We had not been for a walk in some time and as the weather was forecast to be fine we decided to head over to Woburn to see the deer. The drive over was easy and uneventful and I found some roadside parking, although there is also a car park in the centre of the village.
We set off around 0900, walked up into the centre of the village from the car and carried on through the Market Place by the Market House (where there was a small market this morning), across the crossroads and along George Street in the Leighton Buzzard direction. This is a road I have driven down more times than I care to remember, but I had never walked down it before now. We did not walk down it for very long before turning left at a Greensand Ridge Walk sign (much of what we did today would be along the Greensand Ridge Walk), going through a gate by a lodge to enter Woburn Park. We continued along the fence-lined path and followed our noses because the path we were to follow was both straight and very well waymarked with lines of short posts, taking us into and across the open expanses of the deer park.
Now we enjoyed a very clear view of Woburn Abbey, but a lot more importantly for us we could see deer under the trees. The sun had not quite come through yet and they were mostly under the trees to our right, with one stag standing alone a little further on. They did not move as we walked along our track towards Woburn Abbey, up a slight slope between Stew Pond on our left and Basin Pond on our right, not quite catching the ducks who crossed our path, then going over the driveway and continuing up a steeper slope with Woburn Abbey disappearing on our right as we joined a tarmac drive and were in the car park for the Gardens.
We followed this drive until it curved right, at which point we continued straight ahead, following the short posts again and going into more deer park, although this area was without deer. It was still lovely to be walking across this open grassland in the early morning sun with no-one else around, and once we reached the other side we passed through a couple of gates which must have been intended to keep even the most determined of deer in, then headed gently downhill through the light woodland, and then across a field.
Suddenly there were some steps and we crossed a footbridge which was hidden under mud, walked diagonally to the left across a small field to another footbridge, then diagonally to the right across the next field before the path curved right through an area of rough vegetation and emerged on to the road.
We turned left and headed towards the village of Eversholt, a name I had seen on road signs very many times, but a place which I had never been to before. It is a delightful collection of hamlets, and as we passed the medieval church with its splendid war memorial we could see a children’s cricket match in play on the village green.
We turned right at this point along an enclosed track and then a tree and hedge-lined path, before going left over a plank footbridge. The tracks were becoming noticeably wetter at this part of the walk. We turned right after the footbridge, and after noticing a gold balloon on the other side of the fields headed off to the left to exit the field and turned left again up an enclosed muddy track, heading gently uphill until we reached a road which we crossed to take the uphill track opposite, passing a couple of runners with their four dogs, and then turning left into the fields at a public footpath sign which took us away from the Greensand Ridge Walk.
It was very muddy and full of puddles as we entered the fields, but soon we were climbing up through the cornfield and the ground was drying out. We went into the wood at the top of the hill and came out through a hedge gap before following the left edge of the next field, encountering some tigers along the way, then taking an enclosed track until it curved right to a farm, at which point we turned left and continued onto a lane, taking another left to go downhill until we reached a very hidden public footpath sign on the right which took us back into Woburn Park by an enclosed, grassy path. We walked uphill through woodland along a path which was overgrown with nettles and brambles in places, and as it evened out we curved left alongside Hay Wood, joining a grassy path parallel to the tarmac drive and walking with Woburn Safari Park on our right, safely behind a high wire fence.
Now we encountered three more deer to our left, but the very best was still to come. The drive went right and we carried straight on along our grassy path, and could see many deer in the dip below us, still to our left, but somewhat in the distance. Then, as we came over the brow of the hill, we were greeted with the wonderful sight of deer either side of our track and not very far away from where we would be walking between them.
They did not seem at all disturbed by us being there, and we certainly did nothing to disturb them.
We soon came to the road, crossed it, and, after looking at more deer through a gate on the other side, continued right up the slope to follow a grassy path beside the road until it veered left away from it over more open parkland, passing an unexpected stone memorial to Woburn Park Airfield, and with one more treat as we came down the hill to find three stags to our right.
We passed Horse Pond and kept going straight ahead until we found a gate beside a cattle-grid, which we passed through to take us into woodland and by Upper Drakeloe Pond. At the top of the next slope we turned left on to the road which would take us back into Woburn and found a wonderful surprise on our way as we came to the Parish Church of St Mary, which was not mentioned in our guidebook, and saw that it was open.
Here was a church in the French Gothic style built on a side-road in Woburn in the late 1860s. It is well worth a visit. We continued up past the war memorial to the market and a hogroast roll with apple sauce and stuffing brought an excellent walk to a tasty end. We had covered 8.2 miles in a leisurely 3 hours 27 minutes and 42 seconds.
You can see more of my photographs from the day here.