What We Did Winter 2022 What We Did - Winter 2022 The Greensand Trust Quarterly Report: January - March 2022 Our Sites On 2nd February 2022 ownership of Clophill Lakes was finally transferred to the Trust. The main focus since has been tree planting in the southern fields. Approximately 8,000 of 15,000 trees have now been planted; the remainder have been healed in on site until the autumn. A number of mature non-native leylandii were removed from the edge of the old fishing lakes and a start was made on fencing the site boundary on Jacques Lane. It's been a busy winter out on site. At Tiddenfoot scrub has been cleared to stop it encroaching on acid grassland and, at Knolls Wood, the Friends group planted trees and understorey shrubs, and started laying the holly hedge. Coppicing continued at Linslade Wood, producing stakes and binders for use on CBC sites. The Friends of Studham Common continued with scrub clearance and hedge-laying and also planted seven local varieties of apple trees to celebrate the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee. Work continued on heathland restoration at Shire Oak Heath and Oak Wood at Rushmere Country Park. Scrub clearance was a major task at Sandy Smith Nature Reserve and Maulden Heath this winter, catching up with work missed over the last few years of the pandemic. The hedge along the boundary either side of the SSNR site entrance was laid by local hedge-layer, Paul Blissett. Coppicing and ride clearance tasks were carried out for CBC at Flitwick Wood and Centenary Wood while the rangers continued their hard work delivering the contract at Ampthill Park. Partnerships and Development Projects The ‘Western Parkland Trail’, a 3.5-mile waymarked route around the historic parkland and wider countryside of the Aspley Guise and Husborne Crawley area, was completed following the installation of two new interpretation panels – one at each of the parklands. The project has been supported by the National Lottery Heritage Fund through the Greensand Country Landscape Partnership (GCLP) and has been led by the Greensand Trust. The new panels feature old maps and photographs illustrating the former extent of these historic parks. The final projects of the GCLP are now being finished off and the Trust is taking up the reins of the ‘Forward Plan’ stage. In March, we welcomed a part-time Partnership Co-ordinator to help progress the Forward Plan and develop the next phase of the Partnership’s work based at the Working Woodlands Centre. A group of volunteers and staff from The Greensand Trust, Beds Rural Communities Charity and The Parks Trust successfully completed a “citizen River Habitat Survey” course, piloted by the River Restoration Centre in partnership with the Upper and Bedford Ouse Catchment Partnership. The course has been designed as a more accessible version of the RRC’s longstanding ‘full’ RHS qualification, enabling it to be used by volunteers from a wide range of backgrounds. It focuses on the physical form of rivers and the impacts of modifications to them. Education Education sessions were delivered to five groups from January to March with a total of 169 young people participating; pupils from Clophill St Mary’s Lower School helped plant a new hedge at Clophill Lakes, Maulden Lower School’s Year 2 pupils enjoyed a spring walk in Maulden Wood and local heritage/sand-themed sessions were delivered to key stage 2 children in Leighton Linslade. The sand-themed sessions were adapted to deliver to larger audiences then we are used to, accommodating the continued need to keep to Covid safety guidelines. The team also supported Rushmere’s Easter Trail activities over the school holiday. Our Youth Rangers met on a further five occasions during this period, with the 12 young people aged 12-18 finally completing the course on 6th March and celebrating with a guided walk and presentation to family and friends. The scheme this year has been particularly challenging to manage and deliver safely in line with Covid safety guidelines. The young rangers undertook a variety of practical conservation activities over six months, such as tree planting and heathland creation, working closely together and learning new skills. They were all very happy to receive their John Muir Discovery Level Award and we are very proud of their achievements! The Greensand Champions scheme, the award recognising positive environmental action by young people, has now come to an end for 2021/22. The overall winner will be announced as part of the Greensand Country Festival in May. Biodiversity and Heritage Protected Species Surveys were carried out in Eversholt, Houghton Regis and Stagsden, with other consultancy work including an Ecological Appraisal and Management Plan for the historic site of Magiovinium at Fenny Stratford and a Protected Species Mitigation Statement in Milton Keynes. A summary of the ecological work carried out at Clophill Lakes up to and including 2021 was collated as an internal reference document. 2022 survey work started off with a check on badger activity round the site. The monthly wetland bird survey in February also produced an otter sighting in one of the lakes. An agreement for nearly 50K of Biodiversity Net Gain funding from a new housing development at Houghton Regis was confirmed. This will fund grazing or hay-cutting management for 1ha of grassland at Clophill for 30 years. A felling licence application was prepared for future tree works on site. The Beds Reptile and Amphibian Group visited Clophill Lakes, Sandy Smith NR and Duck End NR to carry out night-time torching surveys for breeding amphibians. A busy toad crossing was discovered on the road outside the entrance to Clophill Lakes. Monitoring of the impact of deer on the woodland at Sandy Smith Nature Reserve this spring clearly showed that the reduced stalking over the last two years caused by lockdowns has resulted in increasing damage to the woodland ground flora, setting back the progress that had been made. Volunteering and Community Engagement Rushmere visitor service volunteers and staff enjoyed a visit to the Forest of Marston Vale’s Millennium Country Park to pick up operational ideas, chatting with their Commercial Director and retail staff. A review is being carried out into the Trust’s volunteer policies, risk assessments and safety of volunteers when they are working for us. The Rushmere User Group met in February with discussions including a ‘dogs off lead’ compound, extending and clearing shrubs, checking permissive passes and signage around the park. In February two community tree planting days were held at Clophill Lakes - the first was a great success with a good number of people turning up to help and about 2350 trees planted. Unfortunately, the weather on the second date was poor and few people turned up. Regular update meetings with Clophill Parish Council have started. Facilities and associated activities At Rushmere, visitor confidence continued to increase showing hope for the future. The Hatch’s takeaway food continued to be popular and the Café has been fully open and accessible. Visitor Services is open with regular support from our volunteer team. Our retail shop (pictured) has been open since the end of last year, we are evaluating our stock sales regularly and are building up a mix of products, as well as items created by our volunteers and local artisans that have a connection to the Park and nature. Storms Dudley, Eunice and Franklin had a major effect on the Park with several days’ closure due to the high winds and the clean-up operation afterwards. Wind damage was extensive with hanging branches, fallen and leaning trees and a large amount of debris around the park. Staff and volunteers rose to the occasion and got the Park open again within 48 hours. CBC assisted by sending in tree surgeons at short notice to deal with trees beyond staff capabilities. Heron Watch was back as a physical event this year, this has attracted many people to witness the spectacle. Our volunteers have managed the public engagement and the feedback has been really good. The visitors to Heron Watch feed into the café and retail sales and promote a fantastic community feeling. In March, Rushmere hosted the British Orienteering Championship. This was a very successful event that ran without any issues. In March, as usual, Working Woodland Centre staff carried out a litter-pick in the Deadman’s Hill lay-by as part of the Great British Spring Clean. Three stalwart volunteers turned out to assist, collecting a total of 16 bags of rubbish. The presence of Oak Processionary moth, a notifiable species, was confirmed on oak trees along the lay-by edge of Maulden Wood. The caterpillars of this notifiable species have irritating hairs and will have to be kept in mind when planning events and education visits. Communications The Greensand Trust Facebook page audience increased by 4,000 to over 1,600. The top performing post by far was on 3rd Feb when we announced the acquisition of Clophill Lakes – this post reached over 22,000 people. Promotional support was given to a number of events this quarter: Two tree planting sessions at Clophill Lakes Looking after our sandstone heritage (pictured - with Greensand Country) Leading Guided Walks Part 2 (with Greensand Country and Wassledine) We issued two press releases - a final call for Greensand Champions and Clophill Lakes set to open next year (coverage in Bedford Today and various construction publications). According to Google over 2,700 visited The Greensand Trust business profile - we are rated 4.3 stars (out of 5) from 33 reviews.