The Greensand Trust

Quarterly Report:  July - September 2022

Partnerships & Development Projects we're involved in

The Trust helped the Upper and Bedford Ouse Catchment Partnership secure a £10,000 grant from the Water Resources Communications and Engagement Fund for a project called the “Water Resources Awareness Project” (WRAP).  The funds will significantly enhance the awareness raising activities of the Catchment Partnership on issues around low flows and flooding, the harm caused to the environment and opportunities for addressing them.

As the Greensand Country Landscape Partnership comes towards the end of its Lottery-funded phase, the National Lottery Heritage Fund visited the area in September to look at a range of completed projects.  These included the Sexton’s Hut in Maulden churchyard, the Heritage Tree Trail, the Working Woodlands Centre and (pictured) the newly refurbished ‘Cage’ in Silsoe, a former village lock-up for housing local miscreants. 

An Outline Masterplan was prepared for an area of land Flitwick Town Council wishes to turn into a ‘Nature Park’ to improve habitats and provide low key recreational access for local residents.  The proposed Nature Park will include woodland and meadow areas, ponds, trees and hedgerows, and will be an important element of the Ampthill and Flitwick Green Wheel, for which a Masterplan is also being developed by the Trust (working with Beds RCC).  The emphasis will be to encourage people to walk or cycle to this site. 


Sites we help to look after

Heathland restoration continued in Oak Wood and on Lords Hill and Rammamere Heath with work concentrating on removal of bracken and birch and pine saplings.  Sheep finally arrived on Rammamere in early July with a group of dedicated volunteers checking them daily.  In August Bob Hook led a guided site visit to Rammamere and Kings Wood for all Trust rangers to give everyone a better understanding of the area, its history and ecology. 

The Nature Discovery Area at Stockgrove was tidied up and the pond cleared. Log edging was installed around the edge to prevent flood water entering the pond.  The new tree plantation by the main entrance had the grass cut and raked, thistles cleared and any dead saplings and surplus tree guards removed.  Steps were installed at the entrance to Stockgrove to restrict erosion and unevenness for those walking across the road from Rammamere where steps have also been installed to enable safe, level access from the kissing gate up to the road edge.

Stanbridge Meadows was grazed by three redpoll cattle this summer. The volunteers carried out ragwort pulling and scrub management and the site entrances were widened to reduce pinch-points and muddy paths in winter.

The Friends of Edgewick Farm had a busy quarter; the picnic area was cleared and raked, windfalls from the orchard were collected and left for the public with a donations box and pond management work carried out.

The annual meadow cut was carried out at Avery’s Meadow, with Himalayan balsam also being removed.  There continue to be problems with fly tipping and unauthorised tree removal at this site.  At King Street/Millbank Meadows graffiti tagging and obscene dialogue continues to hamper the site but newly installed fencing and signage have remained in place.  The usual checks were carried out along the Clipstone Brook; six dumped trolleys and a rope swing were removed.

It was a busy quarter working with the Friends of Linslade Wood – removing brambles that were encroaching on the bluebell areas and coppicing hazel, as well as the usual regular maintenance work.  Trust volunteers have also been helping out by creating scallops along ride edges to encourage common spotted orchids to spread and laying an old hedgerow.  We assisted the Friends of Studham Common with two days of scrub clearance and advice on species for future hedge planting.  An unstable bridge that was no longer in use was removed and an area that had been used as a campsite was cleared of litter.

 Action days run by the Trust for the Friends of Knolls Wood involved a stretch of hedge-laying and cutting and raking the grassy edges of the monkey puzzle avenue.  Four new recruits were welcomed to the Friends group.  A Friends committee meeting was hosted by the Trust to discuss future planting, volunteer tasks and using social media to boost engagement with the group.

In preparation for the Canal Festival we helped the Friends of Tiddenfoot Waterside Park clear paths and hazel was collected from Linslade Wood to use in a demonstration of hurdle making at the festival.  In September, the Trust assisted the Friends with an action day carrying out various jobs around the park including path clearance, hedge laying, tackling brambles and removing old hazel hurdles.  Regular site checks by rangers dealt with a wide range of issues to keep the Park well-maintained and safe.

At a task at Heath Wood and Meadow in September volunteers worked to widen and keep paths clear in the woodland, cleared Robinia saplings that were encroaching on the meadow and treated the newly installed Greensand Ridge Walk bench.  Rangers responded to reports of a fire in the meadow in August, which was attended by firefighters.

At Clophill Lakes the management focus over the summer was on starting to tackle the large amount of Himalayan balsam on site. Contractors cleared along the river and volunteers tackled other areas on site.  The routes of future paths were flailed off.  Balsam pulling was also carried out at Sandy Smith NR, the rides were forage harvested and fencing repairs carried out.

At Ampthill Park the usual park maintenance work was carried out, together with bracken pulling.  Mowing and raking tasks took place at Duck End NR, Steppingley Hospital and Ampthill Churchyard to help improve the quality of the grassland at these County Wildlife Sites. 


Our Education Team have been busy

Boosted by our newly recruited part-time education officer Jane and supported by education volunteers contributing 42 hours of invaluable time, we worked with a total of 683 young people of different ages over the last three months.  The slightly increased numbers were boosted by presenting whole school assemblies on the plight of swifts in partnership with the Bedfordshire Swift Group, an initiative we hope to support further, and also by a returning whole school visit, celebrating their end of term at Rushmere Country Park.

Our annual Bug Lab programme returned during the summer holidays thanks to Central Bedfordshire Council’s Active Outdoors funding.  This is the 15th year of Bug Lab! Seven sessions over six venues attracted over 70 young people to explore, identify and record creepy crawlies with their families. As always the Bug Labs were well supported by Bedfordshire Natural History Society members and, despite the extreme high temperatures and fewer invertebrate records, the programme was a lot of fun and a success.

We were excited to meet the new Greensand Trust Youth Rangers this autumn (11 young people aged between 13 and 16 have signed up) and have a busy programme of 10 further sessions based in and around Rushmere. These sessions will help them develop new skills and learn about the park and conservation management.

We also embarked on a new programme – WISE wood - with a small group of pupils from Henlow Academy. The pupils selected are generally unfamiliar with woodland environments and we aim to build their confidence and understanding whilst also offering an experience of the benefits of woodland in improving mental health.


News on Biodiversity & Heritage

As part of the pilot Flora Guardians project monitoring was carried out by staff and volunteers over the summer months on species such as greater broomrape, marsh violet, sheep’s-bit and bog pimpernel (pictured), all rare plants now present in only one or two places on the Greensand Ridge.

Our 10-year Higher Level Stewardship agreement at Maulden Heath came to an end in September but, as with many such schemes, it is being extended by a year until there is more clarity regarding the future of agri-environment schemes.  The Beds Invertebrate Group visited the site in August, making a number of interesting finds.

This quarter saw the end of the Himalayan Balsam Management and Eradication Project that we have been delivering with Beds RCC and the Wildlife Trust with funding from Anglian Water’s Invasive Species Fund through the Cambridge Community Foundation.  As well as the practical work mentioned earlier it has enabled us to develop better resources for use in raising awareness of the issue going forward.

In July we had a meeting with the Operations Manager and Ecologist from the Bedford Group of Drainage Boards. They are in the process of writing a Biodiversity Action Plan for the Group which hopefully should lead to some positive collaboration in future.

Forestry England invited us to join a meeting with their Oak Processionary Moth team at Maulden Wood.  This invasive species was accidentally introduced to the UK in 2005.  It has now been found on oak trees in Maulden Wood and a number of others locally. The caterpillars live gregariously in a web on branches, have irritating hairs which cause rashes and can be a hazard to people and dogs.

Consultancy work this quarter has been mainly Preliminary Ecological Assessments with work being carried out at Woburn Safari Park, Stoke Hammond, Stony Stratford and Singleborough.  A dredging specification was written for a pond in West Bletchley and an Ecological Survey was carried out to inform a tree planting scheme being organised by the Forest of Marston Vale at Haynes West End.  As this land is near Maulden Wood advice on dormice was provided too.


The Greensand Trust website had 16.2K visits this quarter with 151K impressions.  As usual Rushmere was the most popular page.  The Facebook page audience increased slightly from 1,683 to 1,737.  The announcement of this summer’s Bug Labs proved the top performing post on Facebook.  Of all the venues, Blue Waters in Houghton Regis (a new site for Bug Lab) was the most viewed.  Page reach was up by 30% on the last quarter, reaching 30,464.

Three press releases were issued during the quarter; these covered the Youth Ranger scheme, Rushmere’s Green Flag Award and the Rushmere Non-User Survey.  The first two were picked up and resulted in coverage.  Other press coverage included criticism of rises in the prices of cycling and horse riding passes at Rushmere and Aspley Woods and, more positively, cycling developments at Rushmere by British Cycling.

Other work included the production of numerous signs for the re-opening of the Woburn bike trails and jump area and an A5 page update on progress with Clophill Lakes for Clophill’s parish magazine Spotlight.

Volunteering & Community Engagement

About 50 volunteers, staff and trustees attended an evening event at Rushmere in September held to thank volunteers for all their efforts on the Trust’s behalf.

The Trust attended the Linslade Canal Festival once again, joining the Greensand Country stand and also promoting the Rushmere Non-User Survey, which is seeking to find out more about local people who don’t visit Rushmere, and the reasons for this, to hopefully help engage a wider range of people in the future.  While thousands of people flooded back to the Festival after its Covid-enforced hiatus, and many people stopped to chat about how much they enjoy Rushmere, finding people who had not visited proved very difficult!  The Trust also had a small stall at the Flitton Moor barnstorm in July, with information on the Trust’s work and on himalayan balsam.

The Trust once again took part in the Bedfordshire Walking Festival, leading a guided walk around the “Western Parkland Walk” through Aspley Guise and Husborne Crawley.  The Walk was developed as part of the Greensand Country Landscape Partnership, and showcased how the estates at Aspley and Crawley Parks have contributed to the landscape and sense of place over the years.  The walk took in the two new interpretation panels installed as part of the project, overlooking each of the parks.

Volunteer-led walks for staff and volunteers were held at Sandhouse Lane & Tiddenfoot over the summer.  Volunteers featured in a Countryside Code Video created by Central Bedfordshire Council.  The video showcased Rushmere Country Park in a positive manner and sent out a great message. Follow the Countryside Code | The Greensand Trust



Facilities & associated activities

Rushmere was successful in retaining its Green Flag Award for the third year with excellent feedback.

The summer period was fairly busy with Visitor Services providing a summer picture trail, two scavenger hunts plus a children’s drawing sheet.  Finished drawings were displayed in the atrium at the Visitor Centre (see below).  Price increases were introduced for activities like cycling and horse-riding, and parking permits. It was imperative that we increased these revenues, so they remain sustainable as costs rise.  Trustees from Highfield Park in St Albans visited the Park and met with the Centre Manager.  They were very impressed with Rushmere and what we offer and found it very useful for informing the development of their site.

Tree Tops Café hosted Summer Meze evenings on the decking every Thursday evening throughout summer which proved to be very popular with excellent feedback and attendance growing as the summer progressed. We also played host to two CBC Explorer events over the summer holidays and ran a Mindful Drawing event.  A Greensand Country Art Exhibition was displayed in the atrium of the Visitor Centre with sculptures by artist Emily Tracy.  A work experience student worked with both the ranger team and Visitor Services over the summer. 

At the Working Woodlands Centre, work was carried out on the education area near the workshops to improve access to the pond and provide a safe woodland space for use during school visits.  Meetings were held with Highways and Forest Enterprise to discuss plans for tree-felling in the Deadman’s Hill lay-by to increase visibility and deal with trees suffering from ash dieback.