|Nene Valley Path E of Rushden
GPX File to Download Bedford to Oundle Route
This is a 73 mile circular route starting from Bedford Station. I chose to do it slowly, over two short days. Heading out of Bedford, the fields are not far away and after you get to Rushden Green you are in rolling green countryside. The lunch stop was a great café at Higham Ferrers on the west edge of Rushden, which felt more like a village than a suburb. From there the Nene Valley Way is a gravel track through the flooded gravel pit lakes to Thrapston which you bypass on the way to Oundle.
I gather that Oundle has a reputation as being bourgeois to its bootstraps with a posh school at its heart, this one with particularly hideous uniforms for the poor girls. Lovely honey coloured stone throughout. Nearby, the Talbot Hotel is a carefully converted historic gem, but not ‘budget’. The bar and restaurant are OK but the even older ‘Ship’, a few doors down, has great beer, acceptable food and cheaper accommodation.
|Rear of Talbot Hotel
The return leg is further to the East, through Kimbolton, another handsome village on land once owned by King Harold and which was extended and planned in Norman times, with a castle that was replaced in the 1600's. It is now a posh school. Again, a great café and pub. Next staging post is Little Staughton and after that it is ‘official’ routes all the way. National Byway until you cross the Great Ouse and join NCR 57 which heads west into Bedford, happily avoiding most of the urban traffic.
The highlights were the countryside, proper hedged and winding roads and much more pastoral and greener than I expected; a welcome change from the prairie wheat and rape fields you find in the Midlands and the clay vales of Bucks and Oxon. The stone-built villages were also surprisingly unspoilt.
Bedford itself is not pretty, but has enough diversions for a few hours. There isn’t much left of the Castle but there is parkland next to the river, where King Offa (as in the Dyke) is reputedly buried. A few streets away is the HQ of the gorgeously nutty Panacea Society whose prize possession is Joanna Southcote’s Box. A longer diversion south to Cardington takes you to the giant sheds where the WW1 Airships were based. Various Links below.