Environmental charity The Greensand Trust is delighted to announce it has been successful in its bid to purchase Shire Oak Heath, a 17 acre site neighbouring Rushmere Country Park which the Trust runs on a not-for-profit basis.

The purchase has been made possible thanks to generous donations from members of the local community and funding awarded by Central Bedfordshire Council through their Green Infrastructure Planning Obligations. A further grant of £20,000 from Biffa Award means that restoration works can now begin. 

Biffa Award is a multi-million pound fund that helps to build communities and transform lives through awarding grants to communities and environmental projects across the UK. Gillian French, Biffa Award Head of Grants, said: “We are thrilled to support this beautiful heathland and can’t wait to see how the site will be transformed through its restoration.”

However, the Trust remains £15K short of the £50K it needs to complete its vision of vibrant heathland habitats for all to enjoy, and further funding is needed to create a safer cycle access into the Country Park via Thrift Road.

The Trust launched an appeal to buy the site back in July and has been encouraged by the number of park users who have been willing to help make this happen through donations and raising awareness of the campaign.

Shire Oak Heath was once a thriving heathland and has great potential for restoration. The unrestored area the charity has now acquired was identified by Natural England as being in an unfavourable and declining condition due to lack of management, now a neglected remnant of what was once a thriving heathland.

If the Trust is unable to raise the further £15K it needs to carry out the works, it will have to scale back or delay its aspirations for restoring the site to a thriving heathland and may have to put plans on hold to provide a safe cycle access to Rushmere from Heath and Reach.

The Trust’s Director of Development Jon Balaam said: “We’re extremely grateful to everyone who has so far contributed to our appeal enabling us to buy the Shire Oak Heath site and make it part of Rushmere Country Park.

“Now we’re calling on the local community and all those who enjoy Rushmere Country Park and value our conservation work to further support the appeal so we can carry out the work necessary to reverse its decline, enabling it to be once again regarded as a valuable heathland habitat.

“A new safer cycle access is also much needed – but we can only do this with your help.”

Donations can be made via: www.greensandtrust.org/appeal/restoring-shire-oak-heath-appeal