These are ten of my favourite things

On Friday I attended an all day conference in London, ‘Tourism – Seizing the Moment in Adversity‘. An interesting day and I’ll write about it next.  This post comes from the conference. One of the speakers, Martin Blackwell, asked the question;  ‘You should be able to name 10 attractions where you live, can you?’

The interpretation of the question was left open ~ did it mean the town or the county?  As Martin Blackwell is from the Association for Town Centre Management, then I guess it means the towns or nearby!

Living in the shire of Bedford, it would be very easy to name 100 attractions county-wide, in fact, the only challenge would be which ones of the many we have in this bountiful shire!  Living in a village, my nearest town is Bedford, so here goes!

These are ten of my favourites things in Bodacious Bedford ~

  • The Embankment: The Embankment of the River Great Ouse is a beautiful,Victorian, tree lined oasis in the middle of town.The river was widened by the Victorians and the ornate Suspension Bridge, spanning the river, was officially opened in 1888 ~ the same year as was Bedford Park. Just wonderful to walk down on a sunny afternoon and every other year, in July, there is the River Festival, celebrating all that is good! The regatta, founded in 1853, takes place in May.
  • John Bunyan: John Bunyan (1628-1688) was born at Elstow, England, about a mile from Bedford, and became one of the most influential authors of the seventeenth century. He preached, was goaled in Bedford and whilst there, wrote Pilgrim’s Progress. There is the John Bunyan Museum in Mill Street & a wonderful statue of him in St Peter’s Street. And in Elstow, where he grew up, there is the Moot Hall & the remains of the Abbey.
  • Cecil Higgins Art Gallery and Bedford Museum: Cecil Higgins Art Gallery & Bedford Museum is currently undergoing a massive refurbishment. It is re-opening late in 2012 or early 2013.  The cultural gap is being filled by Bedford Gallery and from January 15th to April 10th this year, it will be hosting; High Kicks and Low Life: The Prints of Toulouse-Lautrec on tour from the British Museum.
  • Bedford Blues Rugby Club:  Known as The Blues, Bedford RUFC was founded in 1886 after an amalgamation between Bedford Rovers (1876) and Bedford Swifts (1882). Bedford have been playing on virtually the same pitch for over 100 years and 32 players have gained International honours while they were actually playing for the club at the time of being honoured. COYB! Come on you Blues!
  • Cardington Hangers: The hangers were built by the Shorts Brothers Engineering Company. Having won a contract for the construction of an airship in 1916, the original design team moved to Bedford, in the same year. The two hangers were built to be capable of holding two airships per shed.  They are massive, the internal dimensions are length 812 ft, width 180 ft and height 157 ft with a total weight of 4,000 tons of steel each!
  • Thurleigh World War II Airfield & Glenn Miller Museum:  During WWII, Glenn Miller was based at Milton Ernest Hall and turned  the Co-Partners Hall in Bedford into his Radio Station and here the bulk of his recording was done along with many famous stars such as Bing Crosby and Bob Hope.  He did concerts at Bedford Corn Exchange. It was at the Control Tower that Glenn Miller was last seen alive on a bleak day in December 1944. From here he flew to his death with two others in a Norseman – a small single engine aircraft en route to Paris to lead his orchestra.  Annually now, there is a Glenn Miller event and thousands have been to the event & the museum.
  • Bromham Mill:  For much of its history the mill belonged to the Manor or Bromham and from medieval times would have ground the lord’s grain whilst his tenants would have been obliged to have their grain milled there exclusively for a charge (multure). By 1973 the building was dilapidated and to secure its future it was bought by Beds CC. In 1974 it was further damaged by fire, but subsequent restoration enabled it to be opened to the public in 1983. The present mill is an 18th or early 19th century rebuilding in brick, timber and stone on the site of earlier mills.
  • Stevington Windmill:  Stevington’s windmill is one of the few surviving examples of a post mill. It dates from the late 18th Century and is basically in working order, though no corn has been ground there since 1936. In the early Middle Ages the Lordship of Stevington was held from the time of the Conquest by the Counts of Boulogne, important tenants in chief of the Norman kings. Later, it passed to the aristocratic families of de Quency, Wake, Holland and Stanley and, finally, to the influential local family of the Alstons. The Lordship ceased to have legal effect in 1926.
  • Willington Dovecote & Stables ~ 16th century:  Willington Dovecote & Stables is a National Trust property located in Willington, near Bedford. The property is a 16th-century stable and stone dovecote, which contains nesting boxes for over 1500 pigeons. The dovecote and stables themselves were commissioned by Sir John Gostwick, the Earl of Gostwick. Completed in around 1541, they were made from the remains of a manorial complex, and include stones most likely taken from local priories, in particular, Newnham Priory, after the Dissolution of the Monasteries. A signature on the stone above the fireplace in the stables reads “John Bunyan”, but its authenticity has not been proven.
  • Old Warden & The Shuttleworth Collection:  Old Warden Park is owned by the Richard Ormonde Shuttleworth Remembrance Trust. Richard Shuttleworth inherited the Old Warden Estate on his 23rd birthday and took a keen interest in farming and estate management as well as in motor racing and aviation. Richard built up a sizeable collection of old cars, and somewhat later, aeroplanes, restoring them to working order. These now form the nucleus of the Collection at Old Warden Aerodrome, which was also constructed by him. He was killed flying in 1940 at the age of 31 and four years later his mother Dorothy Shuttleworth founded the Trust as a permanent memorial to him.  The Shuttleworth Collection is a unique flying collection showcasing the first one hundred years of flight.  Nearby is The Swiss Garden, Old Warden Park. It was created in the 1820s by Lord Ongley, is a late Regency garden and an outstanding example of the Swiss picturesque. The Swiss Cottage provides the main element for this unusual and atmospheric garden.

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