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Bedford

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East Anglia : Bedfordshire : Bedford
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For other places with the same name, see Bedford (disambiguation).

Bedford is in Bedfordshire county in the East Anglia region of England. It is the county town and the transport, social, cultural and administrative centre of the shire-county of Bedfordshire.

Understand

Once on the frontier between the Anglo-Saxons and Danes, it has a charter dating back more than 900 years. It is an important shopping centre, and there are also many pubs and bars. There are a number of good ethnic restaurants, reflecting the town's substantial Italian, Indian, Pakistani, and Polish communities. Bedford has also been heralded for having the widest range of ethnic diversity, boasting one of the few Eskimos in Britain. The Embankment along the River Ouse running through the centre of town is an attractive place for a walk, and once a year is given over to a traditional Regatta. On the picturesque town bridge is a memorial to John Bunyan, the author of 'The Pilgrim's Progress', who was imprisoned there. John Bunyan also lived in Bedford for most of his life, writing The Pilgrim's Progress here, and his life can be seen at the John Bunyan Museum in the town, where a statue dedicated to him can also be seen. There is a large and attractive park with tennis courts, and other niceties north of the town centre (Bedford Park).

Get in

By train

Bedford is served by East Midlands Trains, London Midland and First Capital Connect. Travel to/from London St. Pancras takes about 40 minutes by East Midlands Trains and just over an hour if you take the First Capital Connect train to/from Kings Cross. First Capital Connect trains are slower as they are primarily commuter services. The East Midlands Trains services only stop at a couple of stations between Bedford & London.

There is also a minor railway line going west to Bletchley (near Milton Keynes). Bedford's second train station (Bedford St. John's) is only used by Bletchley trains, whereas all trains going to/from Bedford end up in Bedford Central station sooner or later.

East Midlands Trains go north to Nottingham and beyond.

By bus

Bedford has a reasonably large bus station located in the centre of town. Long distance bus connectivity is therefore good.The bus station and Midland train station are about 800m apart, so it's a max 10 min walk if you need to make a change here.

Bedford is on the X5 bus route between Oxford, Milton Keynes and Cambridge. Buses generally leave every half hour.

By road

Bedford lies directly between the M1 and A1 motorways. Park and Ride facilities are available see, National Park and Ride Directory

Get around

The local bus services around Bedford are terrible, being both infrequent and expensive. Just about everything you'd want to see is within easy walking distance of the high street, however (at most 30 minutes if you're slow), so there's little need for anything more than your feet in good weather.

There's a reasonable but underused shuttle bus leaving the central train station, and the bus service to surrounding villages is excellent.

There are very few provisions for cyclists, though the town centre is pedestrianised. The one way system and endless traffic lights around the centre make for fun riding until you get to know the roads. Reasonably wide roads mean you don't get squeezed off too often.

Taxis are inexpensive in Bedford, although you may expect to queue for some time at town centre taxi ranks. It is usually faster to call for a cab rather than waiting in line.

See

  • Embankment of the Great Ouse
  • Bunyan Museum
  • Bedford Museum - a good range of anglo-saxon and roman artefacts
  • Bedford Park
  • Castle Mound
  • St Paul's Church
  • St Peter's Church
  • David Brown's Bedford town

Do

  • Hire a boat on the rowing lake near the river. (Summer only)
  • Bedford has a well known Rugby Union team. The grounds are on Goldington Road - if you're lucky you'll be able to catch a game during the rugby season (winter, basically). If you want to fit in, you should occasionally chant "Come on you blues.". However do not join in with the "Bedford, Bedford" moo style chant unless you are sitting in the stand, as they have paid for the priviledge of singing this song.
  • Walk east along the embankment from the main bridge, over the rainbow bridge, round past the boating lake, crossing the butterfly bridge and back along the embankment. A pleasant stroll either during day or night. Stop off at one of the restaurants or pubs on the embankment for refreshments.

Buy

In shopping terms, Bedford is quite typical for a town of its size. The centre of town has the normal chain stores. There is a small indoor shopping centre, the Harpur Centre, and one dingy end of it is called the Howard Centre. The central spiral walkway between the two levels of the centre has in recent years been named The Hub and is, apparently, "The place to be seen".


Originally being the region's market town, Bedford has a market every wednesday and saturday with various tradespeople and stalls. Bargains of all kinds can be found here, along with local produce. The market is split between Harpur Square and St. Paul's square.

Eat

Tavistock street contains wall to wall restaurants of every kind.

  • Grand Indian. Has a particularly fine Chick Jalfrezi.
  • Saffron. Does a suberb and cheap Sunday lunch buffet.
  • Sizzling Wok. Has an entertaining and delicious lunch or dinner all-you-can-eat buffet, where you add your own ingredients, and watch the professional chefs cook for you.
  • The Choudhury (Indian Cuisine).
  • Olive Grove (Greek Cuisine).
  • Frankie and Benny's (Traditional American Diner).
  • Pizza Express (Pizza Restaurant).
  • Sorentino's (Italian Cuisine).
  • Shanghai Beach. A particularly fine Chinese restaurant offering a fixed price for anything off the menu but all freshly cooked food.

Drink

Like all towns in England, Bedford has its fair share of chain pubs and bars packed to the gills on weekends. Walk down the High Street and you'll cover most of them, with a few bars found down Lime Street and various pubs along Tavistock Street.

For a quieter drink with good ales and ciders look out for the Wellington Arms on the corner of Wellington Street and Princes Street, which has won several CAMRA awards. Other good places to drink away from the chav types, are the Castle which does half descent pub grub Sat until 2 Sunday 3. Other main road pubs worth a mention are the ship and there's a selection of live music at the Angel Tavistock Street and esquires

Sleep

Get out

  • Taking the cycle route (an old railway line) out to Willington can be pleasant on a summer's day. Although the route does run right by the sewage works.
  • Bedford is surrounded by small old villages with village pubs. Great Barford (7km to the east), for example, is sure to please.
  • The RSPB (Royal Society for the Protection of Birds) has a nature reserve [1] (and headquarters) in Sandy, 11km to the east.
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