Walks from Harrold-Odell Country Park
A few hours spent exploring the limestone villages of north Bedfordshire using the Harrold – Odell Country Park as a base turned out to be time well spent.
Harrold is a pretty village with a long history, there has been a bridge over the river since before 1140 and the first incumbent of the church (which was originally owned by Harrold Priory) was listed in 1226. We stopped on the village green to admire the eighteenth century buttermarket (market house) and the village lock up where suspected criminals and drunks would have been detained.
Away from the centre of the village we discovered a lovely peaceful spot by the old mill and mill cottages where we could enjoy the sunlight glistening on the water.
Walking towards Carlton Church, the hedgerows were full of blackberries, rose hips and hawthorn berries. Seagulls gathered over the recently ploughed fields.
Medieval trackways and old maps suggest that the church was once nearer to the centre of the village which has over time has drifted down the hill towards the river and the main road through Harrold. In the churchyard a sign declared that one part of the grounds had been designated a conservation area, a few weeks earlier it must have been a riot of colour with wild flowers in bloom but now it was dying back gracefully, full of seed heads providing homes and food for wildlife.
Harrold – Odell Country Park
We had our lunchtime picnic overlooking Kingfisher Water on the edge of the country park, watching the swans gliding peacefully by and cormorants diving for fish. Strolling through the park towards Odell we were diverted by the dragonfly pond, which lived up to its name with flashes of blue, green and red darting just above the surface as dragonflies and damselflies enjoyed the sun. Water-boatmen and pond skaters were also out and about.
We came back via the water meadows, where we were rewarded with the sudden take-off of a watchful heron from the river bank.
Odell is one of the smallest villages in the area. The church and the castle (now a private house) are at the top of the hill. Up in the churchyard we spotted bird boxes in the trees and a log pile in one corner for wildlife.
For maps and detailed directions visit the country park website – https://hocp.co.uk/visit/maps-directions/
Facilities at the Country Park include toilets, a café and a carpark – for more information see https://hocp.co.uk/visit/facilities/
The Country Park:
Find out more about the history of the park, walking trails and the wildlife you might see at https://hocp.co.uk/explore/
Make more of a day of it:
Other villages if you fancy a longer walk or branching out in different directions – Sharnbrook, Felmersham, Pavenham, Stevington, Oakley, Radwell.
Text and photographs – Shelly Dennison, CPRE Bedfordshire Digital Engagement Officer