The Greensand Trust Quarterly Report: October - December 2021

Partnerships and Development Projects

In November the Trust worked with ‘VirtualWorks’ to host a habitat-themed conference on behalf of the Greensand Country Landscape Partnership (GCLP), marking both the success of the Partnership’s work on creating and restoring habitats across Greensand Country, and looking to the future and the emerging Greensand Country ‘Forward Plan’ which will guide activity over the next few years.

Nearly 40 attendees listened to presentations from speakers from Natural England, Cranfield University and the NFU, with a keynote presentation from Bedfordshire Local Nature Partnership chair Dr Paul Leinster CBE. Topics included the emerging theme of ‘Nature Recovery’, working with farmers and the much neglected subject of soils and soil health. Presentations were followed by workshops which provided plenty of ideas and actions for the Forward Plan.

More courses in our GCLP-funded Networking and Skills project took place this autumn. Ed Burnett led basket and walking stick making courses, while Working Woodlands Centre (WWC) workshop tenant David Yule ran a spoon carving course. All three courses were very well received.

Workshops on heathland and woodland management were run by GST staff. In both cases the morning consisted of practical management work followed, in the afternoon, by a guided walk looking at management examples and discussing techniques and issues.  The heathland workshop was held at Lord’s Hill, part of Rushmere CP, and was attended by eight people. The woodland workshop had nine attendees and was held at King’s Wood NNR. Both were very successful with requests for repeat workshops next year.


Education sessions for six school groups were delivered from October to December (one of the quieter times of the year even during pre-pandemic times) but still with a total of 266 children participating. A senses walk for younger children, habitat activities, local landscape/GCLP and delivery of local heritage/sand-themed sessions were the main focus. The sand-themed assembly sessions were to larger audiences (two classes at a time); the only way to deliver safely face to face due to Covid 19.

Our Youth Rangers met on a further five occasions during this period, with 12 young people aged 12- 18 settling into various practical and theory tasks. These have been particularly challenging to manage and deliver safely amongst Covid 19 restrictions. Although based at the WWC, the young rangers have also undertaken a small mammal study and monitoring at Clophill, a number of site visits, coppicing in Maulden Wood, green woodworking with a demonstrator and built dormouse nest boxes to support the monitoring of dormice in Maulden Wood.

An additional half term activity, a pre-booked session for a small number of young people with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND), was delivered outdoors at Rushmere with fantastic feedback. Maulden Lower School Year 2 pupils walked to Maulden Heath for a habitat study (the first of four planned sessions). They learnt about heathland animals and scattered heather seed in an area prepared by Trust volunteers as part of the site’s management.

We continued to promote the Greensand Champions scheme for 2021/22, advertising the award recognising ‘positive environmental action’ to young people we come into contact with. Awards for nominations this year will be sustainably produced bee hotels – made from wood cut for conservation management purposes at a local nature reserve. GCLP work continued with a focus on the production of resources for schools that will soon be available on-line.

Access Development

The rangers have been busy at Rushmere with improvements to access. The hill from the giant’s chair crossroads down to the culvert has become increasingly eroded over the past year so this has been regraded and steps put in to try and reduce the amount of soil run off caused during heavy rainfall. Gate posts and fence repairs have been carried out in the dog agility area, Buzzard Meadow and Shire Oak Heath to ensure public access is controlled in these areas. Several large, dead pines have been felled where they posed a risk of falling on adjacent footpaths.

The Greensand Trust secured funds from the Central Bedfordshire (CBC) Green Infrastructure Planning Obligations fund between 2016 and 2018 to create a ‘multi-user’ route linking Flitton and Greenfield alongside the River Flit. Working with Flitton and Greenfield Parish Council and CBC, a ‘green corridor’ has been created within which the surfaced route sits. It was very well received when it was completed in 2020, with residents appreciating the improvements at a time when access to the countryside was one of the few pleasures available. The improvements also include a new bridge across the Flit, suitable for walkers, cyclists and horse riders, and also much better for ‘Pooh sticks’! The route has officially been named “The Vincent Austin Way” after the former parish council chairman who sadly passed away last year, and was officially ‘opened’ at a celebration event in October by his wife Joan.

Biodiversity and Heritage

We have been working with Leighton Linslade Town Council to support the expansion of their Buzzard Trails app with elements from our 2010 Sands of Time Trail focussing on the sand heritage of the Leighton Buzzard area. The Town Council has also kindly agreed to fund work to update some of the Sand Museum webpages.

Rangers and volunteers have been busy with winter management work throughout the area. Scrub removal has been the order of the day at SSNR and Maulden Heath with variation provided by ditch clearance at Flitton Moor and the final cutting and raking of the year at Duck End NR. This winter’s felling, coppicing and planting was all completed and fenced at Upper Alders.

As always there was birch, bracken and bramble to remove from the heathland restoration areas at Shire Oak Heath, Lord’s Hill and Oak Wood, and rhododendron to clear from Heath Wood.

Coppicing and hedge laying was carried out at Linslade Wood, while at Tiddenfoot vandalised hazel panels were repaired and a new hedgerow planted. At Rushmere, Buzzard Meadow has been enlarged by the removal of trees to the north and has had its annual mowing and raking task. There has also been coppicing and vegetation removal on both Stockgrove and Rushmere lakes. At Clophill Lakes work started on fencing and tree planting projects.

A successful Woodland Networking Event on the issue of deer was run at the WWC in November. Led by Forestry Commission Deer Officer David Hooton, 14 owners and managers of local woodlands spent the day at Maulden Wood and Upper Alders discussing the damage caused by deer to woodlands and potential solutions. It is clear at Upper Alders that the lack of stalking during lockdowns has had a significant effect on the damage being caused to the woodland.

Findings from the various types of ecological survey work carried out at Clophill Lakes over the summer came in during this quarter.

Survey work has included amphibians and reptiles, a range of invertebrates, mammals and birds. Dragonfly expert Steve Cham recorded 19 species of dragonfly and damselfly on site over the summer, making it one of the best sites in the county for this group. Monitoring of wetland birds started in October as part of the national scheme run by the British Trust for Ornithology and survey work to record harvest mouse nests was also carried out on site by members of the Beds Mammal Group with 12 nests being found in areas of suitable habitat on site. Trail cams have caught some good footage of species using the site – otter, stoat, mink and water rail.

Eight consultancy reports have been prepared during this period, including protected species surveys, preliminary ecological assessments and Biodiversity Enhancement schemes. Discussions are underway with a developer to obtain Biodiversity Net Gain funding as a result of a development in Houghton Regis. The funding will be used to restore an area of grassland at Clophill Lakes.

Facilities and associated activities

In November we tightened up our Covid guidelines at Rushmere and re-introduced mandatory mask wearing inside the Visitor Centre and facilities. Visitors were encouraged to use NHS track and trace and support social distancing, hand washing and follow a one-way system to avoid congestion and pinch points. We updated our Fire Safety policy and incorporated new documentation to ensure that we are fully compliant. The Visitor Services team and volunteers attended two training sessions during the quarter – customer service training and fire marshal training.

Christmas trees were sold from the beginning of December along with seasonal retail such as wreaths, decorations and gifts. We ran Christmas Market Stalls alongside our retail and Christmas tree sales at the weekends in December up to Christmas. The Fairy Trail was on sale throughout the festive period. Our Education team did a great job of creating the trail with a few new sculptures and a new puzzle element to the trail.

Visitor numbers continued to be steady during the week but were really busy at weekends and school holidays. The new parking system proved to work well. Initial problems with the app seem to have been resolved over the last few months.

We continue to keep an eye on the figures and the feedback from visitors so we can fine tune the way it works. We are currently updating the signage to help visitors navigate the parking payment options without confusion.

The November changes to Covid guidelines also had implications for meetings at the WWC, both for staff and youth rangers. The Police and Central Bedfordshire Council’s Safer Community Team continued their efforts to reduce anti-social behaviour in the Deadman’s Hill lay-by, outside the WWC. In November they organised a litter pick by their teams, joined by members of both GST and Forestry England. They have also been patrolling the lay-by more often. A meeting has also been held with Highways and Forestry England to discuss co-operating over future tree work, particularly initially that connected with ash dieback.


The reach of our GST Facebook page increased by 23% this quarter, largely thanks to the popularity of photos and information about tasks provided by rangers. As well as being posted to our page, these have been shared with Facebook groups local to each task so promoting the work of the Trust more widely. Trail cam footage from our sites has also proved very popular. The top performing post was the change to winter opening hours at the Longslade Lane car park at Aspley Woods followed by the call for entries to the Greensand Champions scheme off the back of the UN Climate Change Conference.

The breakdown of our GST Facebook audience is given below:

Leighton Buzzard




Milton Keynes
















Our Google search figures remained steady with around 5-6,000 searches for our website each month. As usual the Rushmere and Aspley pages were most frequently visited. Specific events such as Woollen Woods, the Fairy Lantern Walk and the Christmas Market Weekends proved popular.

Only one press release was made during this period, promoting the Greensand Champion scheme, this received good on-line coverage in the Flitwick News and the Marston Vale Chronicle.

You can download a copy of this report here