Wednesday, 23 October 2019

Bedford to Huntingdon

4th September 2019

This section of the journey Around the County Towns is taking me through a large number of small counties with county towns that are not very far apart.

As my old Bartholomew's "Reduced Survey Map of the British Isles" shows, sincde leaving Leicestershire I've passed through Rutland, The Soke of Peterborough, Northamptonshire and Bedfordshire  -all small entities with their county towns no more than a bus ride or two away from each other.

With the Isle of Ely and Cambridgeshire still to come, I left Bedford on Grant Palmer service 28, with a departure time of 09.10 meaning that I had to pay a fare - £4.70 - that seemed steep, although in the event I got rather more mileage out of it than I'd intended.

Heading north from Bedford, the bus meandered along unclassifued roads and through a series of small villages, most of which looked as if they hadn't produced a passenger for many years. As with many such services, the 28 is an amalgamation of several once-separate routes although the overall service level offered to passengers isn't really that much worse than it was 50 years ago.

I was looking forward to crossing the Huntingdonshire border at Tilbrook and we were only two miles short of our destination of Kimbolton when we were brought up short by a police car blocking the road ahead at a junction.

Our road ahead to Kimbolton was closed "due to an incident". With help from the policeman our driver executed a three point turn and we set off back down the narrow lane we had come from on a five mile journey to join the alternative road into the village, where the service was due to terminate.

I was the only passenger on board at the time and, in fact, there had only been one other throughout the entire run, so I offered to return to Bedford and find another way of getting to Huntingdon if that would help the driver keep to some semblance of the timetable for the return trip but he was insistent that he had to go to Kimbolton "in case anyone was waiting to go to Bedford.

The much delayed service 28 on its way back to Bedford at Kimbolton.
We eventually arrived in the village almost 20 minutes late (a remarkable achievement in the circumtances) but even then, after dropping me off, he carried on to reach Tilbrook (the village we had been less than a mile away from when we turned round) and I later saw the bus on its way back to Bedford well over half-an-hour behind time.

Just before reaching Kimbolton, at the hamlet of "Wood End", I entered Huntingdonshire.

HUNTINGDONSHIRE    County Town:  Huntingdon

Flag of Huntingdonshire
The modern boundaries of Huntingdonshire can be traved back to Anglo-Saxon times and the county council was established, along with all the others, in 1889. In 1965 it was merged with the Soke of Peterborough to form the administrative county of "Huntingdon and Peterborough". Further reorganisation in 1974 saw Peterborough returned to Northamptonshire and Huntingdonshire incorporated into Cambridgeshire for local government purposes.
Georgaphical Huntingdonshire is adminsitered by a District Council known as "Huntingdonshire District Council" but attempts to gain unitary status to allow the return of a "Huntingdonshire County Council" were refused by the Local Government Commission on the grounds that, unlike Rutland or Herefordshire, there was "no exceptional allegiance to the county" amongst its inhabitants.

The delay to my arrival in Kimbolton meant that I missed my connection onto the very infrequent Day's Coaches bus to St. Neots. Fortunately I had a "Plan B", although this involved spending an hour in the village.

At one time, the village main street formed part of the A428 which was then a significant east-west link and I remember driving through there on my way to East Anglia, the sharp bends at either end of the wide main street were familar.  There wasn't much to do. The pubs weren't open yet and the only coffee shop looked expensive. After sitting at a table for five minutes during which no one appeared to take my order I thought better of it and went for a walk round instead.

Whippett Coaches' service 400 on to Bedford is also an infrequent bus, but 
despite the journey being the only one taking shoppers into town on market day it was very lightly loaded with just four of us on board.

Huntingdon bus station and cafe/waiting room

For a small town, Huntingdon has a surprisingly well-equipped bus station, complete with comprehensive information displays, toilets, a waiting room and even a cafe.
Arriving just after midday, it was too early to book into my accommodation and the Museum of Oliver Cromwell (one of the town's famous sons) although interesting, proved smaller than expected so after a walk around the market - surprisingly held in the main (pedestrainised) street rather in what looked like an obvious market place nearby, I spend a couple of hours walking out to nearby Godmanchester, more to say I'd been there than anything, before catching a bus back.

Huntingdon is almost certainly the end of this journey for 2019. I hope to be able to restart the adventure in the Spring, circumstances permitting!