To explore Bedford’s countryside you need go no further than the heart of Bedford. Russell Park and the Embankment frame the Great River Ouse and offer a perfect place to stroll, watching the swans and the rowers on the river. In the summer, make the most of your Sunday afternoon by taking a picnic to the bandstand where you can listen to local bands from the comfort of a deckchair. Check out Music in the Meadows for dates. Grab a coffee at the Kiosk in Russell Park next to the adventure playground where there are some great climbing trees for children, plus an excellent playground. From the Kiosk you can collect some golf clubs and balls for putting, bats and balls for ping pong or book a tennis court. Perfect for all ages.
Cycle Route 51 runs through the heart of Bedford. Cycle or walk along the route to the east and you will reach Priory Marina set in a 250 acre Country Park, with cafe and adventure playground. Get yourself out on the water and enjoy family boat hire from April – October with The Longholme Cafe, they also offer a selection of breakfast / brunch or just cakes and coffee 7 days a week, 12 months a year! You can continue to Danish Camp, in Willington, either cycling or driving out to the Norwegian log cabin.
Bedford Park is the largest park in Bedford and has been awarded green flag status every year since 2007. It was designed in the 19thcentury and retains the Victorians’ vision. With adventure playgrounds and tennis courts it is used by the community for football, cricket, rounders, Nordic walking and of course picnics. The open to all, 5k Parkrun is held every Saturday morning (even on Christmas Day!) and annually, Bedford Park Concerts hosts top acts including Jess Glynne, Tom Jones, Dizzie Rascal and Kasier Chiefs.
The Pavilion is in the heart of the Park. Visit the café all year round – it also acts as an art gallery for local artists so enjoy the artwork as you sup your coffee. Keep an eye out for Supper Clubs and events. Guided walks are offered on Bank Holidays and there is a Book Club, Nordic Walking every Tuesday morning, Yoga events and it is also a brilliant place to host a private party as it has such a unique ambience and setting.
Many people pass Foster Hill Road Cemetery every day without giving its treasures a second thought, but this is a beautiful, unspoilt green landscape that is open for everyone to enjoy, just a short distance from the town centre.
The Friends of the Cemetery help to promote the conservation, protection and improvement of its physical and natural environment. A small group of volunteers restore headstones, uncover ivy from hidden graves, and keep the cemetery tidy. They maintain conservation areas, with the full range of traditional flowers flourishing in their natural environment, including rarer orchids, like the Early Purple Orchid. A rare Strawberry Tree is looked after with the help of Kew Gardens. It is an environment where wildlife flourishes, with a healthy number of birds, bats, foxes and deer. There is possibly no more impressive view of Bedford than that from the cemetery heights, where you can see the Cardington sheds and the Sikh temple in the distance.
The Chapel has been restored with the help of a heritage lottery grant and is now used by the Friends, in particular the working party who meet every Thursday. It is also used for special events and talks and there are plans to use this unique space for other community activities in the future.
There are guided walks during the summer months through the cemetery grounds. These fascinating, leisurely rambles try to coverall aspects of the cemetery’s life (or death). Learn about murderers, their victims, prison reformers, soldiers, suffragettes and Victorian funeral etiquette. See the Highland Soldiers who invaded Bedford in 1914, the Messiah who was the ‘Daughter of God’ and how and why the cemetery came into existence, its organisation and its future. All talks and events are listed on the website.
Fancy getting out of town? Bedford Borough has many beautiful country parks to explore. Drive just 15 minutes out of Bedford to the Forest of Marston Vale and visit the unique Visitor Centre and Country Park. The Forest of Marston Vale charity is responsible for 11 woodland sites and 1.5 million trees have been planted so far with the goal to plant a further 5 million. This a great place for kids to visit to learn about the regeneration of their countryside. On top of that, there are 8km of surfaced tracks around the lakes and woodlands of the Park, year-round bike hire, the Tower Hide and Woodland Walkway in the Wetlands Nature Reserve, a gift shop, the Lakeside Café, an outdoor play area and 225 hectares to explore.
Or explore the Greensand Ridge’s varied geology which can be experienced though the full 40 mile walk or at one of the nature reserves, with the Sandy RSPB reserve the perfect place to experience both the rugged heathland whilst spotting some of the reserves birds.
A great place for a walk is Harrold-Odell County Park (MK43 7DS), 144 acres of parkland and nature reserves. There are two pathways with the main one taking out about an hour to get around the Grebe Lake. There are play areas, bird hides and learning areas to enjoy with a café by the car park.