Bedfordshire is the smallest of the "Shire" counties, of only 480 square miles. It does not have any cities, but has the fine market towns of Bedford, Luton and Dunstable. The county stretches across the plain of the River Ouse to the Chiltern Hills and is a great wheat growing area on rich clay soil. The north of the county is mainly agricultural, with the south being mostly industrial. Bedfordshire is not a county for startling and dramatic scenery, but there is quiet and gentle countryside with a great deal of natural and man-made beauty. There are gentle hills and valleys, which rise to the highest point in the south at 801 feet on the chalk downs at Dunstable in the Chiltern Hills.
Luton Airport has international flights and was made famous by Lorraine Chase in the Campari television advertisement. Whipsnade Zoo at Dunstable attracts thousands of visitors.
Bedford, the county town, has a long history dating back to 1166, when Henry II granted Bedford its Charter. It is the second oldest Charter in England. The market culture remains strong and regular markets are held in Harpur Square and St. Paul's Square. The town can be reached from London by train in 35 minutes.
A journey into the north Bedfordshire countryside rewards the visitor with charming villages, friendly country pubs and traditional village fairs. Elstow is a beautiful village where John Bunyan was born. The Abbey Church of St. Helena and St. Mary, overlooking Elstow Green, contains the communion table used when Bunyan attended the church and the font where he was christened in 1628. John Bunyan's mother, father and sister, are buried in the graveyard. John Bunyan wrote, 'Pilgrim's Progress' while he was in prison in Bedford Jail. He is buried in Bunhill Fields, City Road, London, EC1.
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