Walk 3115 - printer friendly version
Circular from Ampthill through Steppingley Walk
Author - Donald Morton
Length - 9.0 miles / 14.6 km
Ascent - 500 feet / 152 metres
Grade - easy/mod
Start - OS grid reference TL024382
Lat 52.032764 + Long -0.50871254
Postcode MK45 2GU (approx. location only)
Ampthill is an old market town about 12 miles North of Luton and about 7 miles South of Bedford. It is fortunate in having a beautiful parkland on its northern edge. Once the site of Ampthill Castle, sitting on top of the Greensand Ridge, where Henry VIII incarcerated his first wife and later entertained his second wife, Anne Boleyn, it owes its present shape to that great landscape designer Capability Brown The walk starts from one of the car parks just off the B530 (Grid Ref TL 024 382).
Leave the car park through a gate on its top side and walk up a tree lined path, passing Katherine's Cross (memorial to Katherine of Aragon's incarceration) over on the right. Ignore a yellow painted way mark post, but about 50 yds further on (where there are wide views ahead right over mid- Bedfordshire, once the centre of London's brickfields industry) turn left at a cross path - unsigned. You are now on the Greensand Ridge Walk which winds down hill through the woods, goes over a wide cross path to arrive at a kissing gate exiting the park (the gate has a sign confirming that you are on the GRW). Bear right over a field to another kissing gate. From here the path winds through woodland, actually over a railway tunnel, and finally descends the remains of steps to emerge on the edge of a field. Turn left on an enclosed path which goes round the edge of a field - containing llamas when we walked there - until it ends by a very self sufficient dwelling to continue straight on down an access track. At a three way junction - more views to the right over the clay vale of mid-Bedfordshire - go straight on to reach the church of Millbrook perched on a promontory above the village; it is in a commanding position above the village and its neighbouring vale, possibly the inspiration for the Slough of Despond in Milton's "Pilgrim's Progress". The path descends to the left of the church to a lane where you turn right, through a scattering of houses of various periods to arrive at a T-junction. Turn left down the hill, walking on the verge.
Just before the entrance to the Millbrook Proving Ground turn left on a bridleway which runs through a small car park before continuing on an enclosed path running between a golf course and the Proving Ground. The latter is now independent of its originator, GM, and is used for the testing of all makes of vehicles. It has also featured in a number of movies and "Top Gear". Mostly it is well shielded by trees which provide a pleasant woodland edge to the walk but are there, of course, to prevent any industrial espionage; at one point however there is a view of a challenging 1in1gravel track gradient. The track winds round the periphery of the Proving Ground, turning sharp right to climb a hill; at the top before it turns left there is another, wider, view of the test tracks. Keep following the bridleway until it splits. Take the left fork still skirting the golf course but veering away from the Proving Ground.
At the next junction turn right into the woods, but soon, at the next junction turn left along the ridge of Jackdaws Hill. The path passes through the grounds of an early 20th Century country house to reach a cross track. Go half left across the bridleway down an enclosed path - again with wide views left and ahead - to come out to a lane by the side of livery stables. At the lane turn left and then right on the second footpath through a narrow gap in the hedge. Go half left across the field to the corner of a wood and then follow the field edge, wood right. At a lane dog leg right/left to reach the A507 (just here as a reminder of its history called Turnpike Road). Turn right and then, having passed Flying Horse Cottage, turn left across the road to a footpath along a field edge. At a large oak tree turn right to a hedge gap with a bridge over a stream. Turn right along the field edge, hedge right. Go over a lane and continue straight on but now with hedge left.
This leads to a bridge over the M1, and then straight on down a field edge, hedge right. Go to the right of a large ash to follow the path down the edge of a belt of trees to a kissing gate where the path turns right. Follow the field edge, hedge left to the next kissing gate. Turn left and follow the path down the field edge and then straight on descending over an open field. Before the descent one can see the Greensand Ridge Walk continuing on the other side of the valley, but for the current walk one leaves it by turning left along the lane in the valley bottom.
The lane goes back under the M1, turns left and comes to a junction. Take the footpath ahead which bisects the junction. It goes diagonally uphill to a wood, turns right along the edge of the wood and then at the very narrowest part of the wood turns left through it. On the other side turn right again along the far edge of the woods. At the end of the woods take the path that goes between two large ash trees and diagonally over a field to the right hand edge of Steppingley, seen ahead. Although a little way from Woburn this is another village within the Duke of Bedford's estate and the estate influence can be seen in the village including the church rebuilt in 1860 and replacing a much older building. Fortunately the Bedfords never seem to have been influenced by the 19th Century temperance movement so there is a pub here for refreshment. The footpath comes out to a lane. Turn left into the village. Pass, or call in at, the French Horn and the church on the left, walking up Church End to a big swing gate into fields. Turn left down a broad track down the field edge. It descends and where it dog legs left/right leave it to go right over a bridge and then turn left along a path which does not follow but which is parallel at varying distances with the field edge. Just before reaching a road turn right over a bridge. This brings you out onto the road where you turn left over a bridge and then right down a footpath along the field edge, hedge left. Having crossed another bridge the path slants right rather indistinctly over grass, aiming for bushes to the right of a prominent red building. As you approach you see steps going up the side of the railway embankment to a place where you can cross the tracks. (Obviously CARE is needed but there are good sight lines and a refuge between up and down lines so you can cross in two stages.)
You come out on a road in an industrial estate. Turn left and immediately right*. Follow the pavement on to a footpath through scrub and weeds between industrial units to the A507. Cross over and go through a metal kissing gate to continue straight on up a field edge, hedge left. When you reach houses on the left, turn left through a kissing gate. The footpath comes out to an estate road. Turn right and almost immediately left up Parmiter Way. Where it becomes a private access drive fork right up a footpath. Where this comes out to a road continue straight on through barriers onto a footpath which runs between houses and comes out to a road facing woods (Grid Ref TL 028 374). Cross slightly left to the woods. There are numerous paths. Take one tending left and then straight on uphill so that fairly soon you are going along the edge of the wooded area (Coopers Hill Nature Reserve) with open heath land to the left. If you have the right path you will come to a cross path with an information board. Keep going straight on and you should come out to the B530 with a rugby club on the left. Cross the road, go through a kissing gate, and turn left to arrive back at the car park.
Note* There is further development in progress with unknown effects on the footpaths so instead of turning immediately right you may prefer the safer option of continuing straight on along the road through the industrial estate, turn right at the end, go over the A507and continue through the barrier straight on along Station Road to join the walk at Grid Ref TL 028 374 by going up one of the paths now on the left (just past the public footpath sign - which points up a bank into bushes - and before Meadow Way on the right).