A Railway Ramble from Bow Brickhill to Woburn Sands

Written by Diana Spencer on . Posted in Walk Of The Week

     

Location

– Starts at Bow Brickhill station and finishes at Woburn Sands station

Distance

– 4 1/2 miles, including the big loop on the map

Click on the map to see the full route on the Walk4Life website.

Time Taken

– 3 1/2 hrs including a stop for lunch

Great For-

A Car Free Day Out– The walk starts and finishes on the Marston Vale line, easily accessed from either Bedford station (we started at St Johns) and with one change from Milton Keynes and Leighton Buzzard

Landscape & History- lots of things to look for in the woodlands including an Iron Age Hill fort and ancient parish boundaries marked by huge trees and banks

Navigators– It’d be hard to get completely lost in the woods as they aren’t that big but easy to get turned around and paths aren’t well waymarked so OS map 192 is handy!

Good for Kids?

– A very steep climb and some rough paths so perhaps not for small children, definitely not suitable for pushchairs

Good for Dogs?

– Yes. A short section on pavement beside the road at each end of the walk

Admission/Parking Charges

– None. Our return train ticket from Bedford St Johns cost £16.60 for 4 people travelling together

Café/Toilets

– Pub in Bow Brickhill at the start of the walk, nice cafes in Woburn Sands (we stopped at Aubergine Deli) and a Costa on Woburn Sands station

Footwear/Clothing

– Unsurfaced paths through the wood, some very soggy so would recommend good waterproof walking boots.

Accessibility

– Very steep climb on tarmac at the start. Unsurfaced, rough and wet tracks with gradients in the woods. A couple of kissing gates.

Alternatives

– Lots of possible routes through the woods, you could also do the route in reverse if you don’t fancy the steep climb at the start.

How To Get There

– Starts from Bow Brickhill station on the Marston Vale line

The Walk

A lovely but slightly unusual walk this week, partly because this is the first walk I’ve done with a group of people hence having some actual humans (the rest of the GSCLP team!) in the photographs, and partly because it’s the first walk we’ve done without using the car which was a nice change.

Perhaps not unusually we did have a few problems with waymarking (the first thing the lady in the teashop in Woburn Sands asked us was if we’d gotten lost in the woods) so the route isn’t entirely the one we’d planned. I have noted where I think we went wrong though, and I’m hoping to go back and walk the route the opposite way so there may be an edited version of the walk at some point.

We started by catching the train at Bedford St Johns and going directly to Bow Brickhill. The train line runs right along the bottom of the Greensand Ridge and you get a great view up to the heights of the ridge itself.

At Bow Brickhill station leave the platform, cross the road, and head up towards the roundabout. At the roundabout you turn left and walk along the pavement through the village. The Brickhills are home to a cluster of walls and other little buildings made from the greensand. One of our big projects is to help restore these using some small grants, we’ll have all the details on this website fairly soon.

At the junction in the middle of the village, head past the memorial and up the road signposted to the church.

This road goes straight up one of the steepest bits of the ridge to one of the highest points on the ridge, thankfully there’s a superb view behind you that you can stop and pretend to admire occasionally while you catch your breath.

Keep following the road round and out of the village until you see a big gate and information board on your left leading into Aspley Woods.

At this point you can keep climbing the hill and take a little diversion to see the very pretty Bow Brickhill church in its quiet churchyard. Once you’ve had an explore, go back down the hill to the gate and into the woods.

Head straight into the woods then turn right up on to the little sandy cycle track that runs through the open, grassy area with the newly planted trees.

Keep on this track past the house in the woodlands and along the top of the ridge. There are some little paths and tracks branching off but stay on the most obvious route along the edge of the high ground, and look for the path marked ‘No Horses’.

Soon the path becomes a big, broad sandy track. In places you can see the greensand bedrock making a firm pavement underneath your feet.

The track then crosses a broad, sunken track with large coppiced trees standing on banks at the junction. This is the parish boundary between Bow Brickhill and Woburn Sands.

Go straight across here and keep walking until you get to a fork in the path and then a slightly complicated junction.

Standing at the junction you can see a wooden fence marked with a green paint arrow to your left, up to the right is a very sturdy wooden and concrete bench.

At this point we should probably have walked down to the fence and followed that track, but we were hunting for the hill fort and so went straight on on the unwaymarked track right in front of us.

Very soon you reach the huge and unmissable bank and ditch of Danesborough Hill Fort. Many of the descriptions of the hill fort suggest there’s not a lot of it left to see visible but that’s very clearly not the case! There’s more about the hill fort and some of the excavations around it here.

We followed the path that gently curved through the hill fort and out the other side to junction with another solid bench on the right and a little wet pond (complete with hunting Migrant Hawker Dragonfly on the left). Again I think we should probably have turned right here to get ourselves back on the MK boundary walk but we walked straight on heading down the hill.

At the next junction we also kept going straight down the narrow but dry track, sticking to our plan of heading downhill.

The woods here are just starting to change colour for the autumn and are going to be really spectacular in a few weeks time. Still there’s lots of lovely fungi appearing and it’s also worth keeping an eye out for nesting holes drilled out by the woodpeckers- easy to spot now the leaves are starting to drop.

After a longish walk down the hill we hit the edge of the wood and were now pretty sure that we weren’t on the path we’d planned to go along. We could hear and see the nearby road, which had to be the road between Bow Brickhill and Woburn so we reoriented ourselves and turned right along the wood edge to follow it round to Woburn Sands.

The path heads through both dry woods and a section of slightly boggy path through some grassland. Just keep bearing left wherever possible and stick to the woodside edge.

Just past the biggest wet patch was a very welcome fallen log big enough for us all to have a sit down and a quick snack before we walked on.

A short walk after the fallen log you come to a clear left turn, around the end of a long, narrow, grassy field, there’s a couple of slightly broken footpath markers on a stump here which aren’t easy to find.

At the end of this short path is another left turn through a gap in the wire fence and out onto the footpath along the edge of Edgewick Farm.

This looks like it would be a superb spot to explore if you’re not in a hurry to catch your train back with lots of wet meadow and open grassland.

If you’re short on time of in need of a coffee (we were both at this point!) then just keep following the track between the fences, over a boardwalk, past the huge house on your right and out into Woburn Sands village.

When you hit the road by the green, turn right and keep walking until you get to the high street.

We had a bit of time left before the train back to Bedford arrived, so stopped for a very well-deserved coffee and cake at Aubergine Deli.

Otherwise just turn left down the high street until you reach the station and can hop back on the train to return home.

Walk Report- GSCLP

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