Bedford Rowing Lake at Willington

It's dead! It's dead! It's hit on the head! See Update.

The Bedford rowing lake: a completely pointless, utterly futile project based on selfish, egotistical stupidity, which ruinswould have ruined 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'être 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!


Update: It's dead!

Oh, this is fucking HILARIOUS.

Bedford Bleeding Borough Council, having first tried to sabotage the East-West Rail link plans with their dumb-arsed lake project, have now... sabotaged their own bleeding lake. They have spent so long sitting around with their thumbs up their arses that the organisations that were providing the funding have got pissed off with nothing happening and have pulled the plug. So the lake has had it, and the only movement from now on will be the crawling of the maggots in the corpse. And on top of that, they have lost the opportunity to palm off onto the lake's funders the cost of decontaminating the land from whatever was left behind from its industrial past. Now they are going to have to pay for that themselves, and there is even a suggestion that they might get done for it, although that is probably just hype.

From Beds on Sunday, 21 May 2016:

PLANS for a world class rowing lake and river valley park have been scuppered by borough council delays.

The original proposal to convert a quarry site, between Bedford and Willington, into a national rowing lake dates back to the late 1990s. Planning consent was given in 2006 and a "landmark dinner and open day" was held in October 2012.

But it appears Bedford has now lost the asset, which could have made the council millions.

The project was being backed and financed by two local charities, the Connolly Foundation and the Poynter Trust.

Both have now pulled out, citing delay upon delay by the council and despite the lake being part of the Bedford Borough plan. The charities say they cannot put aside money that could be better spent elsewhere any longer, despite quarrying being completed on the site.

Andrew Rowe, of the Poynter Trust, said: "Borough officers appear determined to sabotage their own council's adopted policy. We are walking away, as we cannot keep committing charitable funds to a project that is blocked at every turn, leaving taxpayers with the problems of the blight caused by the contaminated land between Cople and Willington."

The beauty of the low-cost scheme was that, rather than fill in the holes after the quarrying was finished, they could just be left, joined up and hey presto a lake. But Mr Rowe said a non-material amendment to alter restoration level condition had been slipped through in 2012, meaning the planned lake would be dry (FFS ~ P) and making the council-owned land more vulnerable to flooding.

He said two further attempts had also been made by council officers to dilute the original planning conditions.

A spokesman for Bedford Borough Council insisted the authority was "ready and eager to sign a deal to enable the project to go ahead". (Well, he would, wouldn't he ~ P) He added: "The council has been extremely supportive of plans for the project at every stage, and we hope that the promoters can make an agreement with all of the landowners involved."

Also from Beds on Sunday, 21 January 2017:

FEARS have been expressed that by failing to progress a country park Bedford Borough Council could find itself having to resolve major contamination issues that could cost millions of pounds.The council could even face criminal charges.

The land identified by the council for the Bedford River Valley Park, a country park between Willington and east Bedford, was once a quarry and before that a waste dumping ground, of general household waste as well as former power station landfill material.


The Connolly Foundation, a Bedfordshire based charity, planned to build a fresh water lake for rowing and other boating activities, as well as a centre of excellence for Bedfordshire students, a retirement village, science and technology park and hotel to a community value of £100m.

The whole scheme would have been paid for by the Connolly Foundation, along with another local charity the Poynter Charitable Trust. On top of that, landowners, mainly the Borough Council and Forest of Marston Vale Trust, would have netted £10m.

The Charities would then have also been responsible for removing the contamination in the land, which is quite serious and, if nothing is done, could leak into the River Great Ouse.

It is a criminal offence under the Water Resources Act to cause or knowingly permit contaminating material to enter controlled waters.

Bedford Borough Council would have pocketed £4 million, plus avoided contamination liability, which may render the development site worthless, by agreeing a deal with the Connolly Foundation to create the River Valley Park.

But last year the Foundation pulled out, after many years of delay and obstruction by the council.

One of the main areas of dispute was the council's demand for more money for their land, known in council jargon as "uplift".

Legal advice has been taken and states: "Broadly speaking, liability to third parties may arise if the owners know about the substances giving rise to contamination, has had the power to do something about them and has failed to do so."

An Insolvency expert states: "The Charities have spent considerable sums on obtaining and implementing a planning consent now being frustrated by the same Borough Council's inaction. You may want to consider taking action for recourse given that the uplift clause was never a feature in the heads of agreement. I'm also very concerned for the councillors at BBC given that there may be criminal and financial implications for both the council and its councillors".


Googling with reveals various other articles charting the gradual death of the proposal, going back to 2013 or thereabouts - which if I remember rightly is when I first wrote this web page, or most of it. It's quite obvious that once their original dithering had seen the Olympics come and go with nothing to show beyond the accumulation of rainwater in existing puddles, they completely lost interest and stopped giving even a dust-mite's shit about it. (It's also kind of amusing that the same search brings up more recent results concerning the other rowing lake, a parents-and-kiddies-type splash-about pond next to the river right in the town... being full of shit because they can't even manage to dig that out, never mind a huge massive olympical one.)

Proposed routes for the central section of the East West Rail
link, between Bedford and Cambridge, 2016
Proposed routes for the central section of the
East West Rail link, between Bedford and Cambridge, 2016

And as well as that... we now know that the East-West link probably is going to be built over the original Bedford-Sandy alignment! Well, nearly probably. On Network Rail's website, we find the following statement:

The geographical corridor of Bedford to Cambridge via Sandy was confirmed in February 2016 as offering the best value for all.

Also on that page is the Engineering Summary Report (also here), dated 15 Feb 2016 but only uploaded to the NR site in March 2017, from which is taken the map on the right. Of the various options depicted, the "Engineering Summary Report" is strongly in favour of the various "C-something" options (apparently mainly because they are neshing out of fettling Old Warden tunnel; fucksake, it's not in that bad nick); and of those, it most favours route C2-2. I suppose it was predictable that they would choose something fucking stupid - something OBVIOUSLY FUCKING STUPID because it DOESN'T FUCKING SERVE BEDFORD FOR FUCK'S SAKE. And it goes neatly in between Sandy and Biggleswade without serving either of them, instead squeezing through the gap as if it was afraid of catching the lurgy. And it also keeps itself away from the only other two settlements of any size between the ECML and Cambridge. Stupid fucking cunts. But then, although it calls itself an "engineering" report, it actually has fuck all to do with engineering; instead it's composed entirely of the stupid economic bollocks which these days they insist on nachplappering by the cubic kilometre before they ever do anything, whereas the original Victorian railway builders would just have fucking got on and done it, and had it finished and up and running, and using all hand labour too, before the modern-day hot air merchants had got even a quarter of the way through talking bollocks at each other. So it's not too surprising that it says fucking stupid things.

Of course, the Victorians weren't perfect. They too were rather fond of pretending to "serve" a town by building a station wherever the railway line happened to cross a road leading to the town, never mind that the town was five bleeding miles away, and calling the station "something Road". This was, of course, shit. Even back then everyone thought it was shit. Towns that had a joke "something Road" station were at a disadvantage compared to towns with a proper station in the middle of town, and they knew it, and they were pissed off about it, and they kept badgering the railway companies to give them a proper station until one of them finally did it. Only by then it was usually too late and the town ended up staying shit anyway.

And that's exactly what these dozy fuckers are thinking of: building a "Bedford Road" station at the point where route C2-2 crosses the MML. For fuck's sake. That's bleeding way out of the fucking town and completely fucking useless. Even if they run a shuttle between there and Bedford Midland it's still going to be shit. And we know this full well because that was one of the solutions the Victorians used to overcome the difficulty of having a "something Road" station and it was shit then and it's still shit now in the places where it still happens. Repeating this same fucking stupid mistake that we have known to be a stupid mistake ever since railways first started happening is thoroughly fucking moronic, and calling the station "Bedford Parkway" instead of "Bedford Road" does precisely fuck all to change the fact that if you are actually in Bedford rather than the fields to the south of it, because you are not a cow and you live in a house, it is a fucking long way to walk out to that point. Fine for Elstow Storage Depot (aka "Wixams"), thoroughly fucking shite for everyone else.

Still, the situation is not entirely hopeless, because the report's second most favourite option is route C1-1 - ie. the original route through Bedford and out to Sandy. This does meet the requirement that "East West Rail trains MUST call at Bedford Midland otherwise it will be shit". Granted it doesn't meet it as well as might be wished for, since it still involves a reversal. But it is a fucking sight better than missing Bedford out altogether and whizzing past a few miles to the south of it.

And C1-1 is by far the easiest way to meet this essential requirement. C1-8 and C1-9 meet it even better, by allowing through running; but I am amazed that they even considered those routes, and I would be utterly astonished if they actually built one of them. Given the way the ground rises to the north of Bedford, roughly parallel to the MML, getting round that way would involve either a rise nearly as high as that to Sharnbrook summit but with a lot less room to do it in, or a big-arse tunnel. It would be great if they did it, brought it in a bit closer than shown on the map, and provided a "Bedford East" station to serve the Putnoe/Brickhill area, but with the way they're whining and mithering about Old Warden tunnel, it makes no fucking sense for them to also be thinking that a route involving far more engineering work than fettling up a fairly short, fairly sound existing tunnel is something to praise rather than mither about. (It's also kind of daft the way options C1-1 and C1-8 cross over between Bedford and Sandy, but are still considered as two separate and alternative route options when really there are four options.)

Since this report is by no means final, and they intend to spend several more years blabbering shit at each other before they actually fucking do anything, there is still some hope that sense will prevail. Finding any more recent news seems to be bleeding impossible, but this article at least seems to think that going through Bedford rather than round it is on the cards.

And at no point in the report (unless I've missed it, and I don't think I did) is there any mention of possible obstruction to the route by a rowing lake. They seem to have been fully aware all the way through that they could just ignore it. I wonder if they read this web page? :)

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