The Greensand Trust Quarterly Report: July - September 2021 

Partnerships and Development Projects

In September the Trust attended a public drop-in in Clophill, followed by a Parish Council meeting, to outline our plans for Clophill Lakes and answer questions from local residents. We also worked with student filmmaker George Pratt to document the site before any works start; this film will used as a preview to give people a taste of the site before it is open. The rangers made a start on flailing the route of the proposed footpath around the lakes and the fence-line for a grazing unit in the north of the site. Fencing the grazing unit has begun using metal straining posts, which we have previously trialled at SSNR, and new, recycled plastic posts, which we are trialling for the first time.

The Trust has been running a ‘Networking and Skills’ project, funded by the National Lottery Heritage Fund through the Greensand Country Landscape Project (GCLP). In August we teamed up with Mark Smith of the Bedfordshire Council for Voluntary Services to deliver an introductory course on fundraising for community and volunteer groups. The course helped participants gain skills in identifying funding sources and completing funding applications.

In September Guy Lambourne of Wassledine led a training course on leading guided walks. Very much focused on the basics, this course gave participants a thorough grounding in what they need to consider. Several of the participants were Greensand Trust volunteers who will hopefully be out there soon helping engage people with our sites, wildlife and landscape.

A workshop on grassland management later in the month was led by GST staff at Stockgrove. Participants learnt about different management techniques in theory and in practice whilst contributing to the site’s conservation management.

As part of the Bedfordshire Walking Festival organised by the Bedfordshire Ramblers, the Trust led a well-attended walk along the new ‘Western Parkland Trail’, created through the GCLP, which is focused on the area around Aspley and Crawley Parks. We also hosted a “Heathland Restoration Art Event” at Rushmere where artists were invited to create a plein-air artwork over a three hour period around Nightjar Valley and Lords Hill. Three winners were selected to exhibit in the Visitor Centre. The paintings are currently on display until the end of November.

As part of our Ouzel Enhancement Project in Leighton-Linslade we teamed up with Central Bedfordshire Council (CBC), South Bedfordshire Friends of the Earth and the Rivers Trust to carry out a litter pick in the River Ouzel in August, with a special focus on highlighting plastic pollution. Over 65kg of litter was removed, plus a large lorry wheel that was too heavy to weigh and eight shopping trolleys! The litter was weighed to feed into the Rivers Trust’s “Preventing Plastics Pollution” project, which is demonstrating how important it is to stop plastics getting into our waterbodies.

Trust volunteers also carried out maintenance work on the ‘flow deflectors’ made from woody materials first installed in 2016 to help improve the habitat structure and flow regime of the River Ouzel, under the expert guidance of the Environment Agency. Although the deflectors have taken a battering over the years, they are performing well and have helped trap and stabilise silt and create a more sinuous channel.


Education sessions were delivered to 11 different schools on our sites during July and August (up to the start of the summer holidays) with a total of 343 children participating. Map skills, orienteering, fire lighting and shelter building continued as popular themes at Rushmere and the Working Woodlands Centre although some schools requested the more traditional session themes of habitat comparison, bug hunting, pond dipping and sensory exploration.

Over the summer holiday period, two woodland birthday parties and eight holiday activities were delivered at Rushmere to an audience of 130 young people. BUG lab, bug hunting events and two nature themed events for a special educational needs audience were delivered on a number of our sites and others in partnership with CBC. Most sessions required advance booking and were fairly well attended (numbers slightly down on previous years) but the trialled ‘pop up’ nature activities at Rushmere were less successful, potentially because of poor and unpredictable weather on the days.

Our 2021/22 Youth Ranger scheme started in September. Twelve young people aged between 12 and 18 years of age signed up; they will be attending sessions until next February, at the end of which they will have attained a John Muir Award. This year they are based at the Working Woodlands Centre and accessing sites and activities in the east of our area. The Greensand Champions scheme has been launched for 2021/22 and we are promoting this award, recognising ‘positive environmental action’, to young people we come into contact with. More information can be found on our website.

Access Development

A notoriously wet and muddy stretch of the Greensand Ridge Walk in Leighton Buzzard has been improved with a new surface. Delivered by the Trust in partnership with CBC, over 200m of crushed aggregate surfacing was installed between Corbettshill Farm and Heath Wood and Meadow, and is already being appreciated by local users. The project was funded by CBC’s Green Infrastructure Planning Obligations fund and the National Lottery Heritage Fund through the GCLP. In total nearly 3.5km of the Walk’s route has been improved during this project, including some of the most difficult and highest priority sections.

Biodiversity and Heritage

An Ecological Survey was carried out of Ampthill’s Kings Arms Gardens for its Friends Group. The report included recommendations for ecological enhancements and the intention is that there will be continued liaison with the Friends in future, with regular seasonal site visits to agree the exact location of features such as bird and bat boxes or proposed new planting, monitor the success of these features and assist with drawing up a prioritised action plan of practical activities for the volunteers. Seven other ecological consultancy visits were carried out, including protected species surveys, preliminary ecological appraisals and a mitigation scheme. An advisory visit was also paid to Eversholt’s Millennium Pond to advise on tree removal necessary to restore it.

At Duck End NR the annual small mammal trapping event was very successful with a water shrew being recorded for the first time in many years. Survey work was carried out at Readshill Grassland in Clophill to inform a proposal for extending the County Wildlife Site boundary. Readshill is one of only two sites remaining in Bedfordshire where the rare sheep’s-bit plant is still found; monitoring this summer found that the area over which it is found has increased slightly.

At Clophill Lakes survey work continued to build up a picture of what is present on site. This included botanical transects of the grassland and further work on badgers, amphibians and reptiles and dragonflies. The draft Management Plan was completed and submitted to the Local Planning Authority. Albion Archaeology was commissioned to prepare a management plan for Cainhoe Castle Scheduled Monument.

Volunteering and Community Engagement

After an absence last year due to the pandemic, in September the Trust held its annual event for volunteers to thank them for all their hard work. It was held at Clophill Lakes to enable people to get an early look at the site. The café team provided a fantastic buffet and there was a guided walk around the lakes for all.

All our teams of practical conservation volunteers are now back up and running. The Rushmere Tuesday team have been busy with a variety of tasks around the Park such as installing or replacing gates and fencing and clearing the boathouse valley of bramble and bracken to allow heather regeneration. The Wednesday team has been removing birch and bramble from our heathland restoration sites on Lord’s Hill, Rammamere Heath, Oak Wood and Shire Oak Heath.

In the east, the Tuesday team has been busy with pond work, Himalayan balsam removal and mowing and raking grassland at a variety of sites while the Thursday volunteers have alternated between tasks at Ampthill Park and this year’s woodland management work at SSNR.

Visitor Services volunteers are now back with us with three new volunteers joining the team and one former volunteer rejoining. An additional Duke of Edinburgh volunteer commenced litter picking duties in August. A number of volunteers have supported events and workshops at Rushmere over the summer including Bug Labs, Nature Craft sessions, Explorer days and the art workshop.

Facilities and associated activities

At Rushmere, visitor numbers remained high although they have dropped since the easing of Covid restrictions. The new ANPR system went live in August. The majority of visitors dealt with the change really well and staff worked hard to help those that found the change confusing, and to monitor and fix issues as they arose.

The Café is now fully open and accessible once more. Visitor confidence is starting to increase despite a slow start. The weekends are continuing to be busy but more work needs to be done to encourage visitors during the week. The Hatch continues to serve takeaway food and is a popular option. An additional 18 picnic benches have been installed near the Hatch and opposite the children’s play area.

The Visitor Services desk is open once again with regular support from our wonderful volunteers. The retail section is also now open but, like the café, it is experiencing a slow uptake. The Events and Catering teams facilitated a fantastic Marquee Wedding Open day. 30 couples attended despite the poor weather. There are now three wedding options available. Park Run has restarted – initially numbers attending were low but they are now starting to rise.

The Working Woodlands Centre has resumed hosting training courses again although there have not yet been any bookings for meetings by external organisations as people continue to be cautious about meeting inside. Unfortunately the Really Awesome Coffee team found the Maulden Wood location was not profitable enough once visitor numbers dropped after lockdown ceased.

Discussions continued with Forestry England, CBC and the Police over possible solutions to the anti- social behaviour in the lay-by.


Our GST Facebook audience grew by 10% in this quarter to 1.1K. The two top performing posts were the launch of Bug Lab and the Youth Rangers scheme. Rangers are now regularly sending in photographs and information about volunteer tasks to be posted. These are proving very popular and, we hope, giving people a better idea of the full range of work that we do and sites that we work at.

Throughout the period the most visited pages on the Greensand Trust website were those for Rushmere, Ampthill Park and information on parking at Rushmere. There was good media coverage promoting the forthcoming Youth Ranger scheme on Bedford Today, the digital version of the Bedford Times & Citizen.

The autumn Highlights report promoting the work of the Trust and upcoming events was e-mailed to over 1000 people. Events are very much back on the agenda. A workshop on basket weaving in partnership with GCLP sold out overnight. Information panels and signs were prepared for the Clophill Lakes site and the public meetings concerning it.


You can download a copy of this report here