Willington Woodland and Willows walk, near Bedford, Bedfordshire
Built by Sir John Gostwick for the visit of Henry VIII in around 1541, the Dovecote and Stable are all that now remains of the Manorial farm complex. Visit Dovecote lake, Danish Camp and the old Bedford to Cambridge railway line, on this relaxing easy walk. Starting at Willington Dovecote and Stable Car Park this 2.4 mile (3.7km) trail on accessible surfaced paths, explores the new Bedford River Valley Park. Planned in partnership with the Forest of Marston Vale Project, this walk is a great way to discover the exciting new developments in this riverside landscape. Ideal for families.
Willington is an ancient parish in the Wixamtree Hundred. It is a long thin parish heading south-east from the River Great Ouse and is bordered by Renhold and Great Barford to the north, Mogerhanger to the east, Northill to the south-east, Old Warden on a small part of the south and Cople to the west. The village itself lies in the north of the parish. The name is probably derived from the Old English welig-tun meaning "willow farm".
Willington Dovecote and Stable Car Park, grid ref: TL107499
Starting from Willington Dovecote car park, turn right out of the car park onto Church End and head in a northerly direction passing the Willington stables on your left.
Built by Sir John Gostwick for the visit of Henry VII in around 1541, the Dovecote and Stable are all that remain of the Manorial farm complex.
Continue northwards, passing the junction with the National Cycle way Route 51 and crossing the Elstow Brook via an old quarry bridge, until you come to another junction and a metal bridleway gate.
At the junction, pass through the metal gate and follow the signs directing you to the riverside path. Continue northwards and cross the Lafarge haul road - watch out for traffic.
After crossing the haul road you will pass through another metal gate and fenced-in gravel track that meanders through grass fields frequented by many species of birds and wildfowl. Further along the track you will pass two lakes, Causeway Lake on your left and Dovecote Lake on your right. Continue along the gravel track as it bends round Causeway Lake to a T-junction and signpost by a cattlegrid.
The Dovecote lake is a mixed fishery with carp, bream, tench, roach, perch and pike. Over the last few seasons the lake has been stocked with over 350 carp, with the majority being the famous Dinks/Leney crosses from Priory Fisheries.
At the signpost, turn right in a north-easterly direction and follow the tarmac path that is signposted Danish Camp. Follow the path along the banks of the River Great Ouse. Watch out for cyclists and vehicles.
The name Danish Dock or Danish Camp became attached to the site because the Danes, or Vikings, are known to have been active in the area, using the River Great Ouse to attack Bedford c AD 920. The log cabin at Danish Camp is situated on the banks of the River Great Ouse in Willington, Bedford. In 2004 The Terrace was added to the log cabin so that visitors could come to Danish Camp throughout the year. This area provided much needed room for dog walkers, and group visits, and is a useful stop for a cup of tea and something to eat!
Continue along the tarmac path until you come to another junction where a loose stoned track takes you into woodland where a new back channel off the river was created for spawning fish. The loose stoned path is an optional route that will bring you back onto the tarmac path further along and will add no more than 5 minutes to your walk.
The path now heads southwards, hugging the river and going under the Lafarge haul road bridge, before coming to a second bridge over Elstow Brook - perfect for playing Pooh sticks!
Elstow High Street used to be part of the main London, Carlisle, Inverness A6 road and centuries ago cottages stood right on the road side. Elstow was well known for lace making, a lace school was held in a cottage on the High Street, and around 1628 an Elstow man started weaving rush mats from rushes gathered from the Elstow brook.
Follow the tarmac path over the wooden bridge to its junction with National Cycleway Route 51. Danish Camp is to your left. You can find refreshments here.
At the T-junction with the cycleway, turn right in a westerly direction and follow the sign for Bedford and Priory Country Park. This section of path follows the old Bedford to Cambridge railway line. To your left are the remains of the station platforms.
Willington station opened in 1903. At first, trains did not stop at the station unless passengers wishing to join had announced their intention to station staff who would stop the train by signal; passengers wishing to alight had to give notice at the preceding station. Dwindling traffic on the line due to competition from the motor car, meant the station closed in 1968.
Continuing westwards, the path brings you back to the junction with Church End where you are directed back to Willington Dovecote and car park.
Willington Dovecote car park, grid ref: TL107499
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