The Greensand Trust Quarterly Report:  April - June 2023


In the past quarter, the education team worked with a total of 426 young people covering the busy Spring academic term. Our education volunteers provided 74 hours of their time in support.

Pupils from returning local schools we have long term relationships with, investigated plants and growth, pond dipped, bug hunted and enjoyed exploring Rushmere. Pupils from Milton Keynes also enjoyed building hedgehog homes and studying signs of spring whilst visiting Rushmere.

From further afield, pupils visited the Working Woodlands Centre and Maulden Wood from Warden Hill Infants School in Luton to experience the woodland and compare habitats. For many children (and some staff and helpers) it was a valuable first experience of the countryside.

Highlights this quarter have been working once again with older pupils from Alameda Middle School. After a break of some years, the school asked for support to visit Ampthill Park for land use studies and orienteering as part of their Geography curriculum.

It was also a pleasure to be able to deliver another swift assembly as part of Swift Awareness Week in partnership with and with financial support from The Bedfordshire Swift Group. Russell Lower School invited us to present to 350 children (not included in the quarterly total above) raising awareness of this declining species of bird. We look forward to helping spread the word further about swifts next year.

Summer activity planning is well underway including an event targeted at SEND families, a story walk and regular BUG hunting events focussing on pollinators.

Our ‘23 – ’24 Greensand Trust Youth Rangers (pictured is last year’s cohort at Rushmere) have already enrolled for September, and we look forward to a busy Autumn programme with these sessions and another WISE wood programme planned.

Some feedback from evaluation forms this quarter:

‘We had a really enjoyable day at Rushmere on Wednesday. Staff were great with the children and gave them a valuable and useful trip that has enhanced and enriched the learning they are continuing back at school’.

The members of staff leading the session were fantastic, they were flexible, very informative and the time spent on each activity was just right. An activity was also altered reflecting the needs of the class. The lead noticed that the children needed a more practical, hands-on activity. The children really enjoyed it’. 

Partnerships & Development Projects

Local Nature Recovery Strategies (LNRS) are being developed across the whole of England over the next 18 months, 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.

The Bedfordshire Local Nature Recovery Strategy is the responsibility of Central Bedfordshire Council as the ‘Responsible Authority’, with work being led by the Bedfordshire Local Nature Partnership (LNP) in the early stages. The Trust plays an important role within the LNP, being represented on its Board and acting as Secretariat, and has been central to the early development of the LNRS.

An initial workshop, focused on mapping and data, was held at the WWC and attended by over 30 people – a very good start to the process. For further information on the LNRS please see (including a questionnaire for those interested in being more involved).

Barton-le-Clay Green Infrastructure Plan

The Trust produces Green Infrastructure (GI) Plans to help local communities identify what is important to them in their environment, and what they wish to see improved.  GI Plans are often produced as part of a Neighbourhood Plan, which are an even wider ranging plan helping communities identify where they wish to see any development happen and how they would like their parish to be improved.

We are currently nearing completion of the Barton-le-Clay Green Infrastructure Plan, working closely with the Parish Council. Community consultation forms an important part of GI planning, and the community event celebrating the King’s Coronation in May presented the perfect opportunity to talk to local people about their GI Plan.  Hundreds of people attended on the day, ensuring a steady stream of visitors came to the GI display and helped shape the forthcoming Plan.


In April, notable progress was made in the cemetery, café front, play area, wildflower beds, tree planting, volunteer work in Ampthill Park, pathway development, park clearance, and surfacing works. The team received positive feedback from visitors regarding the cemetery's appearance, and ongoing projects like the café front and performance area promise to enrich the town's cultural scene.

May witnessed progress in the performance area, cemetery, Everitt's Field allotments, pathway maintenance, grass cutting at Everitt's Field and Grange Farm allotment sites, tree inspection and maintenance, and general park maintenance. The team's efforts contributed to the overall improvement and upkeep of public spaces in Ampthill.

In June, the team focused on grass cutting, pathway reinstatement, reactive works, allotment clearance, cemetery maintenance, play park works, tree inspection and maintenance, general park maintenance, and preparations for the 3-day Ampthill Festival. Proactive and reactive maintenance efforts were carried out, ensuring the safety and functionality of the park.

Throughout the quarter, the team diligently fulfilled contractual obligations, conducted regular maintenance tasks, coordinated with contractors, engaged with the community and supported team development. Their commitment and efforts resulted in improved aesthetics, community engagement, and overall satisfaction of Ampthill's public spaces, with plans to build upon these accomplishments in the future.

At Linslade Wood, an official action day was conducted in April involving a successful litter pick and site cleanup. Subsequently, regular volunteer sessions were held for specific tasks, such as bench installation, strimming around benches, and path clearance. Two additional benches were installed during the quarter. However, vandalism affected some saplings planted in February, leading to their removal and the dismantling of a fire site to discourage such behaviour.

Studham Common witnessed three action days during the quarter. The volunteers carried out various tasks, including bramble trimming and mowing of main paths. Evidence of BBQ activities on the West common was discovered during patrols.

In June, the Friends of Knolls Wood and the Greensand Trust collaborated on an action day, focusing on raking off grass cuttings along Monkey Puzzle Avenue and clearing overhanging branches. The AGM meeting of the Friends of Knolls Wood was also attended by Greensand Trust and Central Bedfordshire Council representatives.

At Tiddenfoot Waterside Park, three official action days were held, involving tasks improving the Sands of Time path with tree chippings and planting dog wood along the boatyard boundary. Additional throwlines were installed and graffiti tagging on notice boards was removed during regular patrols.

Clipstone Brook underwent regular patrols to ensure the site's furniture and watercourse remained in good condition. No instances of dumped trollies were reported.

Three patrols were conducted in Heath Wood and Meadow during the quarter. A volunteer task primarily focused on clearing Holly along the Western side of the site.

A volunteer task at King Street and Millbank Meadow involved the removal of Himalayan Balsam, funded by Central Bedfordshire Council. Efforts were made to address homelessness on the greenspace behind Windsor Avenue.

At Rushmere and Stockgrove nesting season activities concentrated on heathland restoration in Oak Wood, Lords Hill, and Shire Oak Heath. Volunteers assisted with clean-up efforts after heavy rain. Several site improvements were made, including the replacement of a broken bench and repairs to the playground fence and gate. Vandalism to barriers and roadways required repairs. Wildlife observations and new plant records were made during the period.

In April, the focus at Clophill Lakes was on general site maintenance and the replacement of fencing along the public right of way in the arable field. Recycled plastic posts were utilized for this purpose, ensuring sustainability with a lifespan of up to 50 years. Additionally, approximately 100 meters of site fencing was completed within the Lakes reserve.

May marked the completion of planned sections of the right of way fencing at Clophill Lakes, totalling around 1 kilometre of fencing across the site over the past two months. Tool and shed maintenance at the Maulden Workshops were also carried out during this period. To reward the volunteers for their efforts at Clophill Lakes, a BBQ lunch was organized at the workshops.

In June, the focus was shifted to tackling balsam at Clophill Lakes before it had the chance to seed. Two Tuesday tasks were dedicated to this effort, with one covering the main site and the other focusing on the area behind the Lower School, which had the highest concentration of balsam. On Thursdays, the volunteers waded through the River Flit to deal with balsam on the banks. An estimated 2.38 hectares of the Lakes site were cleared of balsam during these efforts.

At Sandy Smith, diligent efforts were made to protect the neighbouring horse paddocks and hay meadows by pulling a 50-meter buffer zone of ragwort. Balsam pulling was also carried out at the site, with the years of dedicated work proving to be highly effective as only minimal balsam remains on the site.

The past quarter has been marked by significant progress in environmental conservation and volunteer activities. At Clophill Lakes, major milestones were achieved with the completion of fencing and successful balsam removal. The commitment and hard work of volunteers have contributed to the preservation and enhancement of these important sites. Moving forward, it is essential to sustain these efforts and continue protecting the natural environment for future generations.

Biodiversity and Heritage

Together with The Wildlife Trust, the Beds Natural History Society and the Beds Recording and Monitoring Centre, we helped organise a meeting at the WWC of the volunteers taking part in this year’s Flora Guardians work monitoring rare plants in the county.  Monitoring started straight away with early flowering species such as the green-winged orchid.  This year over 300 were counted at Steppingley Hospital CWS which we have been managing since 2000 when only 11 orchids were recorded - a huge tribute to the mowing and raking efforts of our volunteers over 20+ years!

At Clophill Lakes, skylark and meadow pipit numbers were surveyed in April and in May along transects set up two years ago and volunteers continued with monthly Wetland Bird Survey counts as part of the British Trust for Ornithology’s national monitoring programme.  A grasshopper warbler was heard on the reserve for the first time and a female wheatear on migration spent several weeks on site.  Further badger monitoring work was carried out to inform the plan for groundworks later in the year to ensure as little disturbance is caused as possible.

A successful guided walk exploring the trees and ancient woodland flora of Maulden Wood was held on May Day with 16 people enjoying the wood at its best.

Consultancy work was carried out for a roost assessment in Ridgmont and bat activity surveys in Olney, Ampthill and Bierton. We contributed to the Bletchley Biodiversity Enhancement Scheme, the Wing Protected Species Survey and Cotton End Ecological Survey.

Other consultancy work included carrying out an ecological survey of land at Wassledine, Gravenhurst, for a FOMV planting scheme and the owner’s Countryside Stewardship scheme. We also attended a site meeting with the Freshwater Ecology Trust regarding pond restoration in Kings Wood, and an LNRS Mapping and Data Workshop at WWC.


During this period the GST Facebook audience increased from 1848 to 1925 likes and followers.  The GST Instagram continues to grow – now with 1055 followers while our Twitter page has 1644 followers.

Our average page reach during this quarter was 22K on Facebook, 977 on Instagram. Post reach remains high at 12.8K over the three months (on Instagram it rose by an impressive 23%) with good engagement attracting around 1K likes, comments and shares from the 54 posts covering our non-Rushmere sites.

The post with the highest reach was regarding our Marvellous Meadows Guided Walk (15K) while a post on orchids received the most reactions (85) and a general post on Ampthill Park had the most comments (21).

One press release was issued during the quarter on the Greensand Country QR code markers on local farmland.

Analysis of our Google Search performance showed that the Trust website was visited by 17.3K up from 14K with 154K (up from 125.4K) impressions in this quarter.  Top performing pages were as usual Rushmere Country Park (8.4K), Woburn bike day ticket (1575) and Ampthill Park (974). The upcoming summer Fayre and Dog Show entered the top growing pages in May.

Facilities and Associated Activities

We have further reviewed and revised the Tree Tops menu with a focus on delivering efficiently at peak times with new pricing and extended opening times from 8am – 6pm to encourage early and later customers to coincide with the extension of the Park Summer opening times.

We are currently improving accessibility to the Café including new signage, making the front of the café the main entrance and creating a new access walkway directly onto the rear decking. Dog owners and cyclists will be directed this way. We are improving the frontage with additional paving and introducing planting that is available for sale.

Events Update

Heron Watch – The Herons came back in late February and the Heron Watch was back in full force with our Volunteers regularly greeting people and keeping them updated on progress. It has been a poor year with predation - early nesters were more successful.

  • Coronation Volunteer Heron Watch and Display for Volunteering
  • May Half Term Nature Rubbing self-led trail
  • Art Exhibition in partnership with Leighton Buzzard Art Society – 4th June
  • Trek Cycling Demo Days 10, 11th June

Rushmere Country Park Ranger Activity

Five tonnes of play sand has been added to the play area to raise the level and restrict run off. The toddler slide was temporarily removed whilst we built new access to the decking. The feet of the equipment showed severe rot so these were replaced and re-installed. We are looking at adding an addition piece of equipment (see-saw) to the area. Rustic fencing has been installed at the Bakers Wood entrance nearest the car park to try and prevent the bluebells being trampled unnecessarily.

Volunteering and Visitor Services

Free guided walks for our volunteers took palce at Knolls Wood, Rammamere Heath, Tiddenfoot and Heath Wood - a great opportunity for our volunteers to see other sites we own or manage and meet members of the GST team.

We have had many requests to support Duke of Edinburgh volunteering and have diversified our volunteer opportunities to support these. We hope to be able to offer a wider range in the future, extending the opportinities to other teams within the Trust.

Our bird feeders by the Visitor Centre have been looking a bit worse for wear lately. A plea for help was sent out to our volunteers and one came up with a design and another built the new feeding station it.


We are implementing a new EPOS system in the Visitor Centre and Café which will allow us to make cost savings and cut down on admin. Our main focus in the next 6-12 months will be on improving and planning for future development to encourage families and improve dwell times with a focus on improving the play offering within the park.