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Bedfordshire By Water

“Oh I do like to be beside the seaside…”

Bedfordshire may be landlocked and about as far from the coast as it’s possible to be in England, but there are plenty of other watery places to discover.

Here we bring together lots of links and information to help you find your perfect day out by the water – from riverside walks and nature reserves to history and heritage.


The Great Ouse

The Great Ouse meanders through North Bedfordshire, defining the landscape. It cuts through the centre of Bedford where The Embankment provides the location for a pleasant easy stroll. Bedford is also home to the community run John Bunyan Boat so you can cruise the river and enjoy the scenery at a more sedate pace.

Discover more about the landscape of the Great Ouse Valley here and delve into its bustling history here.

The river has its own long distance path which can be walked in manageable sections, The Ouse Valley Way.

The Great Ouse, Priory Country Park, Bedford.

Lea Valley

A booklet produced by Luton Borough Council can be downloaded here. The illustrated guide takes you from the source of the River Lea through Luton to the boundary where it meets with the longer Lea Valley Walk on its way to London.



Bedfordshire’s rivers were once dominated by mills, today only a few remain.

Jordan’s Mill is home to gardens, riverside cafe, wildflower meadow and woodland trail. You can also take a mill tour and find out more about the history of the site and the workings of the mill.

Inside Jordan’s Mill.

Stotfold Mill is a working watermill and nature reserve with ponds and meadows to explore.

Bromham Mill has a meadow and picnic area, it’s a great starting point for local walks. Bromham is also home to Bromham Lake Local Nature Reserve.


Lakes and nature reserves

Many of Bedfordshire’s lakes were created out of reclaimed gravel pits. They now provide homes for wildlife, walks and recreational facilities. Some are quiet refuges and others are popular with families.

The Forest of Marston Vale has a circular walk round the lake in the Millennium Country Park and a separate wetlands nature reserve.

Hide on the wetlands reserve at Marston Vale.

Priory Country Park sits on the edge of Bedford and is very popular, however its size means that once you leave the main lakeside walk it is easy to find more tranquil areas. Part of the site is managed as a nature reserve and the hides are popular with birdwatchers. The Water Sports Centre provides facilities for the more adventurous.

Harrold-Odell Country Park features lakes and river meadows.

Tiddenfoot Waterside Park is on the edge of Leighton Buzzard, the former sand quarry is managed for people and wildlife.

Information board at Tiddenfoot.

The Wildlife Trust for Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire and Northamptonshire manage the Pavenham Osier Beds and the Felmersham Gravel Pits.

Rushmere Country Park is home to a heron nesting site which can be viewed from the comfort of the cafe and visitor centre as well as by those exploring the park.


Grand Union Canal

In the Leighton Buzzard corner of the county you can get a glimpse of a more industrial past when the canals were key to transporting goods. Today the towpaths provide routes for walkers and cyclists while boat hire companies cater for those who would prefer to be on the water.


Historic Houses

At Wrest Park explore man made canals, including the famous Long Water, and enjoy a meandering riverside walk.

Visit Woburn Abbey and discover the lakes in the deer park and gardens.


In The Making

The Bedford Valley River Park will cover more than 3 ½ square miles from Bedford to Willington.

Priory Country Park – part of the vision for the Bedford Valley River Park.


Felmersham Bridge