Heath and Reach

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Heath and Reach
HandR village pump.jpg
Heath Green, the pump and the pub
Grid reference: SP925280
Location: 51°56’35"N, 0°39’20"W
Population: 1,350  (2001)
Post town: Leighton Buzzard
Postcode: LU7
Dialling code: 01525
Local Government
Council: Central Bedfordshire
South West Bedfordshire

Heath and Reach is a village near the Chiltern Hills in Bedfordshire. It is two miles north of Leighton Buzzard and three miles south of Woburn, beside the border with Buckinghamshire.

The parish is bounded in the southwest by the River Ouzel, in the north-east by the A5 (Watling Street), and includes the Kings's Wood nature reserve and the famous 400-acre Rushmere Country Park woods. In Heath and Reach is an 18-hole golf course. The Leighton Buzzard Narrow Gauge Railway, a heritage narrow gauge railway, is here too.

Nearby within the county are Leighton Buzzard and the Duke of Bedford's Woburn Abbey, with Woburn Safari Park and Woburn Golf Club, while across the county border are Linslade and Great Brickhill.


The village's name is somewhat unusual, as a single place bearing two joined names, as once Heath was a separate hamlet from Reach, but they grew together.

The name 'Heath' is first found in the Assize Rolls for Bedfordshire in 1276 as le Hethe, meaning just what it sounds like, as much of the parish's landscape is sandy heathland.

'Reach' is first recorded in the Ramsey Abbey cartulary between 1216 and 1231 as Reche. The word reach usually refers to a portion of river but the only part of the parish by the Ouzel is around Nares Gladley, which was a separate hamlet and far from Reach Green: Mawer and F M Stenton in 1926 suggested it as meaning "way, path, narrow path up a cleft or ravine" from the Old Norse word rák, which again does not fit the situation of Reach, unless it refers to the narrow path from Reach to Leighton Buzzard which ran past Craddock's Camp.

Nares Gladley is a mystery. The Nares element is comparatively modern, not found until after the Middle Ages. Gladley is an ancient name first recorded in the Domesday Book of 1086 as Gledelai and has gone through a number of variations: Gledele or Gledeleg (1131-1379); Gledeleia (1176); Gladelaia (1176); Gladelea (1177) and Gledley or Gledeley (1499); it may from an Anglo-Saxon personal name Glæda, and so Glæda's meadow".

Heath and Reach are first seen together as late as 1750 as Hetheredge, or Heathanreach in 1785.

Parish church

The Church of St Leonard, the parish church, dates from the 1580s[1] but in today's form it is essentially a late Georgian church. In the manner of Georgian ideas, it is a bright church, using the best effects of the light. It has a semi-circular apse, and there is a lovely stained glass window in the porch.


A sizeable Roman settlement stood in the parish, connected with the Roman Road, Watling Street, which runs through. Fragments of pottery, coins and traces of buildings were found in 1971 near Overend Green Farm, by the road.[2][3]

The village was originally two small hamlets in the Royal Manor of Leighton (also known as Grovebury) and records are found for Heath in 1220 and Reach in 1216.[4] The village boasts several Grade II listed properties.

As part of the Royal Manor of Leighton, Heath and Reach belonged to the Crown, but a lease was granted lasting over many centuries. By 1587 the lessee was held by Sir Christopher Hoddesden, and on his death in 1610 his daughter Ursula, wife of Sir John Leigh became lessee.

After the Civil War, Lord Leigh's estates were seized in 1644 and given to Parliamentarians: the Royal Manor of Leighton, which included Heath and Reach, was handed to Colonel John Okey, commander of the New Model Army dragoons and a signatory to the execution of Charles I. When Okey was executed for treason at the 1660 Restoration, King Charles II transferred the royal manor lease back to Lord Leigh, whose line continued as lords of the manor into the 19th century.[5]

The village lower school, St Leonard's, was founded in 1846 by the Church of England.

About the village

There are 570 homes in the parish and besides the church, school and golf club, the village has one restaurant, two pubs and a village store.[6] There is also a sports association with tennis courts, playing fields and pavilion and a separate recreation ground. The village benefits from several community use meadows, public footpaths and bridleways. There is also a fishing club at the ten acre Jones Lakes.[7] The highest point is 480 feet above sea level[8] 'Heath and Reach' is also included in the postal addresses of properties in nearby Old Linslade, across in Buckinghamshire.

Leighton Buzzard Golf Club lies just to the southwest of the village.

Big Society

The village's annual Pancake Race organised every Shrove Tuesday by the Heath and Reach Women's Institute is a major feature of village life, raising money for charity.[9]


The disused quarry on the outskirts of Heath and Reach has been used for film purposes, most notably The Mummy Returns (2001), The Da Vinci Code (2006),[10] and Singularity (2012).[11][12]

The Leighton Buzzard Narrow Gauge Railway here maintains the largest collection of narrow-gauge locomotives in Britain.[13]

Outside links

("Wikimedia Commons" has material
about Heath and Reach)