We will begin this tour at the Chicksands Bike-Park opposite Rowney Woods near Haynes and you could be driving or for the fitter ones among us you could be riding a bicycle (although we will be going into the town of Bedford and roads will be very busy, so I would not recommend it)
Go straight on at the cross roads over the A600 and in a mile or so turn left. This will wind its way, passing the local Warden Abbey Vineyard on you right, now run as a cooperative and worth a visit if it is open. (Warden Abbey sparkling is featured in ‘Murder, Now and Then’ but not used for murder – I can assure you! It is very good) Turning left on to Southill Road, a lane really, you will drive past probably the best views of the back of the Shortstown Hangers, icons of Bedford Vale seen for miles, and a reminder of the airships at the turn of the twentieth century. The old redbrick buildings of the village of Shortstown were purpose built for the community of workers at that time, and the company showed a social responsibility for the health and well-being of their lives. (much like Cadbury’s)
This lane will go through Cardington and if you turn left at The King’s Arms it will go to the roundabout which takes you under the A421 bypass an on to the A603 towards Bedford. Glance to your left at this roundabout and you will see the memorial to the R101 disaster and it is worth pausing to reflect (although not so easy to stop!)
The A603 will pass the Barns Hotel which stands on the River Ouse and Priory Lake, a lovely place to take a stroll. You are now driving into the town of Bedford and will pass Tesco and the leisure centre before reaching a roundabout. Turn right here and as you cross the river beside the boating lake take a left turn along the Embankment, a delightful area of Bedford. It is possible to park by the side of the road here for up to two hours (check the notices first! I cannot be held liable for parking tickets.) and you can walk along to The Swan Hotel (featured in ‘Murder, Now and Then) on the main bridge, then wander through the market by St Pauls’s Church (if it is market day) and into the town – or just amble beside the river, crossing one of its bridges to return. This time of year I’m told that the Embankment Hotel does a creche service for husbands while their wives go Christmas shopping! The Bunyan Meeting House and Museum and Cecil Higgins Museum and Art Galleries are well worth a visit too, and all close by to the river. (as are many restaurants and cafes)
Back at the car, if you drive along the Embankment and turn left on to the main bridge it will take you to a busy roundabout. Go straight on to the A600. **This will take you through to Shortstown and on back up the A600, passing a turning to Haynes on your right and back to the crossroads at the start of this tour.
(**You could have taken a small detour through Elstow and the home of John Bunyan 1628 – 1688, famous in these parts, and visit Elstow Abbey)
Diana Jackson is an author with an interest in history. Many of the places mentioned above feature in her recent novel ‘Murder, Now and Then’ a murder mystery set in the heart of Bedfordshire and based on an unsolved murder in 1919 at Haynes Army Camp. It is set in 2019 with flashback to 1919.