Bedford’s stunning Embankment is one of the most beautiful places in the centre of town. Just a few minutes’ walk from the town centre, you can get away from the hustle and bustle and enjoy a relaxed environment. From Victorian times, the Embankment has been enjoyed by all, with its tree lined avenues and open spaces. The recently restored Victorian bandstand is a stunning landmark in the middle of the beautiful riverbank walk. Until quite recently, open air concerts were held in the bandstand most afternoons and some Summer Events still take place there. The River Ouse has many iconic bridges, the Suspension bridge probably being the most famous. Opened in 1888, it links the Embankment and Mill Meadows. The River Great Ouse through Bedford is a great venue for walking with over ten miles of footpaths, from Willington to Bromham, frequently on both sides of the River. The river, which runs through Bedford, must certainly be described as the Jewel in the Crown. It supplied the power to grind corn at Duckmill and Newnham. In the 21st century the river once again supplies power with the new Hydro Power Plant on the site of the former Bedford Boat Slide close to the Bedford Schools’ Boathouse. In the 1970’s the locks, which had fallen into disrepair, were rebuilt and the river was once again open to the sea. These days the river is host to one of the largest free outdoor events, second only to London’s Notting Hill Carnival. The biannual River festival takes place in July on alternate years, the next one is 2018 and there is also an annual regatta on the river.
Addison Howard Park
This park sits in the grounds of Grange House, which was donated to the people of Kempston by the Howard family. The park has superb sports facilities including tennis courts and basketball courts. There are also activities in the park throughout the year such as fun fairs and fundraising events, the Kempston Fun Day and Chill in the Park.
Each year since 2007 Bedford Park has been awarded green flag status, an award given to the parks that reflect the highest standards. football, cricket, rounders and bowls are all played there. The recently restored old Pavilion building now houses the award winning Pavilion in the Park. Set in stunning surroundings, Bedford Pavilion is the jewel in the crown of Bedford Park, an all-day coffee bar cafe destination and a hub for the Bedford Park Community. Open 7 days a week, all year round.
Harrold Country Park
On the Carlton Road between Harrold and Odell, there are 144 acres of fabulous Green Flag award winning parkland to explore, including two lakes and a nature reserve. The reserve has clear paths and a hide for bird watching. The River Ouse also runs through the park. The park is served by Tea-Zels Café, which is open 9am – 4pm every day (except Christmas & New Year) for breakfast, coffee or lunch. There are also picnic areas (no barbecues).
With more outdoor sports pitches than any other park in Bedford and Kempston, this large open space offers cricket pitches, 11 a-side football pitches, tennis courts, bowls and rugby. The cricket, football and rugby pitches can all be booked through Bedford Borough Council via the sports bookings team. Football and rugby are available from April to September whilst the cricket pitches and bowling green are from May to August/September. The tennis courts area available all year round and are completely free to use by the public with no advanced booking required. There are also dedicated age specific play areas and BMX biking. The Four Seasons Café offers the perfect place to stop for coffee, cake and sandwiches.
Priory Marina Country Park
Derived from gravel pits formed from the 1950s until 1978 and opened in 1986, Priory Marina is now a Green Flag Park offering 300 acres of beautiful country park within walking distance from the Embankment and Town Centre. The park features a marina with a gift shop situated alongside a bar, restaurant and Travel Lodge. There are many riverside walks, cycle path routes, boating facilities, bird watching huts and more. In addition to wildlife, there is beautiful flora and fauna and in the summer it is a favourite family spot. The Cloverdale Retreat Café is the newest addition, with homemade cakes and great coffee with extensive free car parking and a children’s play area close by. Wheelchair access from a point at the rear of the building and near the car park. Open from 10am to 3pm on all 7 days per week.
Perfect for families with sandy areas and exciting climbing frames for a variety of ages and with a lovely café, this park is well worth making the trip to Bedford for. Situated on the Embankment, the park provides sports pitches, tennis courts, open space for play and beautiful herbaceous gardens. It was opened as a recreation ground at the end of the 19th century about 10 years after the widening of the river and opening of the Suspension Bridge. Also home to The Kiosk in the Park, a charming community hub and al fresco cafe offering great coffee, delicious cakes and plenty of fresh air! Opening times 9am- 6pm Low Season 9am-4pm