Houghton Conquest Circular Walk 4

Houghton Conquest Circular Walk 4

This circular route takes you from the village up onto the Greensand Ridge and back down into the flat Bedfordshire plain. The walk takes in a variety of landscapes and wildlife.

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

The village can be reached by road from the A6 (Bedford –Luton) or from the B530 (Bedford – Ampthill) road.

Parking is available in the Village Hall car park but may be limited if other functions or events are taking place there. On-street parking is available. Please park thoughtfully.

Start/Finish Point

This circular walks starts from the village hall in Houghton Conquest.

Access and General Information

Length: 4½ miles (7.2 km)
Time:
Access Information:
Surface Types: You can expect to walk across varied surfaces ranging from a hard, firm surface with stones no larger than 5mm to hard and firm with some loose stones no larger than 10mm, to grass or uncultivated earth paths with and without ruts and mud, to farmland.
Linear Gradient: The steepest linear gradient is steeper than 1:6 as you climb up beside Kings Wood. This stretch can also be very muddy in wet weather/during the winter. Elsewhere, there are linear gradients of between 1:10-1:13.
Cross Falls: There are cross falls of 1:26 or less at the bridge over the ford (point 5 on the map).
Width Restriction: There is a minimum width of 500mm at the sleeper bridge at point 4 on the map.
Steps: The bridge at the ford has steps with a maximum height of 250 and 290mm.
Barriers: There are two 2-way opening gates with a width greater than 750mm, three 1-way opening gates with a width greater than 750mm (one is 730mm) and 1 staggered barrier with a minimum restriction of 800mm. There is also a restriction of 670mm between a post and the kerb when you join the footpath from Rectory Lane.
Refreshments: There are two pubs in Houghton Conquest - The Knife and Cleaver and The Anchor. There is a shop near to the village hall.
Public Toilets: None on route.
Picnic Tables: None on route.
Seats: None on route.

General Information

All public paths in the parish have been clearly way-marked along their entire length. Finger-posts are used where a path leaves a road after which way-marking discs - normally attached to posts - clearly indicate the route of the path.

Please keep only to the way-marked paths. For easy access and for your safety, stiles have been replaced whenever possible with either self-closing kissing gates or step-through stiles, and bridges have been provided with handrails.

We hope you enjoy this walk. Please leave nothing but footprints, take nothing but photographs and pleasant memories.

Route Description

1 From the village hall, walk towards the church and turn left (L) into Rectory Lane. About 100yds before the gate to the Old Rectory, take the footpath (f.p.) signposted on the right (R.) at (1). Go through the kissing gate at the end, then turn L. and continue between fence and hedgerow and along a track until you reach the Kings Wood & Glebe Meadows Nature Reserve.

2. Carry straight on through the rambler stile and across the Glebe Meadows to a gate into Kings Wood. (At this point you may take one of the permissive paths through Kings Wood if you wish.) Otherwise turn L. on the outside of the wood and go through a kissing gate in the comer of the field, then turn R. and follow the wood edge up the hill, over a stile and continue up along the wood edge to a way marker post (w.m.p.) at (3), where there is a wide track across the field to a large open barn.

3. Turn L. onto this track towards Brickhill Pastures passing the barn, then onto a concrete farm road, through the farm. Continue on this road to where a f.p. crosses. Turn L. and go along this f.p. keeping to the hedge. A w.m. sign which directs you R. across the field to another w.m.p. (4) near the comer of Montague Wood.

4. Cross the bridge over a deep ditch. Do not follow the wood edge but take a slight angle L. across the field heading towards a tree in the far hedgerow. (You may be able to see a small gap in the hedge with a w.m.p. next to this tree, and a short line of poplars beside the road in the distance just to the R. but hopefully the path will have been marked in some way by the farmer). On reaching the w.m.p. cross a bridge over a ditch and carry straight on across the next field for about 250yds, passing under some power lines, until the path is crossed by the f.p. from Haynes West End to West End Farm. (At some times of the year there is a lot of guesswork as to where this point is!). Turn L. onto this path towards the farm.

5. Cross over a bridge beside a ‘ford’, and follow the w.m.p.'s into West End Farm yard. Just after passing a large green slurry tank on your R. look for a w.m.p. beside the hedge and ditch on your L. (before you pass the pole carrying an electricity transformer). Cross the bridge and follow the path R. across the field, passing between the 2nd and 3rd electricity poles (from R.) to a track leading to some houses off London Lane.

6. Turn R. and then L. into London Lane. Take care to make way for traffic along this narrow lane, but pause near the top of the hill to take in the view across the Vale. Follow the lane down the hill to a sharp R.H. bend with the track to Bury Farm on your left. Follow the path across the field towards the church, with the Stewartby chimneys in the distance, passing immediately R. of an electricity pole, and through a gap in a hedge on the far side of the field. Continue with the hedgerow on your L. to the end and then a L. and R. onto a path between houses and gardens back to Rectory Lane.

Features on the Route

The Old Rectory
Built in 1724 in the time of Rev. Zachary Grey probably on the site of an old moated farmhouse and still has the best surviving moat in the area. Moated houses were the fashion in the 12th and 13th centuries. There were at least 6 other moated sites in the parish at the time.

Kings Wood and Glebe Meadows
Local Nature Reserve and S.S.S.I. (Site of Special Scientific Interest). The wood is an ancient broadleaved woodland, mainly of ash, oak and field maple with some fine hornbeam and lime in the centre. The meadows are ‘un-improved pasture’ and so contain a wealth of different flowers and grasses.

Conquest Bury and London Lane
The Bury Manor, home of the Conquest family for some 20 generations, occupied a site very close to the present Bury Farm buildings in a secluded and sheltered spot set well back from the lane, on rising ground to the south of the settlement to which the family was to give its name.The Manor house was probably built on the site of an earlier building in the early C15th and was of some size and substance. In 1605 the Conquests entertained James I for two nights and it is likely that this quiet lane was, for that short time, an extremely busy road with the Royal entourage, local dignitaries, court messengers to and from London (to say nothing of the inevitable C 17th sightseers) all converging on the Bury. In 1740 the last of the Conquest family left the house and it was let out as a farmhouse until 1856 when the "new" Bury Farm was built. The old manor house was totally demolished, the moats were filled and all trace of its existence disappeared.

The Ouse Valley
Pause for a while at the top of London Lane to enjoy the extensive view. Major features which can easily be identified are (starting from the right) the two vast hangars at Cardington originally constructed for the building of huge airships (such as the ill-fated R101). If you spot an "airship" today it will be a barrage balloon used for weather forecasting. Moving left, on the horizon, the white water tower at Ravensden is very obvious. The Pyramid of the leisure complex in Bedford can be picked out with Bedford town stretching westwards towards Kempston. Immediately below you lies Chapel End and further away, lying just in front of the two remaining chimneys at Kempston Hardwick, is Thickthom. To the far left in the middle distance lies Wootton with the woods around Stagsden on the distant skyline beyond.

Acknowledgements

This leaflet has been designed and produced by members of the Houghton Conquest Parish Paths Partnership Group in order to help and encourage others to enjoy the local countryside. Together with all improvement works to the footpath network in the parish, it has been funded entirely through the Parish Paths Partnership Scheme. If anyone would like further information about walks or would like to assist with the care and maintenance of footpaths, please contact any member of the Parish Council.