Friday 29th April to Sunday 1st May at Wyboston Conference Centre, just south of St Neots, which is just a few miles north and east of Bedford.
We went by train – Brighton to Bedford direct, and we went on Thursday to avoid being in London on the big wedding day.
The Oxford to Cambridge bus (X5) dropped us a few hundred yards from our destination, but separated from it by two busy junctions without pedestrian crossings. Shouldn’t complain, at least the A1 bypasses the town now. And that cuddly company Cath Kidston has its distribution centre here – a warehouse so big its probably visible from space – well it is, on Google maps satellite view.
Conference is often at a university, during a vacation, when the bars typically cease to sell real ale because they don’t have the numbers to drink it. What a delight to find this place put on three beers for us. Only Greene King: Speckled Hen, IPA and one I didn’t know – Sorcerer, a seasonal beer.
We braved the dual carraigeway in the evening and found dinner at a riverside (River Great Ouse) mill, now pub, where I heard a cuckoo. The main road through Eaton Socon is called the Great North Road, and has some interesting buildings on it, including this curry house which was once thatched – look at the chimney for the evidence.
On friday we explored the immediate area. Alongside the River Great Ouse there are small lakes where sand or gravel have been extracted. Some have been filled in, and rabbits have brought up the fill around their burrows. Pale gray gritty sand, more properly power station ash from a nearby coal fired plant. This has gone, replaced with a back-up gas fired plant.
A local told me he filmed the blowing up of the old cooling towers on an early video camera. A Blue Peter fan got to press the plunger.
In the centre of town large houses have been demolished and new estates have been packed in behind the old walls, to the east of the station Love Farm is now a huge housing development – Kings Cross just 45 minutes by early commuter train. A taxi driver said that the station has ‘the poorest facilities for its passenger numbers’ of any station in the region.
Crossed the Hen Brook, a tiny tributary of the main river, where swans are nesting amidst the plastic rubbish. Charming really.
In the north of the town I found the Lord John Russell – the most southerly of the Batemans estate apparently. This was one of many topics discussed in the pub where mention of the big wedding was banned. What a lucky fellow I am.
Bateman’s bitter is called XB, and their Easter special has chocolate malt and is called ‘Eggs B’ – geddit? The landlord brought over a chocolate pump clip to show me, said they had three delivered but his wife had eaten the other two.
Another beer I tried was called All Seasons – I asked why. It used to be called Autumn Ale, and was one of their seasonal range, but became so popular that they have it on all seasons now.
Heading back through town I passed a Baptist chapel with a delightful gravestone set in the wall. Seems his passing came as a surprise to everyone.
I walked back along the riverbank footpath where yesterday’s cuckoo was calling from an ash tree. It stayed long enough for me to photograph. Note the classic sign of dropped wings when calling.
By the river I spotted this view:
The following day we went on a coach trip to look at some dials, I took this picture from the top deck of our coach.