King William II granted Potton a market in 1094 and, during the Tudor and Stuart periods, it was one of the largest in Bedfordshire. The great fire of 1783 destroyed half of Market Square, however, and the market declined as corn and straw plait became the main goods by 1831. The legacy of the great fire was much re-building which leaves some historic Georgian structures around the Square. There were still fairs held there which were held in January, April, July and October and the horse fairs were some of the largest in the country until they ended in 1932.
The fields around the windmill are a popular feeding area for Rooks and other members of the Crow family and Starlings. They can be seen searching for leather jackets (crane fly larvae) and other invertebrates to feed their young. Large numbers can also be seen feeding in and around the nearby pig farm. The paddock areas are good in early Spring for migrant Fieldfare to stop and feed on their way to Scandinavian breeding grounds. You can also hear Skylark singing above the fields through Spring and Summer. On Spring mornings, on the tops of hedges or telegraph wires you may be lucky enough to see the Corn Bunting and hear its distinct ‘jangling keys’ song. This is one of Potton’s rarest birds with small number hanging on in one or two locations around the Parish. You may also see migrant Yellow Wagtails in the ploughed fields or paddocks. Occasionally a pair may remain to breed in the crops of one of the fields. Kites and Buzzard are seen frequently overhead, and you may be lucky to hear the ‘cronking’ call of a Raven flying nearby.
The mill itself is believed to have been built between 1765 and 1774. The original design featured 6 sails but these were blown off in a storm in 1879 and replaced with 4 sails, these however were blown off in a storm in 1928 and it is believed this is the last time it operated as a working mill.
Potton Carthagena County Wildlife Site
The junction of Sutton Mill Road and Carthagena Bridleway is an interesting place at which to stop and take in your surroundings. To the North you can see St Mary’s Church and distantly Potton Wood and Water Tower, which are the highest points in the Parish. To the South is the 18-hole Carthagena Course, created in 1980 and part of John O’Gaunt Golf Club. To the West, behind the wire fence, is the private disused Carthagena Quarry. Overhead you may be lucky to see the local Red Kites and Buzzard soaring in the sky on thermals.
The bridleway, which runs from Carthagena Road in the West and Biggleswade Road in the East, was declared a County Wildlife Site in 2018. This is on account of two of our rarest insects, White-Spotted Pinion Moth and White-Letter Hairstreak Butterfly, which breed on the Elm trees along the path. In late June through to mid-July, you may like to take minor diversion from the Green Wheel and follow the path West to look for some of the abundant species of butterflies that have been recorded. On a good day it is possible to see between 15 and 20 different species. This includes the White-Letter and Purple Hairstreak. The areas of long grass and flowering Bramble are often the best places to look. More about this site can be found in a free leaflet downloaded from the Potton Town Council website.
John O’Gaunt Golf Club
Just to the North of Sutton you will come across John O’Gaunt Golf Club. The club was opened in 1948 beginning as a 9 hole course, but it was expanded to 18 holes relatively quickly, by 1950. A second set of 18 holes was added in 1980 giving the club the resource it has today. John O’Gaunt was one of Britain’s richest men and was Lord of the Manor of Sutton, but the Burgoyne family became Lords of the Manor from 1524 to 1921 ; Lady Burgoyne died in 1938 after which the whole of the Parish (with the exception of the Church and it’s glebe land) was due to be auctioned off in 1939 but for the intervention of World War II. Sutton Park (the house, grounds of 145 acres and 3 cottages) was finally bought by John O’Gaunt Golf & Country Club Ltd in 1946 for just under £8,500.
John O’Gaunt held the Manor of Sutton in the 14th century and the village pub is named after him – it was built from 3 18th century cottages and licensed in 1835 and provides a welcome break for all visitors. Sutton was the birthplace of General John Burgoyne who lived with his family at Sutton Park; the Burgoyne’s had been lords of the manor since the 16th century and there are monuments to the family in All Saint’s Church. Near the church is the Packhorse bridge with its double arches over Potton brook – a 13th century construction built from local sandstone it is thought to be the only surviving one in Bedfordshire. Along the High Street can be found Sutton Lower School which was founded in 1870.
Pegnut wood is a year-round haven for wildlife. You may hear the distinctive drum of Woodpeckers along with the summer orchestra of Warblers. Walking along Potton Brook may reveal a Kingfisher, Grey Wagtail or even a Little Egret. Tawny Owl are present in the wood and you may even catch sight of a Badger in the early evening or one of the many bats that feed in the wood. During Summer, butterflies may be seen flitting and dragonflies seen hunting along sunny rides.
The small copse (between the water treatment works and footpath by John O’Gaunt golf club) is one of the most wildlife rich areas in the town, and home to a host of fungus, invertebrates, and mammals. It’s a magnet for smaller birds such as Tits and Treecreeper that live in the wood. Please do not enter the area but observe from the outside so as not to disturb the sensitive wildlife.
In Winter, small numbers of Siskin and occasionally Redpoll may be seen feeding on the seeds of Alder, Birch, and other trees. These will also be accompanied by Goldfinch. Often in winter, Redwing will enter the wood at dusk to roost, while if walking to the east of the wood at this time, look for Barn Owl hunting the rough grassland. Waiting patiently on higher ground you may be lucky to see a Woodcock leave its daytime Winter roost in the wood to forage in nearby wetlands.
Henry Smith Playing Field
Henry Smith Playing Fields were presented to Potton in 1934 by Miss L E Smith. The field to the North of the Sluice is a large meadow with Potton Brook to its Eastern edge and Horse Brook to its Western edge. The carrot wash is a small channel running from the Horse Brook to Potton Brook and was used by local businesses for cleaning root vegetables (particularly carrots) before transportation to Bedford. The area to the South of the Sluice has an outdoor gym, skatepark, play area and a free public car park. The skatepark was officially opened in 2017 in its current, concrete, form replacing a previous metal structure. The area around the sluice where it meets Potton Brook, and the whole length of the brook from Gamlingay in the North to Sutton in the South is home to the rare Water Vole. Thetall wetland vegetation along the course of the brook provides both cover from predators and a source of food.
Deepdale & Sandy Heath
Here, the surrounding woodlands are home to many woodland birds, such as Blue Tit and Great Tit, Song Thrush, Nuthatch and Treecreeper, along with Chiffchaff and Blackcap in Spring and Summer. By late May you could be lucky to hear the faint ‘zsipp’ of the declining Spotted Flycatcher, calling from high in the canopy. This is one of the last remaining sites in Bedfordshire for this enigmatic species.
Following the track up the hill through the trees you will find yourself beneath the 244m Sandy Heath Transmitter. This is one of the most prominent features of the Bedfordshire skyline and may be seen from miles around. It is often used as a look-out by the Peregrine which you may be lucky to see flying around or perched high on the structure.
In Summer, the dense bramble scrub is home to Common Whitethroat while Linnet and Skylark, may be seen all year. Through Autumn and Winter, you may encounter a Stonechat. The parched and sparsely vegetated sandy soils in early Summer are awash with the pink of Dove’s-foot Crane’s-bill and red of Sheep Sorrel. These are among the countries rarest habitats and can also be home to unusual and sometimes rare species of invertebrate. Look for the tiny and harmless Sand Wasp entering and exiting its burrows in the bare sandy paths you walk. Or the green flash of a Green Tiger Beetle as it is disturbed and flies away from beneath your feet.