This interesting walk takes you on a tour around the attractive village of Willington, a site which has seen over two thousand years of human occupation. You will walk past many of the houses and cottages which make up the village today and learn about the history of each. Two routes can be taken, one of 1½ miles and one of 2½ miles.
Willington is situated on the A603 about 4½ miles east from the centre of Bedford.
There is a car park at the National Trust Dovecote in Church End.
The walk starts in Church End, Willington, by the National Trust Dovecote.
Length: 1 and 2 miles (2.4 km and 4 km)
Time: 1 hour
Surface Types: You will walk across surfaces ranging from hard and firm with no stones greater than 5mm, to grass or uncultivated earth paths without any ruts, to cultivated farmland.
Linear Gradient: None recorded.
Cross Falls: None recorded.
Width Restriction: There are no restrictions less than 1000mm.
Steps: None recorded.
Barriers: There is a kissing gate with a restriction of less than 1000mm on Footpath 9 near to the A603, and one staggered barrier with a minimum restriction of less than 950mm where the path meets Route 51.
Refreshments: Refreshments are located at the Danish Camp and at Frosts Garden Centre. There is also a pub, The Crown, in Station Road and a shop on the A603.
Public Toilets: Located at the Danish Camp.
Picnic Tables: None recorded.
Seats: There are seats at the Dovecote and on Balls Lane.
Click here to download the map
We hope that you will enjoy your walk. The trail varies in length from approx. 1.5 to 2.5 miles depending on the route chosen.
Please note: 'Panel x' and '(#)' refer to titles and numbers on the Route Map.
Start at Church End (originally Manor Road) The Dovecote (1) and the two-storey Stables (2) opposite are the remains of a Tudor farmstead built by John Gostwick, lord of the manor in the mid-16th Century (See overleaf for more detail about these buildings). Willington Manor to the west is a private family home. The house was built at the same time as the dovecote and stables and later much altered. The Victorian farm buildings (3), built by the Duke of Bedford, have been converted into attractive homes. There was a medieval manor site near here with a moat and drawbridge, mud walls, three gates and many domestic buildings. To the south of the car park are semi-detached red brick cottages (4) (Nos. 70 and 72) built for the Duke of Bedford in 1890. (See the coronet and date stone on the end of No. 70.) The original vicarage is believed to have been hereabouts.
The church of St. Lawrence (5) stands to your right, rebuilt and extended by John Gostwick at the same time as he built his manor. Written evidence for this church dates back to 1166 (See overleaf for more detail about the church). The house (6) on the comer to your left as you turn into Church Road was originally a single-storey building housing the Sunday School. The building became the village school from 1858 to 1867.
Turn left into Church Road As you walk away from the church you will pass a series of cottages (7) built for his estate workers by the Duke of Bedford in the mid-19th Century. One block of 6 has been demolished. Many houses in the village had their own well but these cottages had shared wash-houses behind the cottages and used pumps for water which were on the opposite side of the road. No. 42 was the village post office. In the 18th Century, the field on the right, where there are now bungalows, was known as 'Oat-land' and was later used for animal grazing, allotments and gravel extraction. Walk along Church Road, past the junction with Balls Lane. No. 39 (8) was originally four cottages dating from the 16th Century. This part of Church Road, to the Methodist Chapel, used to be called Vicarage Road. Walk past the village hall (9). (A brief note on the hall is given elsewhere in this leaflet) On the right No. 33 (10) and No. 31 date from the 17th Century, as does No. 32, known as the Old Vicarage (11), on the left. This former farmhouse was built on glebe land and became the vicarage when the old one was demolished in 1834. Further along, at No. 28 (12), is a house which was built as a dovecote and has since been greatly extended. On your right is Beauchamp Place, the site of a small holding belonging to the Golder family from about 1914.
Almost opposite is Jeakins Drive (13) which was known in medieval times as 'Smallewaye'. This drive, although not a public right of way today, was used by the lord's tenants to get to the meadows and hayfields by the river. Today the Drive is named after Old Jake (Mr. Jeakins) who occupied land here where he grew blackberries and kept hens and bees. He made sheds and boats, using as his office an octagonalnsummer-house which one of his customers had failed to collect.
The village school (14) was designed, in a restrained Gothic style, by Henry Glutton, a Victorian architect who designed many buildings for the Dukes of Bedford. When it was built, the school was considered to be very advanced for its time. The ducal crown and date can be seen on the gable at the front. The houses next door to the school were also built in 1867.
The south side of Church Road has some picturesque thatched cottages, many dating from the 17th Century. Look out for the cat on the roof of No. 7 (15). See also No. 5 Rose cottage and No. 3 Penwrights Cottage (16), named after its 19th Century occupants. The Methodist Chapel (17) stands at the junction of Chapel Lane, Station Road and Church Road. The original wooden building was moved to this site on rollers from further along Station Road in the 1850s. The brick building we see now is said to encase the old wooden building.
Panel 3 - At this point you can walk an extra loop via Chapel Lane (see Panel 2) or you can continue along Station Road. The width of Station Road suggests that the verges were used for grazing animals in medieval times. In the Second World War a battery of searchlights was located to the west of Station Rd. On the right Croots farmhouse (22) and on the left No. 45 Clumbercotes (23) date from the 17th Century. No. 36 (24) was a shop before 1900, The development at Grange Way has been built to blend with the older farm buildings of Grange Farm, The former mill (25) is now two homes, and a barn has been incorporated into a terrace of houses. Willington crossroads (26) is unusual as five roads meet here. Grange Farmhouse (27) stands at the crossroads. The building is in two distinct parts, one grander than the other. A timber 'privy' stands in the garden facing Station Road. Also at the cross roads are two 17th Century houses: the Timbers (28), which was formerly the White Hart Inn and the Old Forge (29) which was once a cycle shop. The village pound for stray animals was also near here. From this point, you may either retrace your steps to the starting point or you can follow the route described in Panel 4 overleaf.
Panel 2 - Circular loop from the Methodist Start by walking along Chapel Lane The names of the houses on the left refer to the ancient 'moats' lying between them and the river: Moat House and Danish Camp. Further along on your right is Mill Lane Cottage (18), thought to be the oldest cottage in the village. Follow the footpath at the end of Chapel Lane passed the old sewage works. Turn right onto the cycle way (part of the national cycle network which follows the line of the old Bedford to Sandy railway) to get to Willington Lock (19) close to which is the site of a water mill. Return via the cycle track to the Danish Camp Visitor Centre (20) on the right with sight of waterfowl on the 'moats' to the left. The remains of the station platform can be seen further along to the . south of the path. Turn left on to the footpath which runs alongside the driveway to the Danish Camp car park. On the right is the old Station Yard with the remains of the weighbridge still visible. Rejoin the main walk by the Old Station House, opposite the Methodist Church. From this point, you may either retrace your steps to the starting point or continue along Station Road as described in Panel 3.
This leaflet has been produced by the Willington Local History Group as part of the Willington Heritage Project which is funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund with support from the National Trust and Lafarge Aggregates, among others.
Willington Local History Group is a voluntary organisation which arranges a varied programme of talks, visits and activities to increase knowledge and enjoyment of local history. For more information about these activities, contact the archivist, Sheila Ward on 01234-838535 or Bryan Buckby on 01234-831012.