Rushmere Country Park

King’s Wood Nature Reserve - our special 20th anniversary appeal

We need your donations to help us preserve ancient King's Wood in Heath and Reach! We want to ensure the whole of King's Wood is carefully managed in perpetuity for the benefit of wildlife and heritage as an exceptional open space for current and future generations to enjoy. 

You can help us achieve this by donating to our special 20th Anniversary King's Wood Appeal, which through your donations hopes to secure, protect and manage this nationally important woodland and its wildlife.

Why King's Wood is so special?

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 supports 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, purple hairstreak and the purple emperor
  • 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.
  • There are flower rich rides and tranquil ponds 

King’s Wood through the ages

In the early medieval period King’s Wood was part of the Royal manorial estate of Leighton, from which it gets its name. The entire wood is surrounded by a prominent medieval woodbank of considerable archaeological interest. The woodbank which can still clearly be seen today continues to mark ownership as it identifies the county boundary between Bedfordshire and Buckinghamshire.

The wood has historically been managed by a system of coppice or coppice-with-standards. This periodic cutting of trees and shrubs provided a continual supply of firewood and small timber for various uses while the standards were retained as timber trees. This traditional form of woodland management is highly effective in creating a rich and varied habitat for different species to thrive in.

King’s Wood Today

In the 1960s a large area of the 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 of the wood 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 Kings 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. Kings Wood and part of Bakers Wood within Rushmere are part of the largest area of ancient woodland in Bedfordshire.

Our involvement

The Greensand Trust has over the past few years, working closely with The Wildlife Trust, Central Bedfordshire Council and Natural England, has 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.  This is done to ensure that large areas of King's Wood are preserved, and brought into careful management inline with the NNR Management Plan and protected in perpetuity for the benefit of wildlife, heritage and as an exceptional open space for the benefit of current and future generations. 

Can you help us by supporting this important appeal?

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