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How to get there

Willington is easy to get to by road - it's just off the A421 at the Cardington junction (follow Bedford Road). It's not easy to get there by train, but you can get a bus to nearby Balls Lane (click here for the timetable from Bedford).

Start/finish points

Outside the Dovecote (owned by the National Trust)


1.5 - 2.5 miles (depending on the route you choose)


No cross falls, steps or linear gradient recorded

Surface types – Varied, ranging from hard and firm with stones no larger than 5mm to grass uncultivated paths with ruts and farmland.

Width Restriction – None less than 1000mm.

Barriers – A kissing gate with a width restriction of 1000m on footpath 9 near to the A603 and one staggered barrier with a restriction of 950mm where the path meets Route 51.

Route description

1 - Start at The Dovecote and Stables on Church End - opposite are the remains of a Tudor farmstead built in the mid-16th century. To the west is Willington Manor - built at the same time but since massively altered, and now a family home. The Victorian farm buildings were built by the Duke of Bedford and are also now residential homes. There was a medieval manor site near here with a moat and drawbridge, mud walls, three gates and many domestic buildings.

2 - To the south of the car park are semi-detached red brick cottages (No 70/72) built for the Duke of Bedford in 1890. You can see a coronet and date stone on the end of No 70. The original vicarage is believed to have been hereabouts. To your right is the Church of St Lawrence (dating back to 1166 on written records), which was rebuilt and extended by John Gostwick when he built the manor. The house on the corner to your left as you turn into Church Road was originally a single storey Sunday School - it became the village school from 1858 - 1867.

3 - Turn left into Church Road and you’ll see a series of cottages built by the Duke of Bedford for his estate workers in the mid-19th century (one block of 6 has been demolished). Many of the houses in Willington had their own well but these houses had shared wash-houses behind them and used pumps for water on the opposite side of the road. No 42 was the 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.

4 - Walk along Church Road, past the junction with Balls Lane. No 39 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 - on the right, No 33/ 31 date from the 17th Century, as does No 32, known as the Old Vicarage, 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, is a house which was built as a dovecote and has since been 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 which was known as 'Smallewaye' in medieval times. 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 an octagonal summer house which one of his customers had failed to collect as his office!

5 - The village school 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. See also No 5 Rose Cottage and No 3 Penwrights Cottage, named after its 19th Century occupants.

6 - The Methodist Chapel 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.

7 -  At this point, you can walk an extra loop via Chapel Lane if you wish. Walk along Chapel Lane and you’ll see the names of the houses on the left refer to the ancient 'moats' lying between them and the river: Moat House and Danish Camp (not to be confused with the visitor’s centre). 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, close to which is the site of a water mill. Return via the cycle track to Danish Camp 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.

8 - If you continue along Station Road, you’ll notice that 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. Croots farmhouse (on the right) and No 45 Clumbercotes (on the left) date from the 17th Century and No 36 was a shop before 1900.

8 - The development at Grange Way has been built to blend with the older farm buildings of Grange Farm - the former mill is now two homes, and a barn has been incorporated into a terrace of houses. Willington crossroads is unusual as five roads meet here. Grange Farmhouse 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, which was formerly the White Hart Inn and the Old Forge which was once a cycle shop. The village pound for stray animals was also near here. From this point, you can re-trace your steps to the beginning, or explore the area for yourself.

Pit stops/points of interest

There are public toilets at Danish Camp and seats at the Dovecote and on Balls Lane.

Danish Camp

Frosts Garden Centre

The Crown


This route was put together as part of the Willington Heritage Project.

Willington Local History Group

Heritage Lottery Fund

National Trust

Lafarge Aggregates