We're marking our 20th anniversary with an appeal for donations to help us preserve ancient King's Wood in Heath and Reach.

We want to ensure the entire woodland is carefully managed and protected in perpetuity for the benefit of wildlife and heritage as an exceptional open space for current and future generations to enjoy.  

King’s Wood is part of the largest area of ancient woodland in Bedfordshire. It has almost certainly been woodland since the original wildwood covered the country after the last ice age, and has never been cleared for agriculture.

The wood continues to support a range of important and rare species which thrive on its unusual mixture of sand and heavy clay soils. Features include:  

  • A large amount of small-leaved lime, a rare tree that was believed to be a common species in the wildwood as well as both the sessile and pedunculate oak
  • A large population of lily-of-the-valley at one of its few sites in the county with other rare plants including bilberry, wood vetch and eared willow
  • Beautiful woodland butterflies including silver washed fritillary, white admiral and purple hairstreak
  • Adder in the sandy areas of the wood and on the neighbouring heathland; and great crested newts in many of the ponds
  • Up to seven bat species including the nationally rare barbastelle bat
  • Flower rich rides and tranquil ponds 

In the 1960s a large area of the King’s Wood was divided into small plots and sold off to various owners. Although at the time this saved the wood from large-scale conifer planting, the fragmented ownership has made current management and protection of the wood difficult.

To date, despite the whole wood being designated as part of a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), only half benefits from the protection of National Nature Reserve (NNR) status as the rest remains in private ownership. The areas which are protected benefit from proper management under a Management Plan which includes reinstating areas of coppice in parts of the wood to encourage woodland plants and insects that require periodic open areas; the opening of rides to provide sunlit corridors through the wood; and identifies key areas to be left to develop naturally to provide shady, humid conditions with mature trees containing valuable deadwood habitat.

Much of King's Wood is part of the 150ha King’s Wood and Rushmere National Nature Reserve (NNR) which includes a large area of Rushmere Country Park. Much of the reserve lies within the Kings and Bakers Woods and Heaths SSSI. King’s Wood and part of Baker’s Wood within Rushmere are part of the largest area of ancient woodland in Bedfordshire.

The Greensand Trust has over the past few years, working closely with The Wildlife Trust, Central Bedfordshire Council and Natural England, tried to secure the remaining private plots to add them to the area of National Nature Reserve and prevent them being sold on the open market. 

The Trust’s Chief Executive Gill Welham said: “As part of our special 20th anniversary King’s Wood appeal we’re also reaching out to any King’s Wood plot owner who may still hold a title to the land to contact us and consider donating the land to this appeal.”

Donations can be made at www.greensandtrust.org/appeal/kingswood