Ouse Valley Way - Bedford to Grt Barford

Priory Country Park

Priory Country Park takes its name from the Augustinian Priory that supported a monastic community here from 1164 until 1541. Most of the area was farmed; the land closest to the river would have been grazed by cattle in the summer and flooded in the winter. The Park was formed following gravel extraction which ended in 1978.
The Park covers over 300 acres including two large lakes, flower grassland and wooded areas. There are riverside walks and beautiful views over water and meadows. The landscape is maintained for the benefit of both wildlife and people and the park is always open.
Dogs are welcome but owners must keep them on a lead in certain sensitive areas. Red poop scoop bins are located throughout the Park.
The Visitor Centre with displays and information is open everyday except Saturday. Opening times may vary.
The Park staff will be pleased to help you with your visit or particular interest.

How to Get There by Passenger Transport

BY BUS: Bedfordshire Bus Information line: 01234 228337, Mon – Fri 8.30am – 5pm.
Travel Line: 0870 6082608, 7 days a week, 7am -10pm.
BY TRAIN: National Rail Enquiries: 08457 484950, 24 hour service.
Click here for the National Rail Enquiries website

How to Get There by Car

Priory Country Park is signposted from the A5140 to the east of Bedford town centre.
Priory Park has three main entrances. Two on the north side; off Barkers Lane and off Riverside Drive. The third is on the south side between Cardington Road and the A421. There are car parks at these entrances as well as at Aspects Leisure Centre.

Access and General Information

Surface Types: Various ranging from hard and firm surfaces with stones no larger than 10mm to bark chip or grass or uncultivated earth with ruts/mud.
Linear Gradient: In part steeper than 1:6. Other gradients are 1:10 – 1:13, 1:14 – 1:17 and 1:18 or less.
Cross Falls:1:26 or less.
Minimum Width Restriction: 580mm
Maximum Step Height: 180mm (depth 600mm) at point 2. 120mm (depth 960mm) at point 4.
Barriers: One kissing gate with a restriction <1000mm.
Public Toilets: Toilets are by the Visitor Centre and two superloos are located at each end of the Park
Picnic Tables: There are plenty of tables at the Visitor Centre and near to the bridge on the slalom course.
Refreshments: There are refreshments at the Visitor Centre and a pub at the Priory Marina.
Seats: There are seats at various points along the route.

Healthy Lifestyles

Regular gentle exercise is one of the best ways for maintaining good health. Walking is a great way to keep fit regardless of age or fitness level, even walking the dog or a Sunday afternoon stroll can help you stay healthy.
Priory Country Park is an excellent place to walk: the main paths are surfaced and flat and other paths will take you away from it all along tranquil lakesides and riverbanks. There are picnic areas and seats where you can rest a while. Dogs are also welcome, all we ask is that you use the special poop scoop bins and in some sensitive areas keep your dog on a lead.
The Park is easily accessible from Bedford via the old railway track which is signposted as the Bedford to Willington Cycletrack. This is a fine cycle route through the Park to Blunham or Cardington. There are also two Cycling Discovery Maps which start from Priory Country Park and cover surrounding villages and countryside. These are available from the Visitor Centre. Cycle hire is available from Priory Marina.
If you are a regular Park user why not join the Friends Group, who get involved in many aspects of the Park and help to keep it both enjoyable for people whilst remaining an essentially natural place.

Nature Conservation

Underlying all the activities in the Park is the need to conserve its wildlife. Some areas are not accessible but provide valuable habitat for wildlife. The Fingers Lake is a sanctuary zone that is accessible as a quiet place for observation and study. Here there is no fishing and dogs must be kept on leads.
The Park is actively managed to provide opportunities for wildlife and it boasts an impressive array of species that depend on the wetland, meadow and woodland habitats. Priory Lake supports many different wildfowl during the winter which can be viewed from the hide. Other birds such as the elusive water rail can be seen from the Fingers Lake hide. Herons, grebes and kingfishers are commonly seen around the Park. More information is available from the Visitor Centre and information panels outside are regularly updated with the latest wildlife sightings. There is always something to see whatever the season. Priory Diary is a leaflet which lists a programme of guided walks and other Park events.

Angling

The main lake is shallow and supports shoals of bream, roach, perch and some large carp and pike. The Fingers Lake is well vegetated and also contains some fine carp and tench. The fishery is operated on a simple day ticket system, just set up on one of the swims and a ranger will come to you. The tickets are good value and the fishing is ideal for both beginners and experienced anglers. A range of conditions ensure the art of angling remains humane and our rangers are on hand to help and advise. Special fishing swims are available for wheelchair users. Groups with special needs are welcomed and can be assisted on request.

Water Sports

Priory Sailing Club is a small, friendly club that hosts a variety of activities and opportunities for everyone to enjoy sailing.
The lake is open for sailing seven days a week during the months of April to October and at weekends from November to March, when part of the lake is closed off to protect the wildlife. The lake is also used by school and college groups during weekdays.
Tuition is available on application and includes land and water demonstrations, coaching from boards, dinghies and safety boats. The centre is equipped with modern, stable boards and dinghies with rigs to cater for juniors and adults.
The canoe slalom is an exciting artificial white water course that is used for competitions by canoe clubs from across the country. It is run most weekends during the summer and is a great spectator sport.