This circular walk explores the villages of Harrold and Odell and the surrounding countryside. Harrold Odell Country Park and Odell Great Wood are great for wildlife and All Saints Church Odell and Podington Airfield offer an insight into some of the local history.
How To Get There By Passenger Transport
The route can be reached by following the signs to Harrold from the A428 (Bedford to Northampton road) or the A6 (Bedford to Rushden road).
The main car park is at Harrold-Odell Country Park situated to the north of the River Great Ouse, between Harrold and Odell on the Harrold to Carlton Road.
Harrold-Odell Country Park is the suggested starting point. The walk is described in an anti-clockwise direction from the park. However you can begin at any point and walk in either direction.
Distance: 6 miles / 9.5km
Time: 3 hours
There are toilet facilities and refreshments available at the country park during the opening times displayed. Harrold and Odell both have public houses that serve good food..
Harrold - Odell Country Park
The park is an ideal location from which to explore the local countryside. Two tranquil lakes created from land used for sand and gravel extraction cover about half of the park's 144 acres. The picturesque riverbanks and water meadows that make up the rest of the park provide superb opportunities for a wide range of pursuits Harrold Country Park is owned by the Countryside Access Service at Bedfordshire County Council and managed by the Ivel and Ouse Countryside project.
This is a very pleasant and attractive village, situated between the River Great Ouse and the woods. It has stone houses, thatched cottages, a village green, mature trees and a bridge with medieval origins. On the green there is a Lock- up built in 1824 and used to house criminals until they could be dispatched to Bedford, it is one of only about three hundred surviving in the country The Butter Market is also situated on the green and was built between 1710-20 and is a reminder that Harrold had its own market charter. A horse fair was also held regularly, and on these market days villagers could sell beer without licence by displaying a green bough by their door, this custom known as 'tapping' was stopped in 1858.
The village is one of the smallest of the Ouse Valley villages and situated in the north of Bedfordshire, close to the borders with Buckinghamshire and Northamptonshire. The influences of these counties exist through Odell's old association with lace making and the leather industry. In Saxon days, the village was called Woadhull (or Woad Hill) because of the amount of woad grown in the area. A Saxon stronghold stood on the banks of the river and when this fell to the Normans, the land was granted to Walter the Fleming who promptly began to erect a motte and bailey castle. By Tudor times the estate was in ruins. William Alston purchased and restored the entire estate in 1633 and the Alston family were still in residence in 1931 when the property was gutted by fire.
All Saints Church - Odell
A local legend attached to the bridleway and the 15th Century church of All Saints concerns Sir Rowland Alston who supposedly sold his soul to the Devil but redeemed himself by claiming sanctuary in the church. The Devil shook the tower in anger at losing a soul and, it is said left an impression of his fingerprints in the stonework of the west- door jamb. Recently an over zealous builder removed the offending marks during maintenance work. However, once in every century the ghost of Sir Rowland repeats his frantic ride to escape the Devil and gallops down the bridleway towards the church. His next gallop is due in 2044.
Flora and Fauna
The wetland habitats of Harrold Country Park attract many birds including herons, swans, terns, grebe and kingfisher. Occasionally otters visit the park, one of Britain's rarest mammals they are now making a comeback following significant conservation work.
Odell Great Wood is one of Bedfordshire's largest blocks of ancient woodland in the area and is a designated Site of Special Scientific Interest. The wood is dominated by oak and ash trees with hazel coppice and provides a habitat for a wide variety of plants and animals. Park wood and the other woods in the area are the last surviving fragments of ancient woodland which once covered the clay ridge to the north west of the river valley. Although human activity has changed these areas significantly they remain valuable sites for wildlife. In the spring, they are particularly attractive with carpets of bluebells, primroses and wood anemones and Park Wood has become heavily colonised by Muntjac deer.
The airfield, built in 1941 was used by the American Army Air Force during World War II. From 1943 until the end of the war B-17 Flying Fortress aircraft flew from here on daylight bombing raids, and at Podington church there is a memorial to the many young Americans killed on operations from this airfield. The airfield was sold in 1961 and returned to agriculture but one of the T2 hangers is still standing.
Tips For Enjoying Your Walk
This is one of a series of circular walk leaflets produced by Bedford Borough Council.