What We Did Spring 2022 The Greensand Trust Quarterly Report: April - June 2022 Partnerships & Development Projects The Trust is leading on work with the Bedfordshire Local Nature Partnership and local authorities to prepare for the production of a Local Nature Recovery Strategy for Bedfordshire. The Strategy will identify where best to invest in nature to create joined up networks of habitats and will be used to inform future agri-environment schemes and Biodiversity Net Gain targeting. It will be the largest collaborative exercise of its type for many years, and it is therefore important that early work identifies key stakeholders and gaps in existing data. As the Lottery-funded phase of the Greensand Country Landscape Partnership draws to a close, the Trust has completed work on the GCLP-funded fencing project at Clophill Lakes and is close to finishing the other remaining projects. Looking ahead to the Forward Plan, the project has received a real boost, with funding being awarded to the Trust by a charitable funder to support 75% of the costs of the programme co-ordinator for the next three years. During late May the Trust supported a ‘Walk the Walk, Talk the Talk’ event hosted by the new High Sheriff of Bedfordshire, Lady Jane Clifford. As the title suggests, this involved lots of walking and lots of networking with people from across the county working in the charitable sector. We were especially pleased that Lady Jane chose to use the Greensand Ridge Walk as the focus, with a different part walked on each of five days. Rushmere Country Park hosted the group that had walked up the steep hills from the Globe Inn on the Grand Union Canal on the first day, with Heron Watch Volunteers Stan and Judith on hand with the telescope. The Working Woodlands Centre was the end point on the third day and provided welcome cold drinks after a very warm walk. Education It has been a busy quarter with delivery of 16 different education sessions across the Trust area. Our education volunteers contributed 42 hours of invaluable support time. In total we have worked with 439 young people of different ages through sessions with schools and uniformed groups such as Beaver Scouts and Brownies. Children have studied habitats, investigated plants and growth, pond dipped, bug hunted, explored different sites and had lots of fun. Highlights this quarter have been delivering our River Studies session with older young pupils in Leighton Linslade, working with the Beaver Scouts at Wadelows (a private local nature reserve we have kind permission to use) and planning and delivering a teacher training session for support staff at a Luton school looking to increase the confidence of their staff in using the outdoors. We have also been ‘bought in’ to deliver community events for a neighbouring parish council and have supported the Bedfordshire Swift Group in planning and delivering school assemblies for Swift Awareness week. In June the 2022 Greensand Champions were announced. This year’s well-deserved winners were Redborne Upper School’s Environmental Group for their engagement with local environmental work in Ampthill and Flitwick. Their activities have included improving recycling within the school and presenting their concerns about environmental degradation and climate change to an audience of councillors from CBC and town and parish councils at a student ‘COP1’ event. Biodiversity & Heritage Environmental consultancy work has been carried out at five sites in Eversholt, Clophill, Stewkley and East Claydon, Bucks. An ecological survey was also carried out at Haynes West End for the Forest of Marston Vale to inform one of their tree planting schemes. Natural England’s new agri-environment scheme advisor visited Sandy Smith NR in May and was pleased with progress with the current Countryside Stewardship agreement. A very successful evening walk was held at the reserve for the Beds Bird Club and Beds Natural History Society in June with about 30 people attending. At Clophill Lakes, botanical survey work was carried out on Cainhoe Castle Scheduled Monument to inform its management plan. Survey work was also carried out on the area of the future visitor centre as part of the planning application. The skylark transects first carried out last year were repeated in April and May and further survey work was carried out in the north of the site in response to Hayfield Homes’ request to temporarily lease more land for storage; an area was agreed which did not cause any disturbance to the skylarks nesting in the field. The Beds Invertebrate Group carried out site visits to Clophill Lakes and Duck End NR in April. Lists of the species recorded have not yet been received as it will take time for many of the specimens to be identified. We are working with the Beds Natural History Society, the Wildlife Trust, the Biodiversity Recording & Monitoring Centre and Chalkscape to develop a Flora Guardians project in the county. The aim is to build up a network of volunteers monitoring rare plants. If this works well it is hoped to extend it to include species from other groups. Trust involvement is being supported by the Peter Smith Charitable Fund for Nature. Funding from Anglian Water’s Invasive Species Fund through the Cambridgeshire Community Foundation is enabling us to carry out considerable work controlling Himalayan balsam this year, mostly at Clophill Lakes where it is abundant after years of neglect. Volunteer tasks started in May when it first became visible and contractors from Acer Conservation started removing it from along the river at the end of June. We are working with the Wildlife Trust and BRCC through the Catchment Partnership on this project along the rivers Flit and Ivel. Facilities & associated activities Rushmere seemed relatively busy in April, however, May and June were steadier months. A full Heron Watch was delivered this year by the Visitor Services team and their volunteers. Feedback was great with people very happy to be able to get back onto the decking to see the herons. There was a great turnout in June for the Summer Fayre & Dog Show - our first major event since the pandemic. We partnered with the RSPCA who organised the dog competition and the trade stalls. The Trust managed the set up, car parking and catering. We had just over 900 vehicles throughout the day which equates to roughly around 2,000 visitors, plus those local visitors who walked in. Practical volunteers have been focussing on heathland restoration tasks and the Cuff Lane meadow has been cut and raked. At Stockgrove the boardwalk was pressure washed to assist with adhesion in bad weather and a new bin store has been constructed by volunteers. Depth gauges have been installed at Stockgrove and Heron Lake to monitor water levels. The dog fun area gates have been rebuilt to prevent small dogs from escaping under the gates. A red kite was rescued from Heron Lake after landing on the mud and subsequently sinking. It was taken to a nearby animal sanctuary where it is recovering. Our Various Sites At Clophill Lakes, progress was made on the fencing around the field which will ultimately be grazed by cattle. The boundaries along Jacques Lane, and Shefford Road south of the main entrance, were fenced to prevent unauthorised access to the site. A funding bid has been submitted to install a 50m length of boardwalk between the two main lakes, which will help provide access during wetter periods and protect habitats and species. Aside from the usual ragwort and balsam pulling, tasks at SSNR have focussed on starting to clear the northern drainage ditch. In the early years of the reserve sluices were installed to raise water levels - however this has been so successful that it is now proving difficult for cattle and vehicles to get into the field so a balance needs to be reached! The Trust supports various Friends Groups across the area. The Friends of Studham Common have been busy with planting various species of apple tree to commemorate the Queen’s Jubilee, as well as lots of path clearance and tidying of the commons. 25 Green-winged orchids were identified in surveys carried out by the Friends Group; they also aided a group of students from Central Beds College with flora surveys and discovered Common Broomrape – a species not noted on site before. The Friends of Linslade Wood have undertaken two action days litter picking the woods and keeping paths clear. Volunteers led a judge from the Green Flag award scheme around the woods and were later awarded with a Green Flag Community Award. Six new benches have been installed in the woods and one old one replaced. Wardens have been busy patrolling the woods, and a new warden has joined the fold. The western conservation volunteers spent a day controlling blackthorn and hawthorn and carrying out fencing repairs at Stanbridge Meadows. The Friends of Knolls Wood have been watering and tending to the newly planted whips and saplings and a new Greensand Country bench has been installed in Heath Wood on the Greensand Ridge Walk. Various tasks have been carried out by the Friends of Edgewick Farm, including mowing and raking and the relocation of a bench. Volunteering & Community Engagement The Clophill Green Infrastructure Plan, part of the Clophill Neighbourhood Plan, has now been completed, including recommendations for sites to become ‘Local Green Spaces’, protecting them from development. The Neighbourhood Plan is due to go out for its first round of consultation imminently. The Trust is also producing GI Plans for Barton-le-Clay and Aspley Heath as part of their Neighbourhood Plans. GI Plans allow the local community to highlight what is important to them about their local environment, and what they would like to see improved. As part of a Neighbourhood Plan they are even more useful as these carry weight in the planning system and can be used to shape development. In May the Trust had a stall at Clophill Fete to talk to people about the GI Plan and plans for the Lakes. The fete was very well attended, including some familiar faces! It enabled us to meet more of our neighbours and discuss issues such as the high levels of Himalayan balsam. Later in May we held a meeting with a representative from Clophill Parish Council to update them on progress with the Lakes. Both the Rushmere User Group and the Parish Group met in May for general updates. Volunteers played a key role at the Summer Fayre and Dog Show, manning a stall, marshalling car parking, running childrens’ activities and helping with setting up and packing away. They also helped with CBC’s Xplorer challenge event in April. An enthusiastic student carried out his work experience with the ranger team, joining Practical and Conservation tasks and shadowing the rangers. As part of his Duke of Edinburgh’s award a young volunteer carried out wildlife monitoring at the Visitor Centre, learning about the Park’s wildlife and talking to visitors. Volunteers and staff attended volunteer-led guided walks at Linslade Wood, Knolls Wood and Sandhouse Lane Nature Reserve. The walks gave everyone an opportunity to visit sites we manage, find out about what goes on there and help build relationships. The western practical volunteers enjoyed a day trip to Wassledine in Upper Gravenhurst – a local business that produces willow, hazel and beef as well as running story telling and environmental education. The Greensand Trust work closely with the owners, Jane and Guy Lambourne. The Trust’s Director of Development was invited to speak at the River Restoration Centre’s National Conference at the end of June. His presentation used the citizen River Habitat Survey course delivered at Clophill Lakes as a case study - from the perspective of volunteers as trainees and also the professionals using the data they generate. Communications The Greensand Trust website had 17.1K visits this quarter, with 201K impressions. The most frequent search term leading to the website used was Ampthill Park, followed by Greensand(s) Trust, then Aspley Woods. The top growing pages were Ouzel Meadows, Flitton Moor and Linslade Woods. Ampthill Park, Aspley Woods and Aspley bike passes continue to be the top performing pages. The Rushmere website was also well visited. Feedback on Rushmere via reviews is now very positive which reflects on the team and changes made on site. The audience of the Greensand Facebook page increased slightly this quarter from 1.6K to 1,683. The top performing post concerned the Mindful Drawing event at Maulden Heath which reached 6.6K. The reach of the Rushmere Facebook page increased from the previous quarter with the number of likes and followers also increasing. The top performing post for Rushmere concerned the Dog Show and Summer Fayre. Instagram likes increased slightly but post reach was 5% down on the previous quarter. The most popular Tweet this quarter, with 1,036 impressions, concerned Rushmere Heronwatch. There were 21 new followers to our Twitter account. One press release was issued this quarter, this was announcing the 2022 Greensand Champion winners. An article on Clophill Lakes appeared on the digital business service Bdaily.