The John Bunyan Trail Part 1 - Sundon Hills to Ampthill

Introduction

A 45-mile "Pilgrims Progress" through the Bedfordshire countryside. The Trail, described from South to North, begins at Sundon Country Park (GR048287) on the beautiful Chiltern Hills, which are reputed to be John Bunyan's delectable mountains. The Trail, described from South to North, begins at Sundon Country Park (GR048287) on the beautiful Chiltern Hills, 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 should visit the Bunyan Meeting House in Mill Street, Bedford, which is passed on the Trail, before continuing to the end at Elstow Green, where further knowledge of this great man and his times can be gained by visiting the Abbey and the Moot Hall Museum.


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, 1047, 1048, 1024, 1025, 1001 and 1002
Landranger Series of Maps: 153 & 166

How To Get There By Passenger Transport

Click here for bus and train timetable information.

How To Get There By Car

The Sundon Hills Country Park is accessible from the A6, Bedford to Luton road. Follow the signposts from the A6 passing through Streatley and Upper Sundon.
Parking is available at the Sundon Hills Country Park but check parking restrictions if leaving your car overnight or longer.

Start/Finish Point

The walk starts at the Sundon Hills Country Park and ends in the village of Elstow just to the south-east of Bedford.

Access and General Information

Length: 45 miles (72 km)
Time:

Access Information:

Sundon Hills to Sharpenhoe Village

Surface Types:  You will walk across surfaces ranging from hard and firm with no stones greater than 5mm, to hard but variable surfaces with loose, variable sized stones, to grass or uncultivated earth paths with and without mud and ruts.
Linear Gradient: This is a walk with lots of gradients - the steepest being steeper than 1:6 (for 40 metres at Grid Ref 062292.  There are two other steep stretches up to 5 metres in length).  Elsewhere you will meet gradients of between 1:6-1:9, between 1:10-1:13 and between 1:14 and 1:17.
Cross Falls: There are crossfalls of 1:9 or steeper in three places on this section of the walk. 
Width Restriction: There are no restrictions less than 1000mm.
Steps: There are 8 steps at the Sharpenhoe Clappers car park with a maximum step height of 200mm.  There is also a flight of 150 steps descending from the Clappers to Sharpenhoe Road with a typical height of 150mm. 
Barriers: There are 2 kissing gates with a restriction of less than 1000mm, one 1-way opening gate with a width of greater than 750mm and 3 kissing gates with a restriction of 1000-1500mm.

Refreshments: There is a pub in Sharpenhoe - The Lynmore.
Public Toilets: None recorded.
Picnic Tables: None recorded.
Seats: There are 3 seats - one at Sharpenhoe Clappers near to the monument and 2 near the Sharpenhoe Clappers car park.

Sharpenhoe - Harlington Upper East End Farm

Surface Types:  You will walk across surfaces ranging from hard and firm with no stones greater than 5mm, to hard but variable surfaces with loose, variable sized stones, to grass or uncultivated earth paths with and without mud and ruts, to cultivated farmland.'
Linear Gradient: This is a walk with lots of gradients - the steepest being steeper than 1:6 (for 300 metres at Grid Ref 061331. There are two other steep stretches up to 5 metres in length). Elsewhere you will meet gradients of between 1:6-1:9, between 1:10-1:13 and between 1:14 and 1:17.
Cross Falls: There are cross falls of 1:9 or steeper, of between 1:10-1:15 and of between 1:16-1:20.
Width Restriction: There is a restriction of 460mm at Grid Ref 058328.
Steps: There are 5 steps of 230mm step height on the bridge 1 Km north of Bury Farm.
Barriers: There are 7 kissing gates with a restriction of greater than 1500mm, 3 one-way opening gates with a width greater than 750mm and 3 two-step stiles.
Refreshments: There is a pub at Sharpenhoe - The Lynmore.
Public Toilets: None recorded.
Picnic Tables: None recorded.
Seats: None recorded.

Harlington to Westoning Crossroads

Surface Types: You will walk across surfaces ranging from hard and firm with no stones greater than 5mm, to grass or uncultivated earth paths with and without mud and ruts.'
Linear Gradient: This is a walk with lots of gradients - the steepest being steeper than 1:6.  Elsewhere you will meet gradients of between 1:6-1:9, between 1:10-1:13 and between 1:14 and 1:17 and of 1:18 or less.
Cross Falls: There are cross falls of 1:9 or steeper, of between 1:10-1:15 and of between 1:16-1:20 and of 1:26 or less.
Width Restriction: There is a restriction of 620mm at the corner of the playing fields of Harlington Upper School where the path goes between fence posts.
Steps: None recorded.
Barriers: There is 1 staggered barrier with a minimum restriction of less than 950mm and 1 two-step stile.
Refreshments: There is a pub in Harlington - The Carpenters Arms - which is off the route.
Public Toilets: None recorded.
Picnic Tables: None recorded.
Seats: There are seats at Harlington Recreation Ground behind the Church.

Westoning to Steppingley

Surface Types: You will walk across surfaces ranging from hard and firm with no stones greater than 5mm, to hard but variable surfaces with no stones greater than 10mm or with loose, variable sized stones, to grass or uncultivated earth paths with and without mud and ruts, to cultivated ground (farmland).
Linear Gradient: This is a walk with lots of gradients - the steepest being between 1:6-1:9 (for 3 metres between the River Flit and Priestley's Farm/Shop.  There are also gradients between 1:10-1:13 and between 1:14 and 1:17 and of 1:18 or less.
Cross Falls: There are cross falls of between 1:21-1:25.
Width Restriction: There is a restriction of 800mm on the bridge over the River Flit.
Steps: There maximum step height is 300mm on the River Flit bridge.
Barriers: There are 2 kissing gates with a width restriction of less than 1000mm, 5 one step stiles and two 1-way opening gates with a width restriction of greater than 750mm.
Refreshments: There is a pub in Westoning - The Chequers Inn and also a shop.  There is a cafe - The Saffron Pub/Indian Restaurant - in Steppingley.
Public Toilets: None recorded.
Picnic Tables: None recorded.
Seats: None recorded.

Steppingley to Ampthill

Surface Types: You will walk across surfaces ranging from hard and firm with no stones greater than 10mm, to hard but variable surfaces with loose, variable sized stones, to grass or uncultivated earth paths with mud and ruts, to cultivated ground (farmland).
Linear Gradient:  There are gradients between 1:10-1:13 and between 1:14 and 1:17 and of 1:18 or less.
Cross Falls: There are cross falls of between 1:10-1:15, of between 1:16-1:20 and of between 1:21-1:25.
Width Restriction: There is a restriction of 600mm on the exit from Ampthill football ground.
Steps: None recorded.
Barriers: There is one 1-way opening gate with a width restriction of greater than 750mm.
Refreshments: There are pubs in Flitwick and cafes, shops and pubs in Ampthill.
Public Toilets: None recorded.
Picnic Tables: None recorded.
Seats: There are 2 seats at Ampthill football field.

Route Description

Click here to download map

Please note that parts of the route can be muddy.

The trail proceeds in an easterly direction toward the Clappers - following waymarks marked Icknield Way, at the road cross with care and go straight forward following IW markers, however where IW turns right carry straight on and into the beechwood. On the right you will see a memorial, the inscribed panel states how this beautiful spur of land was bequeathed to the National Trust.

Now proceed forward to the front edge of the wood, which opens out into a panoramic vista, with Sharpenhoe below and Pulloxhill water tower on the horizon. After a rest go steadily down the steps and arrive at the road - turn left to the Lynmore PH, and take the RH bridleway opposite. This track goes to a new bridge, cross this and go forward a few yards to go through the LH hedge. Over the stile turn right, follow the hedge for a while then on to two stiles in front. Go diagonally right at the second stile to a gate in the corner, then on to Blackhill Lane, and into Pulloxhill. Unless you wish to walk into the village (2 pubs, a shop and the church) turn left to Highambury. A signpost shows a left turn, take this to reach Sampshill, turn left, ignoring the RH signpost, but take the second path on the right, which will take you across a valley up to a high point.

Before crossing a stile into the wood, look back slightly left and you will see a decaying oak, with a sapling planted nearby. This is Bunyan's Oak, a spot where he often preached. Sadly this tree is out of bounds and not on the right of way.

To continue, cross the stile through the bushes to the road, follow this into Harlington (ignoring a road on the right). Over to your left are the very hills where this trail started. On reaching a RH bend go through the gate in front and on to Harlington recreation ground, and the church of St. Mary, noted for a Bunyan stained glass window, and an altar table supported by part of the Bunyan oak tree. Proceed down to the square, to the left is the Carpenters Arms PH.

To your right is the manor house where Bunyan was tried and sentenced to jail.

To continue, the trail goes back toward the church and round to the left passing the Vicarage, and turning left at a path. This takes us through houses and a road, then on to Wingate Road. Turn right and head for the school.

Francis Wingate lived at the manor and was largely responsible for Bunyan's sentence.

Pass the school and take the FP up through the school ground to a stile and turn left following waymarks toward the railway, at the road go under the bridge and into Westoning. Cross the busy road with care, pass the Chequers PH and proceed down to the church. At the very end turn left toward Manor Farm through a gate in the RH fence. Follow the fence to the next gate, go through then turn right down to conifers and over a stile and bridge across the River Flitt and on through Priestley Farm and shop. Keep straight forward to a road, cross over this and a stile into grassland and forward to a cross path. Ignore this and go over a stile to your left and diagonally left to a stile in the far LH corner. Once over follow the headland to a signpost. Go right then left at Park Farm, walk down a long drive to Steppingley. When you reach the road go right for 300 yds to a bridleway on your right, up a slope to a marker post. Turn left, at the next post turn right to a lane. Then left to Steppingley Road, Flitwick.

Cross with care and go down Windmill Road under the bridge to a chip shop, turn right passing the Blackbirds PH then turn left opposite the Wheatsheaf PH, into the Ridgeway, branching left at the end. This takes you out of Flitwick and to the road. Turn left to the main road, cross over carefully to a small gate. Carry on to a football field and onto Abbey Lane. At this stage please follow the Ampthill map.

After a visit to Houghton House retrace your steps back to the Greensand Ridge Walk (GRW), turn right and follow signs into Ampthill Park. Note the monument to Katherine of Aragon, she was held in a castle here. The trail follows GRW till it crosses the M1.

Note the valley to the north of Millbrook Church, thought to be Bunyan's Valley of the Shadow of Death.

After crossing the motorway the GRW reaches a small wood and bears left, our trail proceeds straight forward with the wood on your left. Go over a stile and through a new plantation then over another stile. Cross a paddock to a stile in Segenhoe churchyard. This is now in ruins, it is generally accepted that Bunyan preached in this church. Exit through the gate to a long path opposite and on to Ridgmont with its beautiful church spire. Cross the road with care and turn right then left down Lydds Hill. At the bottom turn right and carry on till under the M1 bridge. Turn right on a bridleway for 250 yards then left at a marker post to a path by a hedge, please keep this hedge on your right (do not stray!) to come to a railway bridge. Cross the bridge, go along the track, pass in front of the round house. Keeping slightly left go over a bridge and on to the road. Cross with great care, up the steps and into Brogborough picnic site.

The sunken way was a conveyor belt system taking clay to Brogborough Brickworks from the pits.

Proceed through the gate and up the farm track opposite to Manor Farm Cottages. Pass a pond on your right and proceed following the markers, at the corner of a wood turn left. At the corner of the next wood take the bridleway round to a row of trees, turn right to a barn and house, through a gate and onto a hard road, proceed forward to Cranfield Church.

After a break at the green, go through a gap, turn right and down the High Street. Ignore the LH road by the Co-op at the road junction, a bridleway by the shop is your route. This meets a road, cross to a gate, when through go forward diagonally right to a distant corner gate, go through. You will see another gate in front, head for this, go through and turn right to a post then turn left to a farm track. Turn right into Roxhill Manor Farm, then left to go through the yard and out onto a hard track, which takes you round to a lonely white cottage. To your right are some splendid views of Marston Vale.

Proceed by turning left on this track by the white cottage, after a hundred yards or so turn right onto a bridleway that can be muddy. Follow this by the ditch, coming to a stile which you cross into grassland. Follow the hedge to two stiles, take the stile and bridge turning right, up the slope and over to another stile. When over go forward slightly left to the end of a hedge in front and cross another stile onto a hard track and down to Hall End Road Wootton.

John Bunyan was held overnight in a lock up which was in front of Wootton Church, unfortunately it no longer exists.

At the road turn left to pass the Chequers PH (if you can!). At the road junction go over the stile by a gate in front of you, forward to another stile and on to yet another. Turn left and reach the road, turn right to another pub. This is Kempston Wood End.

At this pub go right to a left hand path. Further along this path go right, over a stile, then diagonally left to another stile across the meadow. Cross the stile and gravel drive. Go over a stile across the middle of this pasture to a gate by some isolated trees to a stile by the road which you cross. Turn left to the second footpath on the left, pass by close to the cemetery, emerging out in a cropped field. Go down the middle to the road, passing a pole or two, at the road turn left to a path on your right, take this to the next road, turn right and in a short distance take a LH path up by a hedge, through a hedge and straight up the middle of a field to the wood. Turn right along the side of the wood, you will see that the bridleway goes straight across the field to reach Bromham bypass (very busy!). This crossing requires patience, once over walk down an alley type of path and emerge in Bromham High Street. Note the Victorian Lions Head cast iron tap and the unusual house down this path.

At the High Street turn right and follow the road down to Bromham mill. The trail follows a waymarked circular walk from Bromham mill. A path takes you through part of the park to the road. Turn right and then left at the Green into Mollivers Lane. Proceed straight forward to cross the old railway embankment and head forward toward Stevington Windmill, then bear right down to the road. Turn left to the village centre and the cross.

This is thought to be the cross or burden shed by Christian in Pilgrim's Progress and a place where Bunyan preached.

Leaving the cross walk down Church Road, by the church wall. The Holy Well was a place of pilgrimage for thousands in the past, all hoping the waters would cure eye ailments. After leaving the gate by Stevington Church, but before reaching the stile on the left, look right toward the river. A small wooded area in the river is The Holmes, this is where John Bunyan and friends allegedly met in secret because it was outside a five mile radius of Bedford. It was here too that Baptisms took place and afterwards they walked up to Meeting Farm in Stevington.

Now proceed over the stile and round the field to a stile in the far corner in a hedge and emerge out of the trees and turn right toward Pavenham. Proceed forward to the village, one of Bedfordshire's outstanding riverside villages.

Leave Pavenham by the path by the Post Office following waymarks c/w across riverside meadows to the road. Turn right and proceed with care up to Oakley crossroads. Unless you are tempted to turn right for the shop or the Bedford Arms PH, keep straight on. Just past the crossroads a footpath on the left crosses the railway and proceeds forward to Clapham emerging on to the A6 High Street by the Fox and Hounds PH.

Proceed by turning right along the High Street, passing several shops and public houses. At the far end of the village turn left up Green Lane. Ignore the RH footpath but turn right up the track in front of Park Farm. Do not take the footpath opposite but go forward to the next RH path. Turn right and follow this path right through to Brickhill Drive, Bedford.

Cross straight over, this path takes you down to Foster Hill Road. Halfway down you can turn left into Bedford Park and cross diagonally to your right to reach the park gates. Exit through the gates, cross Park Avenue, walk down De Parys Avenue to John Bunyan's statue in St Peter's Square.

From the statue proceed straight on through the traffic lights along the High Street. At the next lights turn left into Mill Street, down here on the RH side is the Bunyan Meeting House (not always open). After a visit, walk back to the lights and turn left, proceeding to cross the bridge over the Ouse, then along to St Johns. After passing St Johns proceed to the roundabout and forward over the old railway bridge. Turn right at the lights into Elstow Road. At the new roundabout cross over and through a path in front. Along here and before the Red Lion PH keep a look out for a plaque indicating where John Bunyan's cottage stood. Now proceed to the village green, Moot Hall and Elstow Abbey Church. All associated with John Bunyan.

The trail ends here, but is is hoped to create a complete circular route of approximately 65 miles in the future.


Route Through Ampthill

Emerge from Football Field onto Abbey Lane and follow round into Willow Way. Take the LH part of Willow Way. Proceed up into Duke Street. Turn right into Cornwall Road, turn left at the end. Cross the road and go on to a footpath on your right, Kings Arms Path, this takes you to Ampthill Market Square. Turn right up Church Street, passing the church and turn left up Gas House Lane.


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

We are most grateful to the following for their support: 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.

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.

 




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