heart of Cambridge. Bedford is a treasure trover of independent shops. For parents, Baby and Play offers exciting, innovative wooden sensory and interactive toys for children of all ages from their shop on Castle Lane. They also

kingfishervisitorguides.com

promise worldwide shipping with 30 day returns. Although it’s a gallery and museum, the Higgins Bedford has some splendid glassware and other giftware in its 200-year-old premises. Just 20 minutes north-east of Bedford, on the border with Cambridgeshire is the Cath Kidston Factory Shop in Eaton Socon – perfect for fans of the British designer’s nostalgic floral patterns. For those into antiques, stop by W&H Peacock at the Bedford Auction Centre in Eastcotts Park. Further west, in the ancient market town of Woburn, meanwhile, is Charles Ross Auctioneers, where you can get your hands on plenty of Victorian and classic furniture in their old Town Hall sales room. If you’re travelling through the centre of the county – maybe for a walk in the ancient Maulden Wood, or a day at Wrest Park mansion and gardens – be sure to stop at Ampthill, where there a charming little gift shop called the Stationery Boutique. And be sure to continue down to Barton-le-Clay. The Olde Watermill Shopping Village there is a peculiarly English shopping experience, with wonderfully unique shops. Try Brides and Bustles, Confetti and Curves Bridal, or Face T alterations for wedding wear and Dotties for ladies clothing. It’s not every shopping centre which has a salt p45

43

“QUALIFIED STAFF ARE ON HAND TO HELP YOU CHOOSE FROM OVER 400 GLOBAL WINES, PLUS NICHE BEERS AND SPIRITS”

WELCOME TO BEDFORDSHIRE


©ALINA/MILAN ILIC/ADOBE STOCK; ANNIE SPRATT/NATHAN DUMLAO/UNSPLASH

SHOPPING

shop (Bob’s Salt Shop) – or a fossil shop (Finest Fossils). A huge favourite for local and passing visitors, meanwhile is the Antiques Centre, with over 100 dealers across 5,000 square feet of vintage crafts, collectables, vintage and retro artefacts from all eras. There are two crafts shop here alone – the Craft Cabin, and Sid & Jones, the latter of which also does giftware. For hobbyists, it’s bonanza time: try the Tackle Shed for fishing gear, or The Model Box for model figurines. There is also an excellent model shop in Leighton Buzzard, called the AGR Railway store. In the south of Bedfordshire, Luton is the main shopping haven for its 200,000 souls – and the many more that pass through London Luton Airport. The town’s shopping district is dominated by the huge Mall shopping centre, running along the full length of John Street and Silver Street. It has one million square feet of shopping, with 122 retailers catering for your needs, including Debenhams, M&S, Tesco, Primark, Sports Direct, TK Maxx, Wilko, Argos and Tiger. For fashion, saunter through H&M, Next, Topshop, River Island, New Look, or Peacocks. Outside the centre, there is the Dress House on Guildford Street, Labels Luton on Gordon Street, or Storage Clothing on Chapel Street. There is a huge regeneration effort in Luton underway, with Napier

kingfishervisitorguides.com

“THIS SOUNDS LIKE A HIPSTER CAFE, BUT IS ACTUALLY A SUPPLIER OF SOME OF THE FINEST CAFFEINATED BEANS FROM AROUND THE WORLD”

45

Gateway, Luton Cultural Quarter, and Marsh Farm on the north-western outskirts. The market town of Leighton Buzzard, nestled near the Chiltern Hills, is worth a visit any day of the week. Drop into Dream a Gift, a gift and tea shop opened three years ago and offering quality homeware imported from Germany and Austria from its venerable premises. Leighton Buzzard is also a treat for those who appreciate the finer elements of a good cup of coffee. House of Coffee sounds like a hipster cafe, but is actually a supplier of some of the finest caffeinated beans from around the world. House of Coffee have been in the coffee game for three decades now, and deliver to homes and businesses around the UK and further afield, shortening the coffee supply chain and ensuring good quality at quite a reasonable price. They make an avowed effort to ensure their foreign partners adhere to ethical trading and environmental standards, too. They even decaffeinate their coffee in its own way (the Swiss Water method). To top it all off, they’re located in one of the town’s original timber-built buildings, dating back to the 15th century. Simultaneously historic and cutting-edge: a bit like Bedfordshire all round, then. l

WELCOME TO BEDFORDSHIRE


10

REASONS TO LOVE THIS REGION!

WELCOME TO BEDFORDSHIRE

46

kingfishervisitorguides.com


10 REASONS

[01] THE NAMES

©ENGLISH HERITAGE/PATRICIA PAYNE; ©GB27PHOTO/GOODMANPHOTO/ ADOBE STOCK; ING IMAGE; PETER MOULTON/SHUTTERSTOCK.COM

Have you ever come across an area with such a diversity of names? Here lies the River Great Ouse, oozing across England through Buckinghamshire and Northamptonshire, before meandering into Olney, Kemptson and Bedford itself. Bedfordshire is a county with place names that sound like mispronunciations: Biggleswade; Dunstable; Eggington; Cublington; Westoning; Arlesey (which claims to be Britain’s longest town); and Leighton Buzzard. How wonderful.

[02] THE CULTURAL RICHNESS The County Day of Bedfordshire, November 28 marks the anniversary of the birth of John Bunyan, the famous author of The Pilgrim’s Progress. The county has other literary claims to fame. Robert Louis Stevenson’s Long John Silver was inspired by the poet WE Henley, buried at Cockayne Hatley and famous for Invictus, the favourite poem of Nelson Mandela, with its invocation: “I am the master of my fate; I am the captain of my soul”. Amazingly, Henley’s daughter Margaret’s mispronunciation of friend as ‘fwend’ inspired the character of Wendy – then a new name – in JM Barrie’s Peter Pan. The first-ever play performed in England, meanwhile, was written in Dunstable in the 12th century.

history, from the ending of Henry VIII’s marriage to Catherine of Aragon (at Dunstable Priory, 1533) to the choice of St Paul’s in Bedford to broadcast to the nation in the Second World War, to First World War-era airship sheds at Cardington. [05] THE NATURE Bedfordshire has some outstanding examples of old-growth forests, including Maulden Wood and King’s Wood, extensive parkland at Woburn Abbey and Wrest Park, plus a plethora of beautiful urban parks like Priory Country Park, Bedford Park – and a magnificent Tree Cathedral at Whipsnade.

[03] A CULTURAL MELTING POT Bedfordshire has huge Pakistani, Italian, Indian and Bangladeshi communities of long standing in the main towns of Luton and Bedford, while deep into the countryside you have oldfashioned English villages with a smattering of authentic Italian restaurants.

[06] THE FOOD Check out the Bedfordshire clanger – a suet pastry with meat at one end and jam at the other. The terrific and calorific snack provided a portable lunch or dinner for farm labourers in the 19th century. There are also exhilaratingly adventurous restaurants across the region.

[04] THE HISTORY Romans, Angles, Saxons, Danes, Norse, Normans – Bedford, has seen them all. It has also played huge parts at key moments in

[07] THE ARCHITECTURE From outstanding Norman architecture at Dunstable Priory, to the spellbinding Georgian

kingfishervisitorguides.com

47

“DEEP IN THE COUNTRYSIDE YOU’LL FIND BEAUTIFUL, OLD-FASHIONED ENGLISH VILLAGES WITH A SMATTERING OF AUTHENTIC ITALIAN RESTAURANTS”

mansion of Woburn Abbey, to the secret treasures of Wrest Park, Bedfordshire knows how to do buildings. It also has: Houghton House, Moggerhanger Park, and Turvey House. [08] THE LANDSCAPE This is a county of steep, forested ridges, rolling hills and sudden valleys, of chalky escarpments, rolling plains and some of the finest parkland in England. [09] THE PEOPLE The people of Bedfordshire are an inventive bunch, too. The world’s first tractor was invented in Biggleswade by local Daniel Albone in 1901. Unfailingly polite, warm and inviting – and often fans of real ale – they have the endearing nickname of ‘Clangers’ in some parts. No wonder more and more people want to live and visit there. [10] THE ANIMALS Speaking of Whipsnade, in the south of the country, Whipsnade Zoo in the Chiltern Hills is home to 2,500 animals across 600 acres, while Woburn Safari Park is no slouch on the animal front either, with 1,000 animals, including southern white rhino, elephants and black bears. l

WELCOME TO BEDFORDSHIRE


ARTS & CULTURE

A REGION AT THE HEART OF ART! Immerse yourself in a region that’s crammed with art and culture

©ELENA SCHWEITZER/ADOBE STOCK; ©ENGLISH HERITAGE

B

sketcher Edward Bawden. There are also drop-in communal activities, including yoga, tai chi, mindfulness, sketching, and an archaeology club. There is an increasingly visible artistic community in the town. Bedford Creative Arts is a contemporary arts charity. Recent projects include contributing to a mass participation artwork celebrating 100 years of votes for women; and Future Towns at Bedford Fun Palace, which involves a series of involved creative workshops which sees members of the public bringing their own part of a long, collaged mural depicting a glorified vision of Bedford’s real-life people and places to make a fantastical vision for a future Bedford. There are five theatres in Bedford town alone, including two jewels in The Quarry and Sharnbrook Mill Theatre. The Quarry Theatre at St Luke’s, on St Peter’s Street, is a 282-seat theatre in the old St Luke’s Church that provides a performing arts facility for the wider community, as well as Bedford School. Walk for just 15 minutes around the corner and you come to The Place Bedford, a compact volunteer-run theatre for opera and comedy. Further along the Goldington Road, meanwhile, is the University p51

edfordshire has a surprising diversity of arts and culture, from the colourful cultural synthesis of Luton Carnival, to the stately homes of Woburn Abbey and Wrest Park, to the interesting sites connected to the two World Wars at Biggleswade and Cardington – and the variety of museums, galleries and venues in Bedford, Luton and everything in between. A good place to start is the Higgins Bedford, three cultural institutions on one newly renovated site to the rear of Castle Mound – Cecil Higgins Art Gallery, Bedford Museum and Bedford Gallery. In this combined art gallery and museum, you will find collections of fine and decorative arts, high-end watercolours, and stories behind the many and varied women and men who have made this ancient town their home. The gallery also hosts touring works of art – in late 2018 a supreme early of the work of JWM Turner is touring from Oxford. Other exhibitions in 2018 on the revolving programme have included one celebrating the women of Bedfordshire; and a selection of pictures from the celebrated natural

“BEDFORDSHIRE HAS A SURPRISING DIVERSITY OF ARTS AND CULTURE, FROM THE COLOURFUL CULTURAL SYNTHESIS OF LUTON CARNIVAL, TO THE STATELY HOMES OF WOBURN ABBEY AND WREST PARK”

kingfishervisitorguides.com

49

WELCOME TO BEDFORDSHIRE


eagle gallery affordable original art by local artists

paintings sculpture textiles ceramics mixed-media prints jewellery photography

101 Castle Road, Bedford MK40 3QP

Open Monday - Saturday, 10am-5.30pm

www.eaglegalleryartists.co.uk tel: 01234 346995 follow us on: www.facebook.com/TheEagleGallery

WELCOME TO BEDFORDSHIRE

wheelchair access available

50

kingfishervisitorguides.com


©DARIUSZ T. OCZKOWICZ/ADOBE STOCK; WASI DANIJU/THE QUARRY THEATRE AT ST LUKE’S; FOTOLIA

ARTS & CULTURE

of Bedford’s own theatre, which features both professional and student work, plus contemporary dance, theatre, comedy and music. If you come out The Quarry Theatre and take a right, meanwhile, you will come to Trinity Arts and Leisure on the Bromham Road, which is open to the public on evenings and weekends. The innovative theatre has fully retractable tiered seating 156 people, with a cinema-sized projection screen, HD projector and stereo sound, and featuring films from Bedford Film Society, as well as performances from popular theatre groups such as the Bedford Marianettes and Bedford Dramatic Club. Just north of Bedford is Sharnbrook Mill Theatre, artfully located on the site of a former water-driven corn mill known as Stoke Mills, on the River Great Ouse. It has a storied history, mentioned in the Domesday Book in 1086 as belonging to Countess Judith, the niece of William the Conqueror, and Hugh de Beauchamp. The Mill Theatre has been operating since 1979, from a lovely refurbished four-storey Victorian warehouse, with an entrance via a two-storey extension extending over the picturesque river and seating for 190 guests. It has a lively programme of around half-a-dozen theatrical productions a year, with other shows generally happening every few weeks. The Bedford Corn Exchange, meanwhile offers

kingfishervisitorguides.com

“THIS THEATRE IS A MODERN HUB FOR LIVE PERFORMANCES OF BALLET, DRAMA, COMEDY, PANTO, FILM SCREENINGS AND KIDS SHOWS”

51

comedy, musicals, theatre, classical music and live music (including a bewildering array of tribute acts) from its location on St Paul’s Square. There are several excellent galleries in Bedford, including the Eagle Gallery on Castle Road. There is also a Bedford Creative Arts studio on Midland Road, while Artists’ Network Bedfordshire, promote original works of art and craft at Wood End Gallery, the Wynd Gallery, and Tecton Art Gallery. For theatre-lovers visiting the south of the county, you’re spoilt for choice. Luton Library Theatre on St George’s Square near The Mall shopping centre hosts a diverse selection of professional and amateur theatre for all ages, plus classical concerts, while the Hat Factory on Bute Street, currently undergoing exciting refurbishment, will again from April 2019 showcase high-quality artistic work across its three historic sites: the Hat Factory Arts Centre, plus Stockwood Discovery Centre and Wardown House. Just west of Luton, across the M1, the picturesque town of Dunstable is well served by the Grove Theatre a modern hub for live performances of ballet, drama, comedy, panto, film screenings and kids shows. What is relatively less known is the 100-seat Little Theatre, a real treat with a cosy bar, very friendly staff and amateur dramatic performances that, with over 30 years of experience, are all but guaranteed to leave a warm smile on p52

WELCOME TO BEDFORDSHIRE


“OFTEN OVERLOOKED ARE THE RICHES TO BE FOUND AT WREST PARK, WITH ITS 92 ACRES OF AWARD-WINNING GARDENS, REPLETE WITH 40 STATUES”

WELCOME TO BEDFORDSHIRE

your face. It has its origins in the Dunstable Repertory Theatre (“the Rep” to locals in the know) and is based in the old town library on the southern end of the High Street. Just down the road in Leighton Buzzard, the Leighton Buzzard Library Theatre, draws locals and visitors to screenings and performances. On any given night you could be enjoying a nostalgic night of music from the Blitz era, comedy from the Barnstormers group, performances from local drama groups, or film screenings, or live screenings of concerts, ballets, or Shakespearian performances from the National Theatre. For comedy, pop into Specs Comedy on Maple Road in Luton or, in Bedford, Castle Comedy on the Castle Road. They run hilarious nights on the second Thursday of each month. They also run a night in Biggleswade on the first Monday of the month. For fans of the silver screen, Bedford has its own Bedford Film Festival, which has evolved into a mini-festival each May, with a smattering of events throughout the year organised at theatres and spaces like the atmospheric riverside setting of Bromham Mill just west of the town, or coffee shops like The Longholme. Bedfordshire is also alive with the historic culture of the English countryside. Whopping Woburn Abbey houses a fantastic collection of art, including

52

paintings from Rembrandt, Gainsborough, Velasquez, Van Dyck, Canaletto et al. There are also fine Tudor portraits, including the famous Armada Portrait of Elizabeth I. It carries exhibitions of four centuries of interior decoration at the Abbey; plus some superbly gardens and grounds, modelled by Humphrey Repton on the principles of Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown. The art, buildings and grounds of Woburn Abbey are known far and wide – but often overlooked are the riches to be found at Wrest Park, with its 92 acres of award-winning gardens, replete with 40 statues and the spectacular baroque Archer Pavilion, built in the early 1700s. Elsewhere there is a Dairy Sculpture Gallery – a collection of the estate’s most beautiful statues, tastefully restored and protected from the elements in the part of the mansion that once supplied butter and cream for the de Grey family. Here you’ll find a curious bronze sundial from 1682; here too a magnificent Neptune hewn from portland stone. And then there is the festival schedule, which really kicks off in May with the Bedford Film Festival, but also the Greensand Country Festival, named after the Greensand Ridge escarpment, which runs across Central Bedfordshire (and indeed extends down to the West Country and up into

kingfishervisitorguides.com


ARTS & CULTURE

©CHALAU/FLYTOSKYFT11/ADOBE STOCK; ©ENGLISH HERITAGE; TAMARA KULIKOVA/SHUTTERSTOCK.COM

northern East Anglia), from Leighton Buzzard to Gamlingay. (It got its name when the Victorians assumed the green sandstone at the base of the Bedfordshire Chalk was the same as all other sands.) The Greensand Country Festival includes open-air theatre, and wilderness-related outdoor pursuits, from late May into June. Also in May sees the Luton Carnival, the second-largest one-day carnival in the UK after Notting Hill. Come and join the fun! In July the international Bedford Festival Fringe takes place,

kingfishervisitorguides.com

with four days of comedy, live music, theatre, dance and physical theatre. Also that month is Broomstock, a real ale and music festival in Biggleswade. The highlight in July, however, is the Bedford River Festival, which sees up to 300,000 people attend a series of events on the banks of the River Great Ouse, including a main music stage at the Riverside Bedford, dragonboat and raft races, a boat parade, music galore, and a spectacular Saturday night’s fireworks display. The FoodDrunk 002 street festival involves live music at Bedford Esquires, while early June sees the High Street come alive with live music and familyfriendly entertainment in the heart of Bedford. AmpRocks is a not-for-profit boutique music festival held at a natural amphitheatre at Ampthill Park, as part of a festival weekend in June run by local volunteers. Also in June is the Bedford Fake Festival, which involves six “pro-level Fake Bands”, inside a giant marquee. Proms in the Park runs in August, featuring famous English sopranos and tenors and the London Gala Orchestra. In November, the Hindu festival of Diwali come to the John Bunyan Sports Centre for a sort of Indian Christmas – with lights, jewellery, clothes, face painting and body art. Whether it’s film, festivals, theatre, music or comedy, Bedfordshire has you covered. l

53

“THE SERIES OF EVENTS INCLUDES MUSIC GALORE, DRAGONBOAT RACES, A BOAT PARADE, FIREWORKS DISPLAY AND MUCH MORE”

WELCOME TO BEDFORDSHIRE


TRAVEL

GETTING HERE AND GETTING AROUND! Getting to and around Bedfordshire couldn’t be easier


GETTING HERE BY AIR Located in the south of Bedfordshire, London Luton Airport is the fifth busiest in the UK, is two miles from Junction 10 of the M1 Motorway, and takes just 22 minutes from Central London by train. Located just outside Luton Town, the airport is also less than 45 minutes’ drive from Bedford Town. There are regular buses to Dunstable, Milton Keynes and Houghton Regis. There are also private buses to London. Heathrow Airport is about 45 minutes’ drive from Luton, and about 90 minutes from Bedford Town. Stansted is just over an hour’s drive. East Midlands Airport is a two-hour train ride. Gatwick airport, meanwhile, is an 80-minute train ride to Bedford, via Thameslink.

©ANTONIO GUILLEM/SHARPSHOT/ADOBE STOCK

BY TRAIN Southern Bedfordshire is just over half an hour by train from London’s King’s Cross St Pancras Station, via East Midlands Rail or Thameslink. Bedford town is less than an hour’s train ride away from London, meanwhile. There are also railway stations at Leighton Buzzard, Biggleswade, Flitwick, Kempston, and Harlington. BY ROAD The M1, which links London with the Midlands, Leeds and Sheffield, cuts through Bedfordshire. It skirts Luton and Dunstable, running a comfortable distance from Woburn Abbey, Woburn Sands and Flitwick. Bedford Town is just an hour’s drive from the M25 London motorway, while a road trip from London to Luton can take as little as 30 minutes depending on your origin. Driving to Bedford from central London can take anything between one and two hours. Bedford town is three hours from Manchester, via the M6, and about 90 minutes from Birmingham, via the M6 and M1. It’s under an hour’s drive from Cambridge, less than 30 minutes from Milton Keynes, and about 90 minutes from Oxford. BY BUS Bedford is on the X5 bus route, which means that Cambridge and Milton are each about an hour away by bus, while Oxford takes over two hours. You can travel to Bedford from Stansted by changing buses at Cambridge (about two hours 30 minutes) – or get a National Express to Hitchin, and then get the 72 bus to Bedford, for a total journey time of two hours.

kingfishervisitorguides.com

There are no buses from Heathrow to Bedford; however there are frequent National Express buses between Heathrow Airport and Luton seven days a week for £15. Jetlink coaches between Luton and Gatwick cost around £20, while the two-hour bus journey between Luton and Stansted will cost around £10.

GETTING AROUND Bedford is best explored on foot, although there is a regular shuttle bus from the train station. There is little provision for cyclists, and the one-way system can make driving around the town difficult. The Elstow Park & Ride service operates Monday to Saturday, up to every 10 minutes, and there are good bus services to outlying villages. Down in the southern part of the county, Luton and Dunstable’s buses are run by Arriva Shires and Essex. There is a new 24-hour bus service between Dunstable and Luton Airport, with regular buses across Luton and linking it with Houghton Regis. l

55

“BEDFORD IS ON THE X5 BUS ROUTE, WHICH MEANS THAT CAMBRIDGE AND MILTON ARE EACH ABOUT AN HOUR AWAY BY BUS”

WELCOME TO BEDFORDSHIRE


GET THE FULL PICTURE!

If you’re planning your next trip, or you want some reminders of this one, view our full portfolio of visitor guides to the UK and Ireland at:

KINGFISHERVISITORGUIDES.COM

Search Kingfisher Visitor Guides


B645

Til

NORTHAMPTONSHIRE

Pertenhall

Wymington

CAMBRIDGESHIRE

Riseley

Keysoe Keysoe Row

A6

B660

Bletsoe Radwell

Harrold

Gr

ea

B E D F O R D

tO

use

A428

Bromham

Tempsford A421

A422

KEMPSTON

Willington

A5134

Elstow Wootton

Herring's Green

Marston Moretaine

Houghton How Conquest End

AMPTHILL

Maulden

A507

13

A4012

Stotfold A507

10

Lower Stondon

A1(M)

Barton-le-Clay Harlington

12

B655

Pegsdon Streatley

HERTFORDSHIRE

B579

A5120

Hockliffe

Chalton

Sundon Park

A4012

Tilsworth

A6 HOUGHTON REGIS Leagrave

Stanbridge A505

A4146

an Gr

Billington

d

ion

Campton

Toddington

A5

Un

l

A6

A5120

A4012

A418

Ive

Henlow

A600

Westoning Milton Bryan

A4146

Clifton

Edworth A1

B E D F O R D S H I R E

Woburn

LEIGHTON BUZZARD

Shefford

A507

Silsoe

Flitwick

B659

Langford

A507

Husborne Crawley A5130

Clophill

Wrestlingworth

BIGGLESWADE

Stanford

Haynes

C E N T R Chicksands A L

Millbrook Brogborough

M1

B1040

B658

A600

Wilstead

B530

Stewartby Lake

Potton B1042

Upper Caldecote

Cotton End

A6

A421

SANDY

Beeston

Harrowden Shortstown

A428

Cranfield

A1

A603

Moggerhanger

B531

Lower Shelton

Church End

Great Barford

A4280

BEDFORD

Biddenham

Stagsden

A1

Roxton

Clapham

Oakley Turvey

Wyboston

Milton Ernest

Chellington

MILTON KEYNES

Duloe

Bolnhurst

Canal

BUCKINGHAMSHIRE

DUNSTABLE Eaton Bray

A505

11

A505

Stopsley

LUTON

12

LUTON

A road

M1

B489

B road

A5

B4541

Kensworth Whipsnade

B4540

Slip End

10

B653

Railway and station

New Mill End

Town Administrative boundary 0

A4146

Motorway and junction

2

4

0 2 4 6 8 Contains Ordnance Survey data © Crown copyright and database right 2018

6 Miles 10 Kilometres


NIGHTLIFE

WELCOME TO THE NIGHT! From cocktail bars to country pubs, you won’t be bored in Bedfordshire

JOHANN TRASCH/UNSPLASH

B

edfordshire has a surprisingly lively range of nightlife, from pints of real ale, to classy cocktails, live music – and a growing LGBT+ scene. For a superb cocktail in an unusual setting, drop into the Auction Room on Duke street in Bedford town and experience the decadent surrounds, with a design that is part minimalist hipster cafe, part gentleman’s club circa 1913. The Flower Pot on Tavistock Street, meanwhile, has a slightly different atmosphere, one redolent of a lovely evening in with some aunts and uncles. The pub offers music, too, with live bands at the weekend and a jam night on Thursday. The Wellington Arms in Bedford, known as the ‘Wellie’, is a cornerstone of the real ale scene in Bedford, and often puts on live gigs from its premises on Wellington Street, near Tavistock Street. Another favourite is Bears and Tales, once a small venue on Lime Street. It has grown and moved into a larger premises on St Cuthbert’s Street, from where their resident mixologist, Tom, now wows the crowds with his signature drinks. Grab a seat on the sofa, or book a table. Also on Tavistock Street is Noble Rot, a lovely little wine bar that is easily missed by passing tourists. There are some excellent pubs in the town centre, including The Bear and the Cross Keys, both on the High Street, the Flute Wine and Lounge Bar on Ram Yard, the Lane on Castle Lane (popular with the after-work crowd), the Standard on High Street for relaxed, uncomplicated drinking; Wodka Live on St Paul’s Square (specialising in vodka and cocktails), and a new late bar on High Street called Slug and Lettuce (on the site of the old Yates), which closes at 3am and specialises in swanky nights out. p60

“BEDFORDSHIRE HAS A SURPRISINGLY LIVELY RANGE OF NIGHTLIFE, FROM PINTS OF REAL ALE, TO CLASSY COCKTAILS AND LIVE MUSIC”

kingfishervisitorguides.com

59

WELCOME TO BEDFORDSHIRE


“GET YOUR FLUTES AT THE READY FOR OVER 40 COMBINATIONS OF PROSECCO, CAVA, SPUMANTE PINK FIZZ, BUTE AND OTHER CARBONISED DRINKS”

WELCOME TO BEDFORDSHIRE

For pub dining, try out Albero Lounge on the Riverside Aquare, Bar Citrus on Harpur Street, the Brewhouse and Kitchen on High Street; the King’s Arms on Mary’s Street, the Mill Hotel on Mill Street, and The Ship on St Cuthbert’s Street. Out of town, the beautiful village of Northill near Biggleswade is worth a detour. The cosy family-run pub The Crown serves up drinks amid the wonderful décor of exposed brick and beams. Just west of Biggleswade, in the beautiful setting of Old Warden, meanwhile is the rustic Hare and Hounds, a quaint country pub serving British cuisine. Out in Wootton lies the improbably-named pub Legstraps, a country pub with a wide gastronomic range, just a few minutes from Bedford by car. It has a great wine and cocktail list. If you’re anywhere near the picturesque Cardington, just south of Bedford, pop into the King’s Arms, a gastropub with a lovely garden shaded by willow trees. It’s perfect after a day spent touring the Cardington Airship Sheds. If you’re out taking the air at Maulden Wood, meanwhile, the Dog and Badger in Maulden is a good place for an after-walk tipple. For an evening in a country pub, you’re spoiled for choice. The Plough in Bolnhurts serves modern EnglishMediterranean food amid open fires, low beams and a lovely garden. For a quiet drink in even leafier surrounds, meanwhile, take a trip to The Millhouse

60

Hotel and Restaurant, which serves drinks until 11pm, with food orders until 9pm. The Chequers in Houghton Conquest is another family-friendly pub, in central Bedfordshire; as is the Black Horse in the village of Ireland, an elegant pub and restaurant serving fine wines, premium beers and soft drinks. The Engineers Arms in Henlow, meanwhile, provides great live music, with disco nights on the last Friday of the month, and quizzes on the last Thursday of the month. It also hosts the Engineers Arms beer festival every October. On any given night you might find the pub filled with poker players, or a returning team from the golf society. Also in Henlow is the Old Transporter Ale House, an interesting hostelry in that it was conceived as a ‘micro-pub’ based in a vacant Blockbuster unit. It is run by two fans of real ale – Stephen and June Topham. It takes its inspiration from the beerhouses of the 18th century which, unlike inns and public houses, were licensed to sell beer only. It chooses not to serve spirits or keg lager, and has a very limited supply of bottled beers, from world brands, including scrumpy-style cider. It does, however, serve soft drinks, tea and coffee. The premises are decorated with an old-fashioned transportation motif, with station clocks, highway lamps and sundry vintage items. Four years from its opening, it is still going strong.

kingfishervisitorguides.com


©BAIBA OPULE/NEJRON PHOTO/ADOBE STOCK; HECTOR BERMUDEZ/UNSPLASH; ING IMAGE

NIGHTLIFE

Another draw for ale-lovers can be found in Woburn at Woburn Ale House, on the marketplace in the middle of the stately village. They also serve hearty pub grub – while on the outskirts of the town Birch, on the Newport Road, offers the perfect spot for real ales and wine from its contemporary, slate-topped bar. To get to know Bedford’s nightlife intimately, try one of the many festivals scattered across the town’s calendar. Each October sees the town’s Beer and Cider festival, organised by the Campaign for Real Ale. September sees the Prosecco Festival take place at the Corn Exchange. Get your flutes at the ready for over 40 combinations of prosecco, cava, spumante pink fizz, bute and other carbonised drinks. For nightclubs, Empire Bedford – on Mill Street, and just a couple of doors down from the John Bunyan Meeting Church, is the biggest in the county town. It’s also around the corner from the George and Dragon on Mill Street, a Greene King pub which also serves up a wide array of tasty pub grub, including sausage and mash, half-chickens, fish and chips, vegan fish and chips, pulled pork nachos, and pies and steaks aplenty. For a drink in a Grade 2-listed building, try the Three Cranes in the centre of Turvey, just north-west of Bedford on the road to Northampton. For a continental-style cafe-bar in the town, meanwhile, try Paul’s Café and Bar at the Church Arcade stays open until seven, Monday-Thursday and late at the weekends. For late-night entertainment, Zinc nightclub (formerly Vibe) is the place to be. Sample its drum-and-bass nights, and wide array of music, from R&B to garage, dance, dancehall, funk and pop. It stays open until 4am, and caters for up to 775 people. Down on the Riverside you’ll find Toast, which draws locals to a live music night every Thursday evening until midnight, serving gin, cocktails and ales. For a pre-theatre drinks and a show, visit the Corn Exchange, where Number 13 is fully licensed before concerts and shows (they usually have two or three events a week). The Studio Club is a pub and weekend music venue, and is a community hub on the Alexandra Road. It has a music programme through which it mentors local artists, and also works with Creative Arts Bedfordshire to provide practice space for local bands. The Studio Club even has its own internet radio station. During the week it operates as a local pub, with pool, dominoes, poker and pub games; but truly comes alive at the weekend, with a host of resident DJs playing urban sounds, and regular visits from guest and international DJs. For a sample of Bedfordshire’s LGBT+ scene, pop into the Barley Mow in Bedford, the latter open seven nights a week, or the California Inn in Luton. Luton has a thriving nightlife and music scene. One hidden gem is the Bear Club, a music venue for jazz, blues and alternative tunes serving beers, whiskeys and gins from around the world from

kingfishervisitorguides.com

Thursday to Sunday (and sometimes other days). With the lights down low, it has an old-world charm, with cabaret club setup. Luton town centre has a selection of nightclubs. There is After 8 on Upper George Street, Edge Nightclub on Park Street (near the small University of Bedfordshire campus) and Tropicana Club on Cheapside. At the centre of Bury Park and Nadeem Plaza sits the skytop Arabella Lounge, an Arabic restaurant and a Shisha bar. If you want to catch the match over a tipple, Luton has you covered – as befitting the home of Luton Town FC. Try the Balcony Café Bar on Gipsy Lane, the Wigmore Arms on Wigmore Lane, or the Castle Tavern. In Bedford, meanwhile, you have the Hustlers Sports Bar, and the Rose on High Street. There’s also the Engine and Tender in Ampthill, which usually has a guest beer on tap and a variety of sport on the screens, all overseen by the amiable pair of Ken and Carol Maguire. In Dunstable, try the HQ Sports Bar. You can also wet your whistle at the First and Last or the Ivory Lounge. The beautiful town of Leighton Buzzard, meanwhile, has two excellent pubs, The Black Lion and the country pub-style Grove Lock, the latter perched on the banks of the Grand Union Canal. Perfect, then, for a lazy Sunday afternoon. l

61

“ONE HIDDEN GEM IS THE BEAR CLUB, A MUSIC VENUE FOR JAZZ, BLUES AND ALTERNATIVE TUNES SERVING BEERS, WHISKEYS AND GINS FROM AROUND THE WORLD”

WELCOME TO BEDFORDSHIRE


SPORT

OUR SPORTING LIFE! Whether you want to watch or take part, there’s always plenty on offer here


©CHRIS DORNEY/ADOBE STOCK; ©GARETHOWEN/LTFC; COURT PRATHER/RAWPIXEL.COM/UNSPLASH; FOTOLIA

B

Up at the other end of the county, Bedford Town (nicknamed the Eagles) ply their trade in Non-League Division One (level seven), along with Arlesey South. Bedford Town play at the Eyrie, in Cardington. The region’s other major sport is cricket, which has been played in Bedfordshire since the 17th century. Bedfordshire County Cricket Club is one of 20 minor county clubs within the domestic cricket structure of England and Wales. In 2004, it shared the minor counties championship. Aside from football and cricket, Bedfordshire has also given the world some high-profile athletes, including Olympic cyclist Victoria Pendleton, a gold medallist at European, World and Olympic level. Pendleton hails from Stotford, a small town in the south-east of the county, near the A1. Multiple marathon winner Paula Radcliffe, meanwhile, grew up in Oakley, just north-west of Bedford town. Rowing is a major sport in Bedfordshire – the Bedford Regatta is the second largest in the country in terms of participants – and also growing in popularity is American football, with the Ouse Valley Eagles members of the British American Football League. Golfers, meanwhile, are amply provided with great courses and clubs around the county, including: Colmworth and Mowsbury golf clubs near Bedford; and Luton Hoo, Stockwood Park and South Beds Golf Club near Luton. Other highlights include Woburn Golf Club, Pavenham Golf Club, and Wyboston Lakes Golf Club. l

edfordshire is a haven for professional and amateur sport, including football, cricket, athletics, rowing and golf. The county plays host to one of the oldest football clubs in the world: Luton Town. Formed in 1885, they were the first club in southern England to turn professional, and joined the Football League in 1897. They have a famous history, reaching the First Division (the equivalent of today’s Premier League) in 1955-56 and playing in the FA Cup Final in 1959, narrowly losing to Nottingham Forest. Although they fell out of the top division that same season, they returned in the 1970s. Their high point came in the 1980s, when they defeated Arsenal to win the League Cup, and again competed in England’s top division alongside the likes of Manchester United and Liverpool, until their relegation in 1992. They sank to the third tier during the 1990s, before relegation to the fourth tier in 2001. Thus began a troubled decade for Luton Town, one that reached a nadir between 2007 and 2009, when the club fell from the second tier of English football to non-league football: a full four leagues below, incurring points deductions due to being in administration. Today, partly rejuvenated, they play in League One, the third tier of English football, and are known as the Hatters, reflecting the town’s historical connection with millinery, which stretches back to the 1600s. Luton remain among the bestsupported clubs at their level, a sleeping giant of sorts given average attendances of 8,600.

“BEDFORDSHIRE IS A HAVEN FOR PROFESSIONAL AND AMATEUR SPORT, INCLUDING FOOTBALL, CRICKET, ATHLETICS, ROWING AND GOLF”

kingfishervisitorguides.com

63

WELCOME TO BEDFORDSHIRE


FURTHER AFIELD

LET’S EXPLORE! Although you’ll never run out of things to do here, there’s also plenty to do and see further afield


CASEY HORNER/JACK B/NATHAN RILEY/UNSPLASH; KIEV.VICTOR/ SHUTTERSTOCK.COM; PETE SEAWARD/BLENHEIM PALACE

B

ancient Assyria, from Babylon, ancient Egypt, Greece, and Rome; from China and Europe. The Rosetta Stone and Elgin Marbles are particular highlights. From there, move on to the Natural History Museum, the National Gallery on Trafalgar Square, Tate Modern on the south bank of the Thames, the nearby Tower Bridge – and, a real jewel this, the Tower of London. Built by William the Conqueror in 1078, the Tower of London is a prison, palace, observatory and treasure vault in one. A particular highlight is the Line of Kings – the world’s oldest visitor attraction. Then there’s the other St Paul’s – the London cathedral built by Christopher Wren on an ancient pagan place of worship. West of London lies the ancient Windsor Castle – with a huge, under-visited park – while, further south, the ancient wonder of Stonehenge. The best-known prehistoric monument in England, it is best visited with a timed ticket, to avoid disappointment. A fine view of Stonehenge is available from the nearby A303, although parking or stopping there is not allowed. Further to the west of England is the historic Roman city of Bath (named for its Roman baths), and the increasingly hip city of Bristol. To get to wild England, go further west to Devon, with its brilliant hidden beaches, or Cornwall – home to the Eden Project, St Michael’s Mount, and Tresco Abbey Garden. To the east and north, don’t forget the beaches of northern Norfolk, and the great cities of the North: Manchester, Liverpool and Leeds, which have all undergone radical reimagining in recent decades. From Bedfordshire, England is your oyster. l

edfordshire’s location as the gateway from London to the Midlands and East Anglia means that the best England has to offer is all within easy reach. For a longer drive, visit Cambridge’s arch-rival Oxford, which is about a 90-minute drive from Bedford town along the A421, and a shorter distance from Leighton Buzzard, Luton and Dunstable. Busier and more populated than Cambridge, Oxford is a captivating city dominated by its 38 colleges – highlights include Christchurch College, the Bodleian Library, and the Ashmolean Museum of Art and Archaeology. Just north of Oxford is one of the world’s great stately houses: the monumental Blenheim Palace, birthplace of Winston Churchill and ancestral seat of the Dukes of Marlborough. Built 300 years ago in the English baroque style, it is now a UNESCO World Heritage site, is the only palace in Britain home to neither royalty nor bishops. Bedfordshire also makes an excellent base to explore the global city of London. In the north-west of the city is the famous Highgate Cemetery, while closer to the centre lies the iconic royal residences of Buckingham Palace and Kensington Palace; the inimitable Big Ben and the Palace of Westminster – and the increasingly interesting London skyline, with buildings like the Gherkin and the Shard framing the ancient city. London’s proximity places the world’s finest museums on your doorstep. Start with the British Museum, which hosts all the cultural wealth that poured into Britain when it was the centre of history’s largest empire. There are 13 million artefacts in the museum, from

“BEDFORDSHIRE MAKES AN EXCELLENT BASE TO EXPLORE THE CAPITAL, WHERE YOU CAN SEE THE INCREASINGLY INTERESTING LONDON SKYLINE, WITH BUILDINGS LIKE THE GHERKIN AND THE SHARD FRAMING THE ANCIENT CITY”

kingfishervisitorguides.com

65

WELCOME TO BEDFORDSHIRE


PROPERTY

IF YOU’RE PLANNING TO STAY LONGER… Properties in Bedfordshire make a solid investment prospect

WELCOME TO BEDFORDSHIRE

66

kingfishervisitorguides.com


©GB27PHOTO/ADOBE STOCK

T

here is huge demand for homes in Bedfordshire, with the area frequently in the running for fastest-growing house prices outside London. Bedford town and Central Bedfordshire has one of the fastest growing housing completion rates in the UK. The Bedford unitary authority saw 9% growth between 2010 and 2017, placing it in the top 12 areas for percentage growth. As of July 2018, the average house price in Bedford was £294,223, a 4.6% increase on the same time the previous year, when the average price was £281,417. The average house price for Bedford was £64,597 in 1997. It means the town has seen an increase of 355% in just 20 years. Bedford town is also currently putting together a local development plan for the next decade, under the requirement by central Government for the council to build 14,550 homes by 2030. Allocations and permissions already in place for over half this number, and the housing growth will be concentrated around the county town and Kempston. There

kingfishervisitorguides.com

are other infrastructural developments on the way. A railway station for the new town of Wixams, south of Bedford, is back on track, despite the loss of some government funding. The centre of the county, with its pretty villages and rolling countryside, is tempting increasing numbers of Londoners to live the country life. And given its location little over an hour from the great metropolis, it’s little wonder that places like Biggleswade, Studham and Flitton are becoming increasingly attractive. Average prices are thus higher in central Bedfordshire than in Bedford town – £309,021 in July 2018, a 1.1% increase on a year earlier. Central Bedfordshire’s average house price was £71,161 back in 1997 – an increase of 334% over the same time period. The area also saw 9,730 new housing units completed between 2010 and 2017, just shy of the total number completed in the cities of Bristol, Liverpool or Birmingham. Property developers are correcting the lack of housing stock. A 950-home mixed-use

67

scheme in central Bedfordshire has been given the go-ahead at Arlesey Cross. It will include an 80-bed extra care home, hotel and a new relief road, plus shops, cafes, leisure and community uses around a new public square. Locals in central Bedfordshire say that the booming market is partly driven by lack of stock, local upsizers and downsizers, as well as an influx into the countryside from those living in big towns like Luton. In Luton itself, average house prices have dropped from 2017 to 2018, however, down 2.5% from £239,955 to £233,849. The main commercial development on everyone’s lips in Bedfordshire is the huge regeneration plans for Luton, including the Power Court and Newslands Park developments, plus plans for Marsh Farm, and the Napier Gateway. Newlands Park will see a huge array of new commercial retail units added to the offerings in Luton’s city centre, while the Power Court development will see a new football stadium built in the city centre, in the shadow of St Mary’s Church. l

WELCOME TO BEDFORDSHIRE


BUSINESS

WE’RE OPEN FOR BUSINESS! With a highly-skilled workforce employed in diverse sectors, Bedfordshire’s economy is performing well


SHUTTERSTOCK.COM; ING IMAGE

A

ceremonial and historic county governed by three local authorities, Bedfordshire is today driven by the twin economic engines of Bedford in the north and Luton in the south. Due to its proximity to London, and its location at the heart of England, Bedfordshire is home to several well-known businesses. Business is booming in Bedford town, with over 7,000 companies in and around the town, including large employers and worldwide names like Argos, Asda and Sainsbury’s, Fujifilm UK and a Unilever research branch. Autoglass – the UK’s leading glass repair and replacement company – is based in Bedford, as is online electronic store Boxclever and the pub chain Charles Wells. Bedford town’s Cranfield University is driving increasing innovation in science, engineering, technology and management. One recent study found a way to convert mountains of plastic landfill into fuel that could power cars. Bedford’s Business Improvement District (also called ‘Love Bedford’) is currently competing with shopping meccas like Milton Keynes by offering free parking on certain days to the people living in the thousands of new homes built around the Bedford bypass. The business community offers a plethora of networking opportunities to new startups in the area, including Enigma Networking; Bedford Buzz; Bedfordshire Business Women; Business Breakfast Beacon; Beds New Business Network; Mum’s the Boss; 4 Networking and Women in Rural Enterprise. There are several large employers just outside Bedford Town. Kingspan Timber Solutions are based in Sandy, just east of Bedford town, as is the Kier Group. Jordans Cereals purveyors of sumptuous cereal bars and their popular granola bars, are based in Biggleswade. One business in the south of the county – Keech Hospice Care – has been named one of the UK’s top 100 employers by the Sunday Times, meanwhile. EasyJet, Impellam, TUI Airways and Vauxhall Motors are all based in Luton, south Bedfordshire’s economic driver with a population of about 200,000. Despite fears over Brexit, the carmaker Vauxhall announced increased production at its Luton plant in April 2018. Other major industries in the town include brickmaking, millinery, and aviation at London Luton Airport. The airport is a favourite for private jets, with over 30,000 private jets landing or taking off each year. A third private terminal opened in December 2016 to meet the growing demand.

kingfishervisitorguides.com

Luton itself is currently undergoing a regeneration which will transform the Central Business District to include a new shopping centre on Power Court, the redevelopment of the Town Square and a refit of The Mall Arndale Centre. The development will also include a new stadium for Luton Town Football Club. The club says their plans are a “once in a lifetime opportunity” to regenerate Luton, and forecast that it would bring £250m a year to the town’s economy. The ‘streetscape stadium’ will sit facing St Mary’s Church and the regenerated Cultural Quarter. In nearby Houghton Regis, meanwhile, is a firm by the name of Whitbread. You may not have heard of them, but they own the Premier Inn chain of budget hotels. They also recently sold Costa Coffee to the Coca Cola company for an eye-watering £3.9 billion. That should keep them in lattes for a few years. l

69

“THE BUSINESS COMMUNITY HERE OFFERS A PLETHORA OF NETWORKING OPPORTUNITIES TO NEW STARTUPS IN THE AREA”

WELCOME TO BEDFORDSHIRE


Hand Picked Diamonds From

We hand pick every diamond we use in our Antwerp collection, guaranteeing you get only the very best quality.

11-13 St Peters Street, Bedford, MK40 2PN 01234 352343 www.bakerbrothersdiamonds.com

Profile for Kingfisher Visitor Guides

Welcome to Bedfordshire  

Unique, beautifully designed, high-quality visitor guide, which is available in leading hotel bedrooms. For those enjoying a break, or stayi...

Welcome to Bedfordshire  

Unique, beautifully designed, high-quality visitor guide, which is available in leading hotel bedrooms. For those enjoying a break, or stayi...