Bedford Rowing Lake at Willington

The Bedford rowing lake: a completely pointless, utterly futile project based on selfish, egotistical stupidity, which ruins the most sensible route for the East West Rail Link with zero compensating benefit to anyone

This is perhaps the best ever public example of the mind-boggling level of destructive stupidity which twenty years of living in the bloody place showed me very clearly to be utterly typical of Bedford council and the inhabitants of Bedford in general.

Of itself, the lake is merely yet another useless overhyped waste of public money supported on totally spurious grounds for reasons of egotistical wanking that have no connection with reality. Were that the only problem with it I'd probably not bother writing this page. But there is a far more serious problem with it - their moronic insistence on siting the thing at the one point where it completely fucks up a different project entirely, one which is of far more use to far more people than the tiny minority who are into rowing.

Bedford rowing lake plan
Plan of the proposed Bedford rowing lake at Willington. In blue, the lake. In red, the trackbed of the Bedford-Sandy railway line which would be ruined by the lake.

Perhaps the worst thing about the Beeching axe and other rail closures of that era is the way it totally fucked up the prospect of rail travel on routes which are not to or from London. It left us with a rail network that may be OK for going towards or away from London, but is for the most part bleeding useless for any journey at right angles to that. Bedford is a case in point. If you want to go to London, you're in clover. If you want to go the other way, to Leicester or Derby or Leeds or places on that axis, it's not exactly clover but it is decent grass. But if you want to go to Cambridge, you're fucked. It's twenty miles or so on a direct route, but by rail, you either have to go all the way into London and then all the way out again, or you have to go via Leicester, Peterborough and Ely, both of which routes are several times longer, take correspondingly bleeding ages, and cost a corresponding bleeding fortune. And going the other way, to Aylesbury or Oxford or places like that, it's much the same - you have to go either via London, or via Birmingham. Which is thoroughly shit.

It wasn't always like this. There used to be a continuous, direct route from Oxford via Bicester, Bletchley and Bedford through to Cambridge. But not any more. It got closed - leaving Bedford with no east-west rail connections apart from the short length to Bletchley. Local opposition to the closure turned out to be too strong, so that bit remained, albeit with a service which is both infrequent and fucking slow, but at least it exists.

Happily, unlike most rail closures, this one was not followed by the route being completely destroyed by being sold off and having crap built all over it. West of Bedford, it's pretty well all still there, having been retained for freight use. Most of it still even has track and those bits which don't there's nothing to stop it being put back. Bedford to Bletchley still has services, as mentioned, and Oxford to Bicester was reopened some time ago.

East of Bedford it's not quite so good but there still isn't much wrong with it. There's a bit of building on the route at Sandy, and a stretch near Cambridge has been taken over by the Mullard Radio Astronomy Observatory to build radio telescopes on, but neither of these is too much of an arse to build around, and any other obstructions don't amount to much.

Accordingly, there has always been a reasonable prospect of reopening the whole route, and a couple of decades or so ago these proposals got serious. Since then, under the aegis of the East West Rail group, there has been considerable progress, and they have now managed to winkle enough money out of the tight-arsed government (by far the biggest cause of delay) that the western part of it should soon be going ahead.

The eastern part, however, is more of a problem - because stupid bastard Bedford went and fucked it up.

Instead of giving the project full support like any local government with even the slightest vestige of sense would have done, they took no bleeding notice of it at all to begin with... and then, even worse, they sabotaged it. They came up with this totally fucking stupid idea to build this pointless bloody rowing lake right across the trackbed, cutting it in half - see the above map. It extends far enough north and south of the line that existing settlements and local topography make it a total arse to build around, and it crosses the line at a sufficiently shallow angle that any bridge across it would have to be ridiculously long and cost a fortune. Apart from building a road along the trackbed it's hard to imagine any one single thing they could have done that would so effectively fuck the whole thing up.

And for what? For fuck nothing. The "justifications" for it are too flaming ludicrous for words. They go on and on about how it will "really put Bedford on the map" and be the best thing that has happened to the area since sliced bread. They completely ignore the massively obvious point that NO FUCKER IS INTERESTED IN ROWING. If it was a football stadium or something like that - something which relates to a popular sport - they might have a point. But trying to make out that a facility for a sport that no cunt gives a shit about and whose vanishingly small number of enthusiasts are already well catered for by existing facilities all over the country will turn Bedford into the jewel of the fucking nation is so unbelievably fucking totally unrelated to reality that it is only in Bedford that there is a high enough concentration of brainless morons to make it seem even remotely worthwhile.

They have this moronic idea that because Olympic rower Tim Foster comes from Bedford, if they build a rowing lake then Bedford will suddenly magically produce a whole load more Olympic rowers and be really really famous for it. BULLSHIT. It will produce exactly as many Olympic rowers as it does already - ie. one every fifty blue moons. Becoming an Olympic rower does not depend on having a fucking lake, it depends on having a truly exceptional level of drive, commitment and determination. If anyone else from Bedford has sufficient of those qualities they will have a chance of becoming an Olympic rower, lake or no fucking lake. Just like Foster did himself. If they do not have those qualities, they will not become a rower, lake or no fucking lake. You either have them or you don't, you don't suddenly acquire them from fucking magic lake water or whatever they think it is will happen.

And what are the chances of anyone having them anyway? Essentially, fucking zilch. This is Bedford we're talking about, a town where - as I well know from 20 years living there - everyone is completely fucking useless. Especially, be it noted, the promoters of this stupid lake idea themselves. They got planning permission for it in 2006. It was supposed to be ready in time for the 2012 Olympics so events could be held there. Of course, what actually happened was it played no part in the 2012 Olympics whatsoever. Why? Because it doesn't exist. Why? Because having got the planning permission they then did precisely FUCK ALL for SIX YEARS except bloody talk about how fucking great it was going to be. And what are they doing now? Still blathering on about how fucking great it's going to be and still doing precisely fuck all about it. Seven years, now, since they got planning permission and they still haven't even put a spade in the ground. They haven't done a fucking thing.

(Do not, by the way, be misled on this point by the easily-googleable Bedfordshire News page titled "Rowing lake is half full as the rain pours down" into thinking that construction is well advanced. It isn't. Although it takes great care not to make it clear, that page is talking about flooded gravel pits which already exist on the site, whose water level was raised by heavy rain. The accompanying photograph which it claims is of the rowing lake in fact shows such a flooded gravel pit. That article is a piece of blatant journalistic deception, designed to conceal the truth rather than reveal it. The lake is not "half full" - it doesn't even bleeding exist. All that has really happened is that a piece of industrial waste ground got rained on. Whoop-de-bloody-do.)

Not only are they incapable of digging a fucking hole in the ground, they can't even run a fucking website. Before writing this page I checked to see whether it was still going or whether after failing to make it for the Olympics they'd dropped the idea. And it was not easy to find out. It doesn't say on their website. There's more or less nothing on their website and what there is is mostly several years out of date. There's fuck all on their facebook page either. There's fuck all on local news websites. There's fuck all anywhere. I managed to find about one bloody article about it from this year, which was still about people doing nothing but talk about it saying how great it was going to be - enough to confirm that it was still a live project, but giving absolutely no information whatsoever beyond that. Pretty much everything from the project themselves is several years out of date. Pretty well the only recent mentions of it are from supporters of the railway project complaining about the lake fucking it up...

That is really the most hopeful aspect of the entire business - if they're so staggeringly incompetent that they can't even keep a fucking website up to date, it does suggest very strongly that they're going to spend the next seven years doing exactly the same as they've done for the last seven years - fuck all except create hot air, and co-opt local news providers into publishing bullshit to make people think they are doing something when they're not. And this time without the promise of the Olympics coming up to spur them on. So there is still hope that the whole stupid business will come to nothing and the railway can be built after all - the main problem is that it'll probably take so fucking long for its failure to become evident that it'll be too late.

EAST WEST RAIL, TAKE NOTE! The lake cunts are all fucking mouth and no fucking trousers. They've spent seven years sat on their fat arses doing nothing but bloody talk. They're the biggest bunch of fucking useless wastes of oxygen you can think of. With a project so bleeding simple as digging a big hole and filling it with water it really is bloody pathetic. Make enough of a fuss about it, point out what a bunch of fucking useless waffle merchants they are, point out too that having missed the Olympics it's lost much of its raison d'ĂȘtre in any case, and the most logical and straightforward route still has a chance...

Fucksake, there isn't even any need for a lake in the first place. There's a fucking RIVER in Bedford. Guess what people who want to row do without a lake? That's right, they use the fucking river. And they can perfectly well carry on using the fucking river. It's not like there's no room on it. There's less rowing on it than there was on the river past my school which had only my school rowing on it. And anyway it's long enough, even if it was overcrowded all they'd have to do would be go a bit further down to an emptier bit. So it's not straight, it has bends in it? Whoop-de-fucking-do. The Thames in London has got bends on it and it doesn't stop them doing the Oxford-Cambridge boat race there. The rivers in Oxford and Cambridge have got even more fucking bends and it doesn't stop them practising for the race there. And as I pointed out above, Tim Foster managed perfectly well without a special lake. Not only does it fuck the railway project up, it doesn't even provide any facility which doesn't exist already.

And even if they must have a lake, why the fuck do they insist on digging the fucking thing right across the trackbed when they've got the whole of bleeding Bedfordshire to put it in? The area around Bedford is absolutely stiff with disused clay pits and gravel pits which are full of water and nobody knows what to do with them (apart from bitch and moan about people swimming in them when the weather gets hot, which is further proof of the outrageous level of stupidity in the area). There are fuck loads of the things. They're everywhere. There are a metric fuckload of other places they could stick their fucking lake, plenty of which do receive significant insolation, without fucking anything else up. So why in the name of pissing shitearsed fuck do the bloodyminded fools ignore all the numerous more suitable sites and insist on putting it in the most damaging location possible?

In all my time in Bedford I never once felt in any way disadvantaged because there wasn't a rowing lake. And nor did anyone else I ever met. What a surprise. On the other hand, there were several occasions on which it would have been fucking useful to be able to get to Cambridge or Sandy or Biggleswade on the train. And if only the benighted morons who think this lake is such a fucking brilliant idea would take their thick heads out of their arses and accept the fact which is so obvious that anyone else can see it with their eyes shut - that the so-called benefits of the lake are entirely imaginary and nothing more than the product of wishful thinking taken to its most ridiculous extreme, such that even in fairyland it would have a negligible chance of coming true - then they might realise the truth: that they too would have no more use for the rowing lake than a fish has for a bicycle; that they would never make any use of it themselves, whereas a useful rail service to points east and west of Bedford they more than likely would use sooner or later... even if they only used it once in their lives it would still have been more useful to them than a bleeding lake.

And one final point. The promotional blah for the lake includes the statement that... it would have good rail links!!! WOULD IT FUCK! It would have no fucking rail links at all. The nearest station would be Bedford which is five miles away in one direction or Sandy which is five miles the other. Having to walk five miles across country after you get off the train does NOT count as a "good rail link". A real "good rail link" would mean having a station which is actually close to the site, ie. actually in Willington... and it is the lake itself which will make sure there isn't one! Not only is the "good rail links" propaganda a lie, it is the very thing they are mispromoting with that lie that guarantees that it will remain a lie!

FUCK THE BEDFORD ROWING LAKE. REOPEN THE BEDFORD-SANDY RAILWAY. AND STOP BEING SO GODFORSAKENLY FUCKING STUPID.




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