Not many larks to be had in this park

PERHAPS it was the weather. Or perhaps it was the fact that I was due to return to work the next day after a week’s holiday.

Either way, my visit to Harrold-Odell Country Park was a bit of a gloomy affair.

I’d been up to the north of Bedfordshire a couple of times, and been taken with the pretty towns and villages. Harrold itself is a very quaint affair, so I had high hopes for the park.

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It’s easy to find, and its informative website meant I was well prepared for the fact that I was expected to donate £1 for car parking (not that you’d be able to forget once you arrive, what with the number of signs to remind you).

The aspect upon arrival reminded me of one of the fishing lakes my husband might frequent – functional and a bit bleak. Which isn’t really a surprise, as, like many of the lakes he visits, the site is a former gravel workings.

We donned our wellies and set off, heading for one of the information boards and selecting the longer trail around the park, which the board indicated would take about 45 minutes.

The first part of our walk took us through field where cows were grazing – something that always sets me slightly on edge – but fortunately our bovine companions showed little interest in our presence.

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The field is bordered on one side by the River Great Ouse, giving ten minutes or so of pleasant walking along the river. We got our dose of wildlife by accidentally disturbing a heron, and stopped for a few minutes to try and spot the bird chattering away in the reeds. Unfortunately we only managed to catch a fleeting glimpse of him – a reed bunting perhaps? I’ll have to take my RSPB field guide with me next time, and my binoculars.

Leaving the field and entering a small area of woodland, we followed the signs for the Grebe Lake. There was plenty of activity on the lake – ducks, swans, geese and cormorants, and we continued on the path until we reached a fork, where you could either continue around the Grebe Lake, or head off to the adjacent village of Odell.

We chose the former, continuing on the well-maintained path until we reached another area of woodland, the path through which leads you to the visitor centre and the Tea-Zels cafe.

Now, I’m pretty easily excited by the prospect of food and drink, and a scan of the cafe menu revealed a good range of lunch dishes, light bites, drinks and cakes.

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What wasn’t so appealing, though, was the price – £6.95 for a jacket potato and filling is way too steep in my opinion. Clearly, economic woes aren’t something that trouble the customers at Tea-Zels.

I also took issue with the visitor centre being full of cafe tables and chairs – to look at the information on display you would have to squeeze around other people while they sat and ate, not a very appealing prospect for either party.

A bit miffed, we headed off to Olney, a very attractive town just a few miles away, where we enjoyed a two-course lunch at the Kasbah restaurant for £7.50 each.

All in all, Harrold-Odell Country Park left me a bit cold. It’s not really big enough to have decent walking potential, and what is there is a bit, well, boring.

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Don’t get me wrong, they’ve tried to make it a bit more interesting with the addition of carved animal figures and informative displays here and there about the site’s history and wildlife.

But other than that, there’s little to tempt those who like their great outdoors a bit more stimulating.

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