First published in: The Times Click here to view a map for this walk in a new window
At first acquaintance, Bedfordshire seems a rather nondescript county to walk in. It’s hard to get a grasp on the character of this low-rolling region with its large arable fields. But once you develop a taste for the many old copses and hedgerows, the slow-flowing brooks and sudden, unexpected viewpoints from ridges you hadn’t thought were there, Bedfordshire’s a place you find yourself looking forward to revisiting on foot.
An absolutely glorious afternoon helps, of course. The sun blazed down out of a clear blue sky on the cottages and dark ironstone church at Church End, the southerly node of the scattered village of Eversholt, on the eastern doorstep of Woburn Park. To balance the wintry nip in the air there were pictures of springtime in the village phone box, featuring improbably shaped lambs and unfeasibly yellow daffodils painted by the pupils of Eversholt Lower School.
We set out across a wide field of ploughland where we picked up shards of ancient pottery and a nacreous fragment of Roman glass. At Herne Green Farm a tractor ground along the furrows, turning dark soil like roughly broken chocolate and drawing a long white wake of gulls behind it.
An easterly wind began to rise, thrashing and hissing in the sycamores around Herne Green. A red kite circled the newly cut fields, looking for small creatures exposed by the plough. One of those unforeseen Bedfordshire views opened across a rolling plain to the north-east as we stumbled across crusty ploughlands down to the trees and half glimpsed house of Toddington Park.
Here handsome James Scott, Duke of Monmouth and by-blow of King Charles II, lived with his young lover Henrietta Wentworth, heiress to Toddington estate. Stories say they sold her property and jewels to fund the rebellion in 1685 that attempted to put Monmouth on the throne after the death of his father. It ended badly, with Charles’ brother James installed as King, and Monmouth himself sent ignominiously to the block.
Our homeward path lay across a succession of enormous fields, mostly of thick dark plough. There were old hedges of hips and haws, and a thread of a brook winding under elder bushes. The lichens that scabbed the elders glowed so incredibly yellow in the evening sun that it looked as though the young artists of Eversholt Lower School had been that way with their paint-boxes.
Start: Green Man PH, Church End, Eversholt, Beds, MK17 9DU (OS ref SP 983325)
Getting there: M1 Jct 12; A5120 into Toddington. Opposite church, right to Milton Bryan and Church End.
Walk (5½ miles, easy, OS Explorer): From Green Man, left along road. At crossroads, ahead through kissing gate/KG. Cross field to KG (984320, black arrow/BLA); up slope, to KG in a dip at far top corner of field (986317). Across rushy patch; through KG, then right through another KG into wood.
Bear left (yellow-topped post/YTP). In 100m cross grazing ride; in 100m cross another (BLA); leave wood at YTP (988314). Half left across field to hedge corner; ahead with hedge on left to stile (992309, BLA). Aim left of Herne Green Farm to double KG. Half right to stile; in 20m, left over stile, right along hedge, following ‘Monmouth Way’/MW signs. In ¼ mile, at farm drive (995302), aim across field towards double roof in valley below. Through gate by buildings (997299; YTP, MW); half right to KG (MW); half right across paddock to KG. Half right across drive to railing gap (998297, BLA). Cross large field, aiming between two electricity poles, to road on far side (003293, fingerpost/FP).
Right for 200m; left along track (FP); in 70m, right (BLA) across field, aiming for rails of footbridge (997293). Cross; aim to right of lone oak to cross Herne Grange drive (994295). Through gate (FP); across field to gate (BLA); across next field to gate under trees (989297). Follow right-hand hedge downhill for 2 fields to cross footbridge in valley bottom (984298, YTP). Right through KG; keep brook on right for 3 fields (YTP, BLA) to cross Park Road (984303).
Ahead with hedge on right. In 300m (985306), level with large oak at hedge end on opposite side of field, fork left and aim half right across field to hedge gap (BLA). Across next field to far corner (984310). Through hedge gap (YTP, BLA); follow path through plantation. In 250m fork left across field to post beside Palmer’s Shrubs wood (983313, BLA). Ahead through wood to KG (983317). Ahead across field past oak tree; down to KG (984320); cross field to Church End.
NB: Many arable fields to cross; lots of mud!
Lunch: Green Man, Church End (01525-288111, greenmaneversholt.com) – closed Mondays
Accommodation: Long’s Inn, Bedford St, Woburn MK17 9QB (01525-290219, longsinn.co.uk)
Britain’s Best Walks: 200 Classic Walks from The Times by Christopher Somerville (HarperCollins, £30). To receive 30 per cent off plus free p&p visit harpercollins.co.uk and enter code TIMES30, or call 0844 5768122