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Located in the east midlands of England is the small and often overlooked county of Bedfordshire. Although less famous than other counties of the UK it nevertheless has some interesting sights, a long history and a variety of places to go and see. This article will hopefully enlighten those who think the Great Ouse is a Yorkshire river and show that Bedford Vans are in fact made in Luton.
Some facts and figures
Bedfordshire is located due north of London with its southern border only 30 miles away from the capital. It is one of the smallest counties in the UK at 1235 km2 and has a population of approximately 560,000.1 It is bordered by the counties of Buckinghamshire, Hertfordshire, Cambridgeshire and Northamptonshire. Some would have it located in the region of East Anglia but it is more properly considered as a Shire county of the East Midlands.
The major population centres of Beds'2 are the towns of Bedford - the county town, Luton - the largest town, Biggleswade, Dunstable, Sandy and Flitwick. Bedford lies on the River Great Ouse which flows into the sea at the Wash which divides Lincolnshire and Norfolk.
Located largely in the commuter belt from London one would think that much of population is white and middle class but in fact Bedfordshire is one of the most racially divers counties in the UK due to both war and economic migration. However its rural but commuter belt location does make it a largely expensive place to live with house prices typical of the South East of England. At the time of writing the average house price in Bedfordshire is £180,000.
Bedfordshire is a rather flat county geographically although the eastern fringes of the Chiltern Hills sneak into the south of the county in the form of the Dunstable Downs. The ancient glaciers of the last Ice Age reached their southern limit in Bedfordshire and have left their legacy in terms of thick clay soil that is the bane of many a gardener. Beneath the soil is the London Aqcuifer beneath a layer of limestone leaving Bedfordshire with a plentiful supply of hard drinking water.
The ancient county of Bedfordshire is recorded in the Domesday book and the town of Bedford was indeed a major town in England at this time in history. In later ledgers of a similar ilk it is listed as a city. However its star faded somewhat in the Middle Ages when a series of conflicts between the Barons of Bedford and the King of England led to King Henry III laying seige to Bedford castle in 1224 and sacking it, ending the Baron's power and life. To this day the castle mound - attractively located by the river - is by law not allowed to be above a certain height and no building on it is allowed. Although the power of the Barons have faded the Dukes of Bedford, a later aristocratic clan are senior figures in the aristocracy of the UK and have their historic seat at Woburn Abbey near Luton/Dunstable.