The problem with spending so much time on your own and with an over-active imagination is that your brain processes all sorts of shit for too long a period of time. As I was hiking the hinterlands of Fun-Gary (Hello to my mate the mechanic!) earlier today taking in all the scenic splendour of New Zealand’s Northland I got thinking along the lines of what if….

Well, what if I meet this stunning Kiwi lass while I’m out here, fall head over heels in love, we end up marrying and decide to move to Blighty. How the hell would I tear her away from all this?

Fun-Gary probably doesn’t get into the top twenty of NZ attractions, because like the Greatest British Song Ever Written there’s far too many contenders vying for a place among the elite. Heading out from the Town Basin, along the Hatea River through the gently picturesque Mair Park and the rainforest of Kauri Park up to the dramatic Fun-Gary Falls before heading back down to the historic harbour via the Abbey Caves, the views are effortlessly stunning pretty much everywhere you look.

As much as I’m proud dear old Bedfordshire, the miles of ever-changing powerful panoramas of this part of the world knock my beloved home county into a cocked hat. Then I got thinking, you know what?, home’s home. Bedfordshire may not have the stand-out sensational selling points of this particular underrated part Northland in this wonderful country, but delve a little deeper and Bedfordshire is a real treasure trove, a celebration of life. So without further ado, here are, in no particular order, The Seven Wonders of Bedfordshire (according to Dances With Chazzwazzers, anyway….):

1. The Forest of Marston Vale. Running south from the county town of Bedford towards the M1 motorway, this regenerated woodland area, through many years hard work, has triumphantly morphed from a brick making backwater to an outstanding area of natural beauty. Surf Brogborough Lake, take a trip on the Vale’s train (The Fenny Flyer) or walk or bike among segments of the 61 square miles of countryside to get for a tangible understanding of the thinking man’s dales.

2. The Devonshire Arms, Bedford. So hang on, there’s no TV blaring out some inconsequential rubbish, no pool table, dart board or fruities? No over-bearing moronic Muzak? No food? So no drizzles of this? No reductions of that? Nothing involving a pretentious use of an everyday kitchen item for the benefit of a small quantity of grub and a large portion of chef’s ego? Nope.
Just good ale and lots of it. And genial hospitality (Hello Martin & Naomi!). And conversation. An oasis in the desert of mediocrity that passes for Bedford’s pub scene.

3. Woody’s Tree. This venerable Baum proudly acts as the unofficial gateway to the picture-postcard villages of Ickwell, Northill and Old Warden as well as one of the county’s main tourist attractions, The Shuttleworth Collection. Get past Woody’s Tree and you’ve safely made it away from the suffocating new towns, the insufferable retail parks and into an idyllic world of village greens and South Eastern Bedfordshire woodland. This iconic tree was so-named after one of my chums (Hello Wood-man!) once acclaimed, unannounced, on the way back from football, “Wow, that’s a great tree. I’m naming it after me”, and so an arboreal legend was born.

4. Hulcote. I have been lucky enough to live here for thirty-odd years and as hamlets go its probably the best in the world. No pubs, shops, or Drive Thrus. No matter. Steeped in history, Elizabeth I is said to have favoured one of the local properties as a summer retreat, while during the last war Winston Churchill stayed in another of the houses when overseeing operations at nearby Bletchley Park. in addition to this, the church, St. Nicholas, is one of few that escaped Henry VIII’s little strop around about the reformation. In addition to local lore, there’s plenty more countryside to lose yourself in and pleasant farmland. The garden cricket is pretty good too.

5. The Burger Van Outside The Kenilworth Road End, Luton. “Naaaaaaaxxxxtt Puh-leeeeeaaaasssse!” An ear-splitting, banshee-like announcement beckons you forward. Come rain, shine, snow, fog, light drizzle and through thin and thinner these girls are there, furnishing thousands of Hatters fans with their pre-match tucker. Work makes you fry. And they don’t half work hard those girls in the van. Demonstrating the principles that made our country great; industry, humour, pride, enterprise and over-reliance on greasy foodstuffs, no one walks away from this eatery underfed or disappointed. That comes ninety minutes later.

6. Battlesden Hill. (Hello Hill Farm folk! X) Simply stunning, sweeping views of Bedfordshire. Time always seems to stand still when I’m here. Overlooking the South West of the county, it is a sight that takes in busy green hills full of sheep and cattle, far away rustic villages and of a time when things were surely simpler. Evocative scenes that bring all those emotions of love of county and country that we English, frankly, are for the most part dissuaded from experiencing.

7.

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Enough said….

Postscript. Oh yeah, that stunning Kiwi lass from my imagination earlier? Sadly she is just (as with a lot of other things in my head), how would Captain Mainwaring term it; in the realms of fantasy.

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