The John Bunyan Trail, Section 2


Introduction


A 25-mile “Pilgrims Progress revisited" through the Bedfordshire countryside. The Trail, described from North to South, begins at the Moot Hall in Elstow and finishes at Sundon Hills, an outcrop of the Chilterns, which are reputed to be John Bunyan’s delectable mountains.

Today's Pilgrims setting out on this Trail pass through some of Bedfordshire's most attractive and scenic countryside, and can experience a variety of nostalgic places, full of interest and intrigue, connected with John Bunyan. Some of these places are associated with his travels as a tinker, while others are believed to be secret meeting places, where he would preach in contravention of the laws then governing the Established Church. He was, in fact, imprisoned as a result of his non-conformist views and illegal preaching and it was during his time in Bedford Jail that his world famous book, Pilgrim's Progress, was written. His book describes his preaching activities, as well as many of the places which he visited, including the delectable mountains as seen from the house beautiful (Houghton House near Ampthill), which he recalls from a visit made plying his trade.

However, those Pilgrims intent on learning more about this legendary Puritan evangelist can visit the Bunyan Meeting House in Mill Street, Bedford.


Please Note
Waymarking may be sporadic in places of the route and it is strongly advised that you carry the appropriate Ordnance Survey maps as listed below, which clearly depict the route.

Pathfinder Series of Maps: 1072, 1048 and 1025
Landranger Series of Maps: 153 & 166


How To Get There By Passenger Transport
BY BUS – Telephone Bedfordshire Bus Information Line : 01234 228337, 8.30am – 5pm open 5 days a week or Travel Line 0870 6082608.
BY TRAIN – For timetable information, please telephone National Rail Enquiries 08457 484950.
Click here for the National Rail Enquiries website


How To Get There By Car

Elstow is situated south-east of Bedford just off the A421 (the Southern Bedford bypass).
Parking is very limited in the village. Please park thoughtfully. Alternatively there are many car parks in Bedford itself and it is possible to walk or take a bus to Elstow.


Start/Finish Point

The trail starts from the Moot Hall in the village of Elstow and ends in Sundon Hills Country Park.


Access & General Information

Length: 25 miles (40 km)
Time:
Access Information: Pending Update


Route Description

Leaving Moot Hall, turn right into the High Street, passing the White Swan PH and noting the marvellous cottages which have been restored to their former glory.

Continue forward to cross the new bridge over the southern bypass, then immediately taking the bridleway on the left to Medbury Farm. Keeping forward through the farm, the path then swerves left and right soon after. Now straight ahead until the road is reached at Herrings Green, this is the eastern end of Wilstead. Now turn right and then left into Elms Lane and proceed forward to pass through Manor Farm. Go through a gate and keep forward on this track to go uphill, and on to Northwood End Farm, pausing first at the top of the hill, to look back toward Bedford and the Marston Vale. At the farm note the old corn store, before making your way to Haynes village.

This is thought to be the original route used by John Bunyan when he visited Haynes for religious meetings.

On reaching the village turn right then left into Northwood End Road. Take the second footpath on the right after passing the village hall and Greyhound PH, this crosses a meadow. At the road cross with care and go forward across a field and over a small bridge on the way. On reaching a hard surfaced bridleway turn left, cross a service road with care and follow the bridleway through the farm and out onto a field edge track. Follow this until emerging at a roundabout on the bypass.

Cross the road with care and proceed towards Shefford, noting the remains of a railway bridge. Turn down Riverside, a short cul-de-sac on the right, and left along a path at the bottom, keeping between the bungalows and the River Flitt. At the road go right, cross the bridge and on to the traffic lights, noting on the way a plaque to Robert Bloomfield, the poet.

Turn right at the lights, into Bridge Street, so called as the aforementioned railway crossed over a bridge by the Bridge PH. Cross the road by the pub, keeping forward, soon turning left into New Street. You will pass by some of the older properties of Shefford (Sheep-Ford), at the end of this street, proceed forward at the signpost, to enter part of the playing field. Go over a stile into a paddock and down to the river following waymarkers. Take the trail over a wooden bridge and under the bypass, to emerge onto a riverside path keeping forward until a stile is reached, turn left over this stile, passing Polehanger Farm, to reach Meppershall village.

Turn right at the High Street, passing the Sugarloaf PH and continuing forward to the top of the High Street, keeping right to reach a signpost and stile, indicating the trail forward, follow several waymarkers en route to Shillington, noting the marvellous panorama from the high point along the way.

At the road turn left, then right down Bury Road, passing a shop on the way. Bear left at the bottom of this road to pass by the Noah’s Ark PH. Almost opposite a path will take you up to the church, allowing splendid views toward the Clappers. Keep to the right of the church to emerge, through a gate, to a signpost and cross a meadow. To straight across, crossing a boggy patch in the middle to reach a gate in the far right hand corner, emerging onto Shillington High Road. Turn right and , on reaching a crossroads, go straight on towards Pegsdon, passing some very attractive cottages, and the Musgrave Arms PH (perhaps a refreshment stop here).

Continue along this road with care ignoring footpath signs on the left and right until a bridleway is reached on the right, follow this forward bearing left after a while, until a crossing track is met, here turn right, and soon pass an old mill, and on to reach the lovely village of Hexton.

Leave the village, on a road to the right just before the Raven PH, go round a corner passing by the cricket ground, taking the left hand path, crossing a field diagonally to the far corner of a wood, here cross a wooden bridge, to proceed toward Barton-le-Clay, with marvellous views of the hills on the left, and noting the soil type, which gives Barton its name, proceed forward following the path to reach a stream. Turn left for a short distance to cross over a bridge, and onto a surfaced path and up to Manor Road in Barton.

At this point two options are possible, to keep to the trail turn left and proceed to Hexton Road, and cross with great care into Church Road. Alternatively, should refreshments or shops be required, cross Manor Road to a footpath opposite to go through to Osborn Road and keep right to follow this road for approximately 300 yards to reach a right hand path.

This again passes through a small estate to emerge on the A6 road opposite the Bull PH. Now turn left passing the old school and library, then shops. At the Royal Oak PH bear left through to the Coach and Horses PH, keeping left up Hexton Road until meeting Church Road, again cross with care.

Barton Church is certainly worth a visit, also look at the new Church Hall, one of the most impressive new buildings in the county.

Proceed along Church Road, passing the Rectory, and turn left at the signpost. This will go forward towards the Barton Hills, and in a short distance a gate will be seen. Please note that when through this gate the hills are managed by English Nature.

After 50-60 yards climb to the right to reach a fence at the top on the left, proceed along this path, with the fence on your left. Note that this is not a right of way but a permissive path. After a while go through a gate, then further on just prior to a hedge at the end of the reserve. Cross a stile over the left hand fence and turn right to go forward to a clump of trees. Soon Barton Hill Farm will be seen in front, on reaching this farm the trail keeps to the right through a small copse of trees to reach the road.

At the road turn right, then left at the signpost, now proceed towards Warden Hills, in approximately three-quarters of a mile a crossing track will be met, this is the original Icknield Way. The Icknield Way is reputed to be the oldest road in the country, at one time connecting Falmouth in the west with The Wash in the east. Turn left keeping forward to meet the road, keep straight ahead to a car park known as Treasure’s Grove. Just through the barrier turn right, leaving the Icknield Way, onto a field edge path, follow the path and Bunyan waymarkers to reach Lilley High Street. Turn left, passing the pond, and forward to the village turning right into West Street where you will find the Lilley Arms PH.

John Bunyan undoubtedly frequently used the Icknield Way in his travels, for he often visited Hitchin and several other villages in the vicinity. Meetings usually took place in the evening, or after dark, and would be held occasionally in a farm house or barn, but mostly in the open. However at Lilley several houses registered for dissenters were used, one of these had a cellar, where he could hide to preach in secret.

This would be another good place for a refreshment stop and Lilley is well worth a stroll round, especially the church.

Proceed down West Street passing several notable cottages on the way, this street now becomes Wardswood Lane, and going forward passes around the edge of Wardswood, to reach a wide green lane. Ignore a sharp left hand path but take the next left hand path to follow a field edge by some large beech trees keeping forward until a small gate is reached. Go through this gate on a chalky track through the golf course, passing the clubhouse on the right, keeping forward through a few bushes to meet up again with the original Icknield Way and down to the A6 road.

After passing through the small gate, a short detour up to the left offers wide panoramic Views. Keep right at a post then descend to the golf course and pick up the chalky track to pass by the clubhouse as described earlier.

To continue the trail cross the A6 with care and walk up Bramingham Lane, taking a right hand footpath just prior to the New Hospice. Now proceed virtually straight forward to a pond at Streatley village. At the road turn left almost immediately into Bury Lane. Go forward and over a stile to turn right onto a grassy field edge path, following waymarkers through into Streatley churchyard, then emerge by the Chequers PH.

On leaving the Chequers, turn left up the road, keeping forward in the direction of Sharpenhoe. In a short distance take a left hand path to emerge by tall masts, and go forward to take a right hand waymarked path through the hedge, and carry on until a way mark post is reached. This will probably be confusing as the trail arrows will point both directions, however turn left to follow Bunyan Waymarkers back to Sundon Hills Country Park, and the information panel at the beginning of the Trail.


The Countryside Code

When in the countryside please follow the Countryside Code -
Enjoy the countryside and respect its life and work.
Guard against all risk of fire.
Fasten all gates.
Keep your dogs under close control.
Keep to public paths across farmland.
Use gates and stiles to cross fences, hedges and walls.
Leave livestock, crops and machinery alone.
Take you litter home.
Help to keep all water clean.
Protect farmlife, plants and trees.
Take special care on country roads.
Make no unnecessary noise.
Leave only your footprints - Take only photographs.


Acknowledgements

This trail was created by the Ramblers Association (Beds Area) as a contribution to their 60th Jubilee celebrations, and is dedicated to the memory of John Bunyan the Puritan Evangelist, a legend in our county. We are most grateful to the following for their support in making this project a reality:

Scholl Consumer Products Ltd, The Footcare Specialist, for the generous donation offered to us, without this offer the whole project would have been significantly delayed. The Scholl sponsored Bunyan Trail guide and waymarkers, are essential requirements for the success of the trail as a respected long distance route to be enjoyed by all.

Bee Line Fitted Bedrooms, for funding numerous smaller costs incurred in the early stages of the project.

The Ivel Valley walkers for their generous donation toward the cost of the Elstow Information Panel.

Bedfordshire County Council Leisure Services for advice and help freely given, and for allowing the use of their notice board at Moot Hall, to house the information panel.

Keith Marr for his help and time in compiling this guide and producing the artwork.

Friends and colleagues for the time and effort given in surveying and tramping around the trail, sometimes in atrocious conditions.

Finally, to any others unintentionally omitted who have taken an interest in the project.