The Biddenham Trail


Introduction

This trail divides into 3 separate circular routes, loop 1 being the shortest and loop 3 the longest. The trail crosses a variety of terrain and offers the chance to discover some of the history of Biddenham and the possibility of seeing great crested newts and midwife toads in the village pond.


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
Biddenham lies just to the west of Bedford and can be reached by road using the A428 Bedford to Northampton road.
Parking is available in the Village Hall car park. You may use the Three Tuns car park if you use the pub for refreshments. Otherwise, on-street parking is available. Please park thoughtfully.


Start/Finish Point
This circular walk starts from the Village Hall or from the Three Tuns car park and is within walking distance along the River Ouse from the Central and Queens Park areas of Bedford.


Access and General Information
Length: 2 or 3 miles
Time:
Access Information:
Surface Types: You will walk across surface types ranging from hard and firm with no stones larger than 5mm, to hard but variable surfaces with loose, variable sized stones, to grass or uncultivated earth paths with no ruts.
Linear Gradient: The steepest linear gradients are steeper than 1:6 for two short stretches. There are also gradients of between 1:6-1:9 and of between 1:14-1:17.
Cross Falls: None recorded.
Width Restriction: None recorded.
Steps: The maximum step height is 200mm at the road crossing. There are three steps up to the kissing gate.
Barriers: There are 7 kissing gates with a restriction of less than 1000mm, 2 one-way opening gates with a width of greater than 750mm and three kissing gates with a restriction of between 1000-1500mm.
Refreshments: The Three Tuns public house is located in Biddenham.
Public Toilets: None recorded.
Picnic Tables: None recorded.
Seats: There are five benches situated throughout the walks - two at the Golf Course, one by Manor Hospital, one at Point F on the map and one to the east of the Village Hall.


The Natural Environment
Biddenham Village Pond (E) has great crested newts and Midwife toads. Both are nationally rare. Midwife toads were accidentally introduced to Bedford around 1900 in a delivery of plants from France. In 1973 the main colony of toads were moved as their original home was redeveloped. This may be where the Biddenham toads come from. The male midwife toad carries the eggs on his back after spawning until they are ready to hatch. They are then left in the water to fend for themselves where they will spend the winter. The tadpoles grow very large before changing into toads. Moving these toads is illegal. The Trail passes the pond so stop and listen for the unique bell like calls from April to October. You may also see bats here in the early evening.

A local survey of all the hedges has been finished and important landmark trees are now the focus. Some hedgelaying has been done along local paths, which creates a thick, live hedge with ideal nesting habitat for birds and animals.

The Nature Reserve has good oxbow lake habitats (F) which create a zone that may help to encourage otters (seen recently in Biddenham) and birds who will find shelter and food here. Some trees in the reserve have been pollarded. This means cutting the branches some 2-3 metres above ground level, away from browsing livestock. The life of the tree is prolonged in this way.

Barn owls have been seen in the Bromham Bridge area and the best time to see one is on a late evening walk when the owl begins to hunt.


Local History
Biddenham got its name from the Ham of Byda. 'Ham' is likely to have meant water meadow or 'homestead'. People have been attracted to this area by light soils close to a river with fish and plants for food, good road and water communications, and protected along much of the parish boundary by a major river.

The old road from Bedford came through the Queens Park area along what is now Main Road Biddenham. It went through Church End, probably crossing the river just west of Church End. Later the road moved north to join up with Bromham bridge (A). The first written evidence of the bridge comes from 1224 in records of royal taxes collected by the County sheriff for repairs. In 1281, 'a serious frost so injured Biddenham bridge that it gave way and a woman was carried away by the stream. She sat on an ice floe as far as Bedford Bridge, when she was seen no more'. Bromham Bridge was so named during the 18th century. The local story is that Bromham was a more prosperous village and had the money to repair the bridge, so Biddenham let them have it! In 1675 George Harris of Little Gausden, Cambs, being 'overtaken in drincke' hired J Gale for 2 pence to accompany him over the bridge to Bromham. He fell asleep near the windmill and later suspected Gale of stealing his coat! Beware if you take a pint at the Three Tuns (B) and then walk to Bromham!

The mortuary was in the thatched barn behind the pub. Coffins were carried from here to the church (C) and the causeway path close to the church is known as the Coffin Path. The mortuary building is still there and the path today is still wide enough for bearers to carry a coffin.

Call in at the church to look at the Howard Window and the Millennium Window, recent examples of stained glass work.

Farming has changed during this century and a spot on the River Ouse known as shepherd's dip (D) is a clue to the pasture and smaller fields Biddenham had fifty years ago. These fields are now much larger and produce an arable crop or are now under housing and the golf course.


Tips for Good Walking
One section of the trail crosses the busy A428 road. Always stop here and look both ways to make sure no vehicles are approaching before crossing. Never run across a road and make sure children are guided safely across.

Always keep your dog under control.
Let a friend know where you are going.
Wear clothes/shoes to suit the weather and ground conditions.

Please
Keep to the rights of way
Do not leave any litter
Close gates behind you
Do not damage growing crops
Do not pick wild flowers


Acknowledgements
Thanks to: The Harpur Trust, Bedfordshire County Council, BTCV, Biddenham Parish Paths Group, Biddenham Parish Council, Guides & Pond Group, The Biddenham Society, Dorothy Richards (for permission to quote from her book, Biddenham, A Parish History & Guide), and all the local people of Biddenham.

Should you have any comments or find any problems, please contact the community paths team on 01234 363222.