The Greensand Trust Quarterly Report:  October - December 2023


A surprisingly busy quarter for the education team has meant contact with 552 young people during the final quarter of 2023. The age range of young people we have worked with has been varied ranging from just 4 years old, to adults in further education. As always, we have been helpfully supported by our dedicated education volunteers giving nearly 90 hours of their time to help plan and deliver the work we do to raise awareness.

During October, we hosted 5 separate class visits from Gilbert Inglefield Academy in Leighton Buzzard who requested lessons to complement their year 5 pupil studies on local settlements, land use, sand heritage and canals.

Three different schools visited Rushmere, with autumnal nature walks delivered to St Leonards Lower School pupils, Brooklands Farm Primary school bringing 6 classes from Milton Keynes on an annual ‘Christmas Tree walk’, and 2 classes from Leagrave Primary School in Luton enjoying enchanted forest themed visits.

Students from Central Bedfordshire College learnt about heathland habitats and threatened species in November, and then carried out valuable practical conservation work with us. They plan on returning to continue the tasks. The Badger Hill Beaver Colony enjoyed learning about our new site at Clophill Lakes and its pond life at the Working Woodlands Centre and a local group of home educated children enjoyed making shelters and being Junior rangers for a day at Rushmere.

The education team delivered a community event at Knolls Wood in Leighton Buzzard during October Half term at which children and their families explored the site and enjoyed a craft activity and we also supported the ‘Feed the Birds’ event at Rushmere making themed bookmarks and badges alongside some of our keen Youth Rangers. Some also helped at our successful festive ‘Fairy Garden and Goblin Glade’ craft sessions just before Christmas.

Our Youth Rangers have otherwise been busy at Maulden Wood and the Working Woodlands Centre, with a variety of skills and practical sessions exploring the woodland habitat, learning about and monitoring small mammals, and erecting nest boxes for dormice. The scheme is due to finish at the end of February.

The return of our second WISE Wood programme was a great success, this time with a group of pupils from Woodlands Middle School in Flitwick.  Five sessions were delivered to 10 invited children, aiming to build pupil confidence and offering an experience of woodland and its benefits. Feedback from the school showed that the variety and progression of the session activities works incredibly well, and we look forward to offering further WISE wood schemes in 2024.



Partnerships & Development Projects 

‘Outfall Safari’ yields results!

A group of Trust volunteers have helped identify (and hopefully solve) a pollution issue in the River Ouzel in Leighton Buzzard.  On a very wet Friday morning in October the group had originally planned to have a final session surveying aquatic invertebrates – but heavy rain had caused the river to rise to unsafe levels, so instead, the group carried out an informal ‘Outfall Safari’ and some water quality testing. An ‘Outfall Safari’ involves a simple walking survey, mapping surface water outfalls going into a river, and then monitoring these to check for potential problems such as mis-connected plumbing (where ‘foul’ waste gets sent into the surface water waste system and doesn’t get treated at the sewage treatment works, instead ending going straight into a river).  Conditions weren’t ideal as many outfalls were hidden by rising levels, but it didn’t take long to identify a major issue – an outfall next to the group’s meet point was bilging brown water, wet wipes and far worse! The incident was phoned through to the Environment Agency’s Pollution Hotline, and the Trust has been liaising with them since then. 

The EA have been working with Anglian Water to investigate and have identified the cause – a property in a nearby residential street was misconnected, and everything that should have been going for treatment was going straight into the river! At the time of going to print we’re waiting to hear the final outcome, but hopefully by the time you’re reading this the infamous ‘Outfall 16’ is now behaving!

Bedfordshire Local Nature Recovery Strategy

The Trust has continued to play an important role in the development of a ‘Local Nature Recovery Strategy’ (LNRS) for Bedfordshire.  LNRS’s are being developed across the whole of England over the next year, to help shape how and where habitats will be created and restored in the future, helping increase biodiversity, tackle climate change and improve our health and wellbeing.  Through its role with the Bedfordshire Local Nature Partnership, the Trust organised a workshop at the Forest Centre, attended by over 40 people from many different organisations from across the county and beyond. The workshop was facilitated by Ron Donaldson, a ‘Narrative Ecologist’, who took everyone to their environmental ‘hell’ before restoring hope through visions of their environmental ‘heaven’! The workshop provided an opportunity for people to contribute to the beginning of the Strategy and get together with like-minded people – engagement will be a key element of the LNRS, with a lead officer (Richard James) now employed by Central Bedfordshire Council but working across the whole county.

Environmental Planning

The Trust delivers parish-level ‘Green Infrastructure Plans’ which help support Neighbourhood Plans across Central Bedfordshire and beyond. GI Plans help identify what exists in a parish in terms of its landscape, history, wildlife and access opportunities, and where these feed into a Neighbourhood Plan they have an even more important role in protecting and shaping local communities. The most recent to be completed was in the form of an ‘Environmental Enhancement Strategy’ for the parish of Wing in Buckinghamshire, where the Neighbourhood Plan was being re-visited. The Strategy has identified deficits in green space provision, and opportunities for improving spaces or creating new ones where they will bring the most benefit to people and wildlife. The Strategy also seeks to help identify ways to better connect the new ‘Wing Wood’ site, being developed on the edge of the parish by Forestry England, with the local community.  

Sites we maintain

Linslade Wood

Three official action days took place this quarter, all three involved coppicing Hazel which had not been cut for several years and were on the cusp of becoming too big to be useful for hedgelaying.

Volunteer work continued with the remainder of the old hedge laid. Brash and cuttings were cleared from the junction where the laid hedge meets the main ride to open the area up to improve visibility. We also felled a few trees in the area that had either died or were unhealthy due to excessive deer damage or wind. Two of these have been coppiced and had deer baskets built around them to provide a visual feature in this area of the wood (see photo). 

Several other dead/dying trees were felled and the main ride has been cleared back to its original width. Knaves Hill entrance has been cut and cleared and the two Jubilee copses cut back to encourage planted saplings to flourish, an overgrown glade in the same area has also been opened up.

The Perspex panel at the Stoke Road layby entrance has been replaced having been damaged several years ago with an acidic spray substance.

Studham Common

There were two action days this quarter - in October work concentrated on the hedge on the Southern boundary with grass and bracken cuttings raked and collected. Paths along East Common were cut along the edges and bracken around the large birches was also cut and raked. GST attended site to cut the vegetation along the Middle common boundary to allow the laid hedge to be cut back to maintain its line of growth. GST also attended the Friends of Studham Common (FoSC) AGM in December.

Knolls Wood

There was one volunteer task carried out there this quarter with rhododendron clearance along Monkey Puzzle Avenue and along the Sandy Lane boundary. Pumpkins were dumped onsite after Halloween and were all removed by our site ranger. 

Tiddenfoot Waterside Park

Three action days took place this quarter. Tasks carried out by volunteers included raking off the neutral grassland, overhanging branch removal, path clearance and hedgelaying, plus removing self-seeded Cherry trees on the neutral grassland (see photo), willow coppicing, scrub and willow clearance in the acid grassland areas. Acid Grassland signage has now been reinstalled. Beyond the official action days volunteer work has continued with wardens patrolling the site on a weekly basis collecting litter and reporting issues. Hedgelaying has also continued along the Mentmore Road boundary and the new path boundary running parallel to the canal. The grass has been cut along the Southern boundary and along the Foragers way by GST. 

Clipstone Brook

Three patrols this quarter ensuring all site furniture was in good order and that there were no dangerous trees or obstructions to the watercourse etc. One Morrisons trolley was found in the river but due to high river levels and personal safety this has yet to be removed.

Heath Wood and Meadow

No volunteer tasks this quarter, though volunteer wardens continue to patrol the site and report any issues. Three site patrols took place in this quarter. Motorbikes have continued to be a problem on the plateau opposite the golf club and tracks are being found on a regular basis in the area.

King Street and Millbank Meadow

No volunteer tasks have taken place this quarter either at King Street or Avery’s. No trollies have been recovered this quarter. Rubbish has been flytipped by the concrete water trough near Millbank on one occasion. Drug paraphernalia and beer cans are still found on a regular basis at the benches in King Street and on Millbank.

Rushmere Country Park

With the addition of a new ranger, our ranger team is now operating at full strength. Volunteer efforts this quarter have centred around heathland restoration, a crucial aspect of our conservation work. Specific locations include Shire Oak Heath, Lords Hill, and Oak Wood.

Addressing invasive species, particularly rhododendrons, has been a key focus. Volunteers have been engaged in clearing rhododendrons in the area adjacent to the bike track near the visitor centre. This targeted clearance aims to preserve the native flora and maintain ecological balance.

Ongoing maintenance includes necessary repairs to fences in the car parks at Rushmere. Recent strong winds led to several trees falling, primarily in the Oak Wood section. Our team efficiently managed the aftermath, promptly clearing fallen trees to maintain safe pathways and preserve the park's natural beauty. Notably, a fallen pine in Linslade Road was swiftly addressed by CBC contractors to prevent disruptions.

Heavy rainfall posed challenges, resulting in the flooding of the bottom meadow, making it nearly impassable on foot. Additionally, the bottom lake reached its full capacity for the first time in many years. Erosion concerns emerged at the bottom of the hill on the main drive, necessitating a proactive step – the installation of a step to mitigate erosion, proving successful so far.

Identification of dying or dead trees, particularly pines and conifers, has prompted plans for their removal. This proactive approach ensures the safety of visitors and minimises disruption to the site's regular operations.

Ampthill Great Park

Our foremost commitment revolves around the meticulous care and maintenance of the expansive tree plantation. Regular monitoring and preservation efforts are underway to ensure the health and longevity of the diverse tree species within the park.

A fundamental aspect of park maintenance involves consistent and thorough grass cutting. This routine practice contributes significantly to the overall aesthetics and cleanliness of the park. Embracing eco-friendly practices, we actively collect mowed grass for composting. This sustainable approach aligns with our environmental responsibility, contributing to the park's overall ecological balance.

Challenges posed by wet conditions necessitated an intensified effort in path maintenance. Our aim is to ensure safe and accessible pathways for the park's visitors, even during adverse weather conditions.

A comprehensive cleaning initiative targeted the central car park and entrance areas, ensuring a welcoming and aesthetically pleasing first impression for park visitors. Routine tasks included weekly leaf clearance at key locations, coupled with ongoing maintenance of pathways. These efforts contribute to a tidy and accessible environment for parkgoers.

As a gesture of respect, preparatory work including the clearance of the Alameda area as carried out in anticipation of Remembrance Day.

A significant initiative involved the salvaging, sorting and replanting of oak trees in the play area, contributing to the larger initiative known as the 'Queens Canopy.'

Proactive steps included the removal of damaged fencing along Bedford Street and the continuous maintenance of the west car park entrance.

Reacting promptly to adverse weather conditions, we undertook the removal of storm-damaged tree branches through reactive works. Additionally, planned tree felling and woodland clearance activities enhanced safety and aesthetics within the park.

Addressing environmental challenges, we engaged in the responsible processing of felled Ash trees suffering from Ash dieback.

Special attention was given to hedge cutting at the Ampthill cemetery.

Top of Form

Eastern Sites

October, our dedicated Eastern volunteers accomplished significant tasks across various nature reserves. At Flitton Moor, they successfully completed ditch clearance, enhancing the natural water flow in the area. At Duck End Nature Reserve, meticulous pond works were undertaken (see photo), including the removal of a large windblown willow and the crown-lifting of overhanging trees. A crucial hay cut was also completed during a subsequent task at Duck End Nature Reserve.

Further contributions included laying an additional 65m of hedge at Sandy Smith Reserve, a commendable effort to bolster the reserve's ecological diversity. At Flitwick Wood, old fencing from coppice coups was efficiently removed, showcasing our commitment to responsible woodland management.

The Thursday volunteers demonstrated sustained efforts at Sandy Smith Reserve, where they continued clearing a glade in the Upper Alders wood. This ongoing project aims to establish a 2500m2 deer-proof enclosure, facilitating the planting of 275 whips encompassing six different tree species. This initiative aligns with our broader strategy to enhance woodland age structure and diversity.

In November, our volunteers engaged in valuable conservation work, removing scrub from the Readshill site for Clophill Parish Council. The successful completion of this task earned commendation and gratitude from the council. Additionally, scrub clearance efforts extended to rewilded heather areas at Maulden Heath and the Adder Field.

The Thursday volunteers persisted in their work on the Upper Alders glade, contributing to the ongoing transformation of the area.

As the year approached its end, our volunteers remained dedicated to environmental stewardship. At Flitton Moor, they focused on removing nettles and brambles while thinning out old plantation maples. The commitment to hedge laying continued at Sandy Smith, with an additional 75m laid, bringing the total to an impressive 350m over the past two years.

A festive spirit permeated our annual Christmas task, held at Clophill Lakes for the first time. Despite challenging wet conditions, volunteers cleared trees from the south side of ponds, enhancing light conditions. The event featured festive elements, including mulled wine, Christmas pudding, snacks and a heartwarming sense of community.

The Thursday volunteers celebrated the completion of the SSNR enclosure, meeting the end-of-year deadline. Their efforts included clearing, building and planting, contributing to the reserve's long-term biodiversity goals. To cap off the year, they also completed the hay cut at the Working Woodlands Centre grounds (picturd). These accomplishments underscore the dedication of our volunteers and their vital role in preserving and enhancing our natural spaces.


Biodiversity & Heritage 

At Clophill Lakes great crested newts were recorded for the first time in December; two were found hibernating at the base of a rotten gate post together with two smooth newts. Cetti’s warbler was heard calling from lakeside vegetation in November. Survey work continued with the usual monitoring of badger activity and wetland bird surveys and a start was made on mapping the distribution of the invasive New Zealand pygmyweed in the site’s waterbodies.

In October the Beds Mammal Group held their usual harvest mouse nest survey at Sandy Smith Nature Reserve.  The final part of the five-year programme of woodland management in Upper Alders was completed in December; this work has been aimed at diversifying the structure of the woodland. As usual, the coppice stools and newly planted trees had to be fenced to protect them from deer. Stalking pressure has been increased to try and reduce the damage deer are causing.

Waterlife Recovery East, a project whose goal is to bring life back to our waterways and wetlands through the humane removal of introduced American mink, has been very successful in East Anglia and has now moved into Bedfordshire. We have been working with WRE and the Internal Drainage Board along the River Flit at SSNR and Clophill Lakes; eleven mink have been caught in the previous six months.

In November the eastern volunteers carried out a scrub clearance task for Clophill Parish Council on the acid grassland County Wildlife Site they own at Readshill.  Scrub was cleared from much of the site and it is hoped that, now the site can be grazed when necessary, it will be much easier to keep it open in future, so benefitting the plants and invertebrates of open sandy places that this site is important for.

The five-year Countryside Stewardship agreements started in 2019 at Sandy Smith Nature Reserve and Shire Oak Heath have been extended for a further five years. 

Working Woodlands Centre

We continued to work with Forest Enterprise, Beds Police, Central Bedfordshire Highways, Safer Central, Natural England and Maulden Parish Council to find solutions to the issues of anti-social behaviour and littering in the Deadman’s Hill lay-by which have such a negative impact on Maulden Wood and its visitors and our work at the Working Woodlands Centre, particularly that of the education team.

Consultancy Work 

 Our ecologist carried out a number of surveys and consultancy work during this quarter:

·       Trees at Ampthill Park, Ampthill Bat Roost Survey and Assessment

·       Land at Pound Hill, Great Brickhill Ecological Survey

·       Luton Preliminary Ecological Appraisal

·       Land at New Road, Dinton Ecological Enhancement Scheme

·       Clubhouse at Ampthill Park, Ampthill Ecological Enhancement Scheme

·       Pemberly Avenue, Bedford Preliminary Ecological Appraisal


During this period the GST Facebook audience reached a milestone surpassing 2K followers (2,030).  The GST Instagram now has 1,088 followers while our X page (formerly Twitter) has 1629 followers. Our average page reach during this quarter on Facebook was 28K, and 717 on Instagram, slightly down. Post reach was 11.9K, with good engagement attracting around 800 likes, comments and shares.

The post with the highest reach was about Duck End Nature Reserve in November reaching 3.8K while a post on the winners of this year’s Greensand Champions received the most reactions (55) and a post in September on grasslands about a fungi walk in Knolls Wood attracted 11 comments.

No press releases were issued during the quarter. Electronic newsletters were sent out to our 2K+ subscribers to promote our October events in Maulden Wood which was sadly cancelled due to low bookings and in December to promote the now sold out Hedgelaying weekend and to ask for donations for Clophill Lakes. 

Three newsletters were sent out October to December to promote events and café promotions at Rushmere. We continue to send a monthly update of progress at Clophill Lakes to the village’s local publication Clophill Spotlight to keep residents informed. 

Analysis of our Google Search performance showed that the Trust website was visited by around 5K each month with 55K impressions.  Top performing pages were as usual Rushmere Country Park, About Rushmere, Woburn bike day ticket and Ampthill Park. Clophill Lakes was one of the top growing pages in October (up 64 views).

Facilities and Associated Activities

Rushmere Country Park

Rushmere Country Park received its Mystery Shopper report for the Green Flag Award. We passed with flying colours with lots of positives and constructive feedback.


·       October half term – Tree Trail, Xplorer

·       November – Fairy Glade craft activity (Education Led)

·       December – Fairy Self Led Trail / Christmas Tree Sales / Christmas Retail / Festive Fun for kids in the café

Upcoming Events

Sun 28th January – RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch.

Site Development - Play

We have installed a new piece of play equipment (See-saw) into the toddler play area and re-installed the small slide. The play area is currently closed until the footings have sufficiently set and the independent safety assessment has been done (expected approx. 2 weeks closure)

Greensand Country

Throughout this quarter, progress has been made in many project areas for the Greensand Country Landscape Partnership.

One of the Partnership’s main aims is to support landowners within Greensand Country. This quarter, we have run drop-in sessions for our QR code interpretation model, to get new farms signed up to the project. With the significant threat to biodiversity posed by deer, the Partnership has also been working with a number of external stakeholders to increase collaboration with deer management. An initial focus will be an eastern cluster centred on the Southill estates and surrounding land to bring landowners, managers and stalkers together to share ideas and ensure everyone is working in the same direction. 

We have also been working with partners to assess how we can update information on the Greensand Ridge Walk and are planning works to be included as part of the walk’s 40th anniversary in 2026.

Encouraging the development of sustainable travel is a key priority for the area and we have created a guidance document on EV charge point installation for local businesses and visitor attractions. This will go out for consultation in early 2024.

The Partnership is continually seeking funding, both to cover its core costs and providing project funding. A bid to Historic England’s Everyday Heritage grant has been submitted for a community project around the agricultural history of the Greensand Ridge. At the time of writing, we are yet to receive an outcome. We have also secured funding from the Central Beds Ward Councillor Grant for reprinting of walking route leaflets, vital to get new people exploring Greensand Country.