This walk passes through some of the most beautiful countryside in Bedfordshire. Explore the well-wooded and undulating landscapes of the Greensand Ridge, which offers exhilarating views over the surrounding countryside. Opportunities to discover Ampthill Park, the Georgian market town of Ampthill and the attractive villages of Millbrook and Lidlington are also available. The walk falls into two sections: one follows the Greensand Ridge Walk, while the other uses a linking path which allows the circular route to be explored.
Ampthill is situated in mid Bedfordshire, approximately 8 miles south of Bedford. There is a large car park in Ampthill Park and a small carpark near the entrance to the Millbrook Proving Ground (see map). The Ampthill town centre car parks are also a convenient start point - simply follow the Greensand Ridge Walk through Ampthill Park
Ampthill is the suggested starting point. Grid Ref TL024381.
The walk is described in a clockwise direction from there. However, you can begin at any other point and walk in either direction.
Distance: 7 miles
Time: 3.5 hours
Surface types: You will walk across surface types ranging from hard and firm without stones to cultivated ground.
Linear Gradient: The steepest linear gradient is 1:6.
Cross Falls: There are cross falls of 1:6 and steeper.
Width Restriction: A staggered barrier has a 950mm restriction.
Steps: Two short flights with a maximum step height of 230mm.
Barriers: A number of stiles, kissing gates and a one way opening gate.
Refreshments: The Chequers Pub is on the Millbrook village road. Ampthill has all the usual town amenities.
Public Toilets are located in the car park in the centre of Ampthill
Picnic Tables: None are recorded .
Seats: There are seats between points 11 and 12 and at Millbrook car park.
Point 1 From the main car park in Ampthill Park, walk through the kissing gate to the top of the slope, to a point opposite Katherine's Cross.
Ampthill Park was originally a deer park belonging to Ampthill Castle, which was popular with Henry VIII. Katharine of Aragon spent several years at the castle before her divorce proceedings, and Katherine's Cross, built on the site of Ampthill Castle, commemorates her stay here.The park subsequently passed into the hands of a number of owners - one of whom, the Earl of Upper Ossory, had it landscaped by Capability Brown in the 18th century. The park is now owned by Ampthill Town Council.
Point 2 Turn left off the track, following the Greensand Ridge Walk to the kissing gate and step through stile at the park boundary. Continue in the same direction across to another kissing gate and then over the top of the Ampthill Railway Tunnel (the Bedford to London Thameslink line passes underneath).
A large part of the walk follows the Greensand Ridge, which is an elevated area running across the county from Leighton- Linslade in the south-west, to Sandy in the north-east. The ridge is predominantly lower greensand, a very dry soil, which is far less productive than other soils in the county, and therefore unsuitable for agriculture. Many woodland areas have become established and, thanks also to the number of large estates in the area with a long tradition of estate forestry, the ridge is now the most densely-wooded area of Bedfordshire, containing 42 of the county's woodlands.
Point 3 Follow the path which runs between the fences, and bear right before passing the dog kennels. At the junction of the tracks, continue straight ahead towards Millbrook Church.
St Michael's Church, Millbrook, is built of local sandstone and clunch (a tough clay). The tower dates from the 14th century and stands some 360ft above sea level. It has been said that the Wash can be seen from the top of the tower.
Point 4 From the church, walk downhill to the road. Here the Greensand Ridge Walk and the link path diverge, though either route can be followed. (Use Points 12 to 8 of this circular route, reversing the instructions, to follow the Greensand Ridge Walk.) If following the link path first, turn left and continue along the road until the second public footpath on the right is reached. Follow this to the main A507 road.
Millbrook village has been described as one of the most beautiful villages in England. Its name is derived from the brook running to the north of the village, and the former mill that was finally demolished in the 18th century. The whole village used to belong to the Duke of Bedford. The cottages, most of them dating back at least 180 years, were tenanted by farm workers. The village is associated with John Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress- the wooded valley near the church is reputed to be his 'Valley of the Shadow of Death'. Several ghosts have been sighted in the village. One is an invisible horseman known as Galloping Dick, who descends Millbrook Hill.
Point 5 Cross the A507 with care, it is a fast and very busy road which must be crossed twice on this walk, so be extremely careful, especially with children, at these points. Follow the path running between the fences across the field, then enter the woods of Millbrook Warren. The path through the woods is well marked, but crosses several wide forest tracks, which should be avoided. The walk follows the narrower footpath which passes in a north-east to south-west direction throughout the wood.
Scots Pine, Britain's only native conifer, flourishes in these woods because of the sandy soils. The name ‘Warren' suggests that this was once an area used for the breeding of rabbits. In medieval times, Ampthill was surrounded by such warrens, which were an important source of food.
Point 6 Cross the stile into the field. Follow the field edge and then turn left alongside the belt of trees to the rough track on the north side of the stream.
Point 7 Cross the culvert (water channel) and turn right with the stream on your left. At marker posts change to the stream on your right following field edge. Continue to the large footbridge.
Point 8 At this point the Greensand Ridge Walk is rejoined and should be followed for the rest of the walk. Cross the footbridge and continue to the A507. Please note that the path passes along the inside of the fence at the side of Turnpike Cottage, before crossing the A507 again.
Turnpike Cottage marks the site of a turnpike on the road, which is still known in places as 'the Turnpike Road'. The attractive Flying Horse Farm, on the opposite side of the road, was once a coaching inn on the Oxford to Cambridge Road, where Dick Turpin is reputed to have stayed. Horses were changed here as it was the mid-point on the route.
Point 9 Turn left and walk across the field, and cross the road to Boughton End. Follow the right hand side of the belt of trees opposite to the road leading to Lidlington.
Point 10 Turn left and follow the road to the next path on the right, which follows a track passing through the grounds of Jackdaw Hill House.
Point 11 Enter the woodland of Jackdaw Hill. When you reach the small pond, bear right. The walk follows the path running along the outside boundary of Millbrook Golf Course, which leads to the viewing area with splendid views across the Marston Vale and into north Bedfordshire. The tall brickwork chimneys and vast clay pits mark one of the largest brickworks in Europe. A new Community Forest is planned for the Marston Vale area, and should transform this landscape in future years.
Point 12 The route runs next to the vehicle proving ground boundary fence, and comes out into a small car park. Turn right at the car park entrance and right again into Millbrook village. Follow the road down to the church, and retrace your steps to Ampthill Park.
This leaflet was produced by the Leisure Services group at Bedfordshire County Council.