The Greensand Trust Quarterly Report:  October - December 2022


It was an exceptionally busy end of year with educational visits across the Greensand Ridge. The education team worked with 329 primary school children, with visits to Tiddenfoot Waterside Park, Rushmere Country Park, Maulden Heath and Woods and Clophill Lower School (for an indoor Clophill Lakes activity). The education volunteers contributed another 37 hours of their time to help make these visits work.

The Youth Rangers completed a variety of tasks at Rushmere including small mammal trapping, heathland restoration, fence building, green woodworking and assembling nestbox kits made by volunteer Dave Booth (who has now made over 500 such kits over the last 20 years!).  Several of the Youth Rangers also helped with “Feed the Birds” and the fairy lantern making event.  We look forward to seeing them complete their John Muir Award in the coming months.

The Education team supported Friends of Knolls Wood with their October half term event and worked towards developing SEND provision in the events programme.

In addition to this we completed the first WISE Wood project. This new programme offered 12 disadvantaged Year 8 pupils the opportunity to engage in a series of activities to enjoy, learn about and develop a connection to the natural world while building their self-esteem. Based mainly at the Working Woodlands Centre the programme offered a wide range of experiences that included: meeting a range of professionals who work with wood or in the woodland environment; discovering woodland wildlife; building bird and bat boxes; visiting another local woodland to learn about coppicing and charcoal making and a final celebration event with charcoal drawing and BBQ toasted marshmallows. Working with the same group of young people over time enabled a more meaningful experience with deeper learning to take place than the usual one-off school visit. Following very positive feedback from the staff and pupils involved in this pilot project, we hope to repeat and expand this offer to other schools in the future.

Partnerships & Development Projects

This was a busy quarter for Neighbourhood Planning work.  The Trust has delivered several Parish Green Infrastructure Plans as part of Neighbourhood Plans since their inception in 2011.  These GI Plans help local communities identify what is important in their local environment, and what they would like to see improved.  We began work on the Aspley Heath GI Plan, re-started work on the Barton-le-Clay GI Plan (after a 9-year hiatus!) and completed the Clophill GI Plan.  As part of the consultation for the Barton GI Plan we attended their annual Christmas Lights switch-on event, spoke to many people and many ‘Christmas Dragonflies’ (a rare species found only here!) were made by local children.

As part of its role facilitating the Bedfordshire Local Nature Partnership, the Trust organised the Annual General Meeting and Partnership Event in early December.  Presentations were given on a range of subjects including the forthcoming Local Nature Recovery Strategies, the use of Virtual Reality Techniques in understanding the landscape, and the Flora Guardians project.

The Greensand Country Landscape Partnership celebrated the conclusion of its six years of funding from the National Lottery Heritage Fund with a reception event at Moggerhanger House in early December.  A good turnout was achieved despite very cold conditions and some last-minute hiccups (well done to the GC Team and Moggerhanger Park Preservation Trust staff for overcoming these!).  The evening included a fabulous buffet along with presentations from the GCLP Co-Chair and Vice-Chair, a representative of the Heritage Fund, volunteers and project leads.

Following on from the successful Catchment Partnership Citizen River Habitat Survey training in the spring, the Trust co-led a course with Cranfield University’s ‘River Restoration Centre’ to train a further 10 volunteers and one partner officer in this survey technique.  The course lasted six weeks and included online modules as well as field visits.  There are now 19 volunteers and four officers carrying out surveys across the catchment, which will feed into an emerging ‘River Restoration Strategy’ and also hopefully identify improvement projects.

As part of an extended course looking at some of the problems created by low flows and possible solutions, the Trust led a visit to the Ivel Springs Nature Reserve near Baldock. Located at the source of the Ivel (which was completely dry on the visit due to the dry summer and over-abstraction), the group were given a guided tour by Affinity Water and environmental consultants Five Rivers.  This additional element was made possible thanks to the ‘Water Resources Communication and Engagement Fund’.

Sites we look after

At Clophill Lakes staff and volunteers have been busy doing preparatory work clearing the routes of future pathways, the area where the visitor centre will be and readying areas for tree planting.  Additionally, grass cutting took place to allow archaeologists to carry out topographical and geophysical surveys of parts of the site identified as having potential archaeological interest.  A tree planting event was attended by members of Central Beds Council’s Sustainability team and other volunteers.  About 900 trees were planted.

At Rushmere heathland restoration work has been ongoing at Lords Hill and Oak Wood as well as Rhododendron clearance along the carriageway to prevent it spreading into the woodland.  Some diseased and dangerous Scots pines have been identified near the park entrance and we have drawn up plans and applied for a felling license to remove them.   The volunteers have planted some further trees in Oak Wood; these are mixed broadleaved saplings and are part of the ongoing regeneration of the area.  Tarmac have supplied us with 80 posts to carry out upkeep of the fences on Rammamere Heath, again our volunteers have been a great help in carrying out this work.

At Sandy Smith Nature Reserve volunteers have been busy with woodland work, completing all this year’s felling and coppicing work in Upper Alders.  Scrub work at Maulden Heath included the creation of two more brash piles for adders from felled conifers, together with work in the heathland creation area.  Pond clearance, coppicing and scrub work were carried out at Duck End Nature Reserve.  At Flitton Moor the volunteers worked with the Friends of Flitton Moor to clear out vegetation from a ditch and at Flitwick Wood they cleared round young planted trees for Central Bedfordshire Council. 

Two hedge-laying workshops were held at Sandy Smith Nature Reserve in December – one for members of the public and one for our volunteers.  Two styles were demonstrated, the South of England style and also one with live stakes and no binders.

At Linslade Wood we supported the Friends group with hedge-laying, coppicing hazel for stakes and binders and brush-cutting brambles.  A Friends of Knolls Wood action day also involved hedge-laying, in this case the holly hedge along the southern boundary.  The Friends of Studham Common have been busy with vegetation clearance and planting whips.  An extra task day was held in October jointly with the Chiltern Society – a combined total of 28 volunteers worked hard to cut back blackthorn on East Common.

Three action days took place at Tiddenfoot Waterside Park this quarter, encompassing a variety of tasks including vegetation clearance from the edges of paths and the acid grassland. Maintenance work was also carried out to the previously laid hedge along the Mentmore Road boundary.  Patrols were undertaken along the Clipstone Brook ensuring that all site furniture was in good order and that there were no dangerous trees or obstructions to the watercourse. Two dumped Morrison’s trolleys were removed from the water.  At Heath Wood and Meadow the meadow had its annual cut and a large fallen oak was cleared from the main path into the meadow. Volunteer wardens continued to patrol the site and report issues directly to the GST rangers to deal with.

At Ampthill Park the usual maintenance and safety work was carried out throughout the Park, from the play area to the cattle-grazed areas of the County Wildlife Site acid grassland.  Other tasks included woodland management and cutting back trees and scrub to reduce shading on the great-crested newt pond.

Work at Aspley Woods involved the ongoing maintenance of trails, removal of unofficial trails, repair work to vandalised fencing and installing drainage to keep water off the bike park trails. Weekly litter picking and pass checks were also carried out.

Biodiversity & Heritage

Sandy Smith Nature Reserve again hosted a harvest mouse nest survey training morning for the Beds Mammal Group as part of the national Harvest Mouse survey.  Trust staff and volunteers have found harvest mouse nests at Clophill Lakes, SSNR and Flitton Moor and Duck End NR.

At Clophill Lakes, the site was again checked for badger activity and a start was made on investigating the possibility of creating more ponds for great-crested newts with the help of the Newt Conservation Partnership.  The Beds Invertebrate Group paid another visit to site in October – they have added over 300 species to the site list in 2022, with some specimens still to be identified.

A new piece of carved masonry from the ruined 19th century folly was found in Upper Alders during woodland work in the autumn.  This was therefore able to be included in a general walkover survey of SSNR by archaeologists that was carried out in December.  A meeting was held with the Wildlife Trust officer who is updating Bedfordshire’s Ancient Woodland Inventory for Natural England.  We were able to provide local knowledge and copies of old maps for a number of woodlands, and to help publicise their request for volunteers to help with the project.

Flora Guardians project work continued with the completion and submission of the recording forms from the summer’s survey work.  The Trust monitored 10 species in total, including five classified as Nationally Vulnerable or Threatened – green-winged orchid, bird’s-nest orchid, greater butterfly orchid, sulphur clover and greater broomrape.

Seven ecological consultancy reports were completed during this quarter, including bat roost assessments, preliminary ecological assessments and biodiversity enhancement schemes.  The Trust’s internal guidance on wildlife protection was updated to include all protected species including bats, reptiles and amphibians, badgers and other mammals as well as nesting birds.

Trust Patron Peter Smith and valued donor Thurstan Adburgham visited Kings Wood, Heath and Reach with Trust staff to look at plots the Trust has secured in the last few years, including the plot Thurstan specifically helped to buy.  Significant areas are now owned by the Greensand Trust, Wildlife Trust, Central Bedfordshire Council and Tarmac, all of whom work with Natural England to ensure this wonderful ancient woodland (and the only National Nature Reserve in Greensand Country) is managed appropriately. 


The Greensand Trust website had 12.33K visits this quarter with 126.9K impressions.  Top performing searches included, as usual, Rushmere Country Park, Ampthill Park, Aspley and Woburn bike day tickets.  The appearance of Greensand Ridge and Greensand Trust in web searches in November may be a direct result of our appearance on BBC Look East where both were featured.

Our Facebook audience increased slightly from 1,737 to 1,803 in this quarter. The top performing post was that advertising the SSNR hedge-laying course; the post with most reactions involved the visit from BBC Look East and resulting news item on Greensand Country.

This quarter saw the start of our fundraising appeal for Clophill Lakes.  A press release was issued and articles were written for a number of local publications including Clophill Spotlight, The Oracle, Living Life and Bedfordshire Live online.  Clophill Lakes started to appear in Google searches in October.  By the end of December the appeal had raised about £20K.

Facilities & associated activities

At Rushmere we have been looking at our efficiencies and energy usage and putting practical measures in place to actively reduce usage where we can - important from both an environmental point of view and cost saving in light of rising energy prices.  A speaker system has been installed inside the café and out on the decking to allow music to be played – feedback from customers has been very favourable.  A second parking payment machine installed in September has proven to reduce queuing at peak times. The Thrift Road barrier was repaired and is now functioning well.  We are continuing to put new parking permit holders and renewing holders onto the ANPR numberplate recognition software. This is going well and we expect to have the majority of our permits on the system by July 2023.

Our annual Feed the Birds event was well attended by the local community. The event included bird ringing, nestbox building and craft activities from our Education team and Youth Rangers and bird feeder making run by our volunteer team. We also had a bird of prey display on the meadow. A nature rubbing trail was installed ready for half term when a pumpkin trail was also run for children. The education team ran a Fairy Lantern decorating event and walk which was very well attended. We also offered a ‘find the fairy’ trail around our accessible walk. 

Christmas Tree sales were successful this year. Approximately 250 trees were sold over the festive period with just six remaining unsold.  A trial selling potted trees was not as successful; feedback suggested they were too expensive in comparison to other places. The remaining trees were planted in our nursery so they can be used next year.   The café was open each evening during the second week in December to provide festive fun and Christmas related craft activities. Children could make tree decorations and dress our Christmas trees, write a letter to Father Christmas and post in our postbox. We saw good attendance throughout the week, it was lovely to see children enjoying the festive fun and the event provided a welcome boost to our Café sales.