Historic Bedfordshire Guide
by Ben Johnson
Facts about Bedfordshire
Famous for: The Chiltern Hills
Distance from London: 30 mins – 1 hour
Local delicacies: Bedfordshire Clanger
Airports: London Luton
County town: Bedford
Nearby Counties: Cambridgeshire, Northamptonshire, Buckinghamshire, Hertfordshire
Welcome to Bedfordshire, one of England’s smallest counties. It’s county town Bedford is just a 35 minute train journey from central London and enjoys a fine riverside setting. Bedford has many attractions for the visitor including a museum dedicated to John Bunyan, the author of The Pilgrim’s Progress.
Nearby Clapham is home to RAF Twinwood Farm, a disused World War II airfield where Glenn Miller set off on his fateful final flight after entertaining American troops in December 1944. Here you will find the Glenn Miller Museum, housed in the original control tower at the airfield.
Also near Bedford is Woburn Abbey, one of England’s great stately homes, and Woburn Safari Park, a popular destination for families.
Wrest Park, another fine stately home, boasts glorious gardens and hosts an annual St George’s Day Festival. Shuttleworth near Biggleswade is home to the Shuttleworth Collection, a unique collection of over 50 aircraft charting the history of aviation. Stondon Transport Museum near Henlow showcases the last 100 years in transport and includes a full size replica of Captain Cook's ship, Endeavour.
The south of Bedfordshire around Luton is mainly industrial whilst the north of the county is more rural. There are plenty of walks and trails for cyclists and walkers to enjoy: for example, the Icknield Way runs from Norfolk to Wiltshire through Bedfordshire, passing through the Barton Hills National Nature Reserve, part of the Chiltern Hills AONB.
Bedfordshire is also home to surely one of the most unusual dishes in England, the Bedfordshire Clanger. This unique dish is a complete meal in itself, savoury at one end and sweet at the other. In the 19th century it was a daily staple for Bedfordshire farm workers out in the fields. The boiled suet 'pudding' has a savoury end, traditionally filled with meat with diced potatoes and vegetables, and a sweet end filled with jam or sugared fruit.