The Greensand Trust Quarterly Report:  January - March 2023


In the last school term, the education team worked with a total of 295 young people. Volunteers provided 54 hours of their time in support. We were pleased to deliver the Sandtastic Programme again for Year 3s at Southcott Lower school. This involved classroom discovery sessions followed by a visit to a sand processing plant and then Tiddenfoot Waterside Park. The programme covers everything from the geology of greensand to the industrial heritage of the town and nature recovery.  The team has developed a new programme for Early Years Foundation Stage and Key Stage 1 called “Minibeast Gardens”. Designed to be taught in school grounds this enables us to provide outreach work to schools when they feel unable to meet the ever-increasing cost of coach travel to sites. The programme had its first outing this term and was well received by teachers and 52 pupils at Beaudesert school in Leighton Buzzard.

137 primary school children and 12 college students came out to discover and learn about Rushmere Country Park. 83 Year 2 children came out to the WWC to explore Maulden Woods and visit the pond filled with spawning toads and frogs. For the majority of these children this was their first time being in the countryside highlighting the importance of providing these experiences for young people.  Some quotations from our evaluation forms:

 “The children have shown an understanding of how and why the Greensand Trust manages particular sites” Year 3 teacher following a “Junior Rangers” activity.

"I have had a such a busy morning.  I loved it." EYFS pupil “Minibeast Gardens”

“There was a lot of talk on the bus on the way home about the work and conservation” Central Bedfordshire college tutor

In addition, the Education Team worked in partnership with the RSPB local group for the Big Garden Bird Watch at Rushmere in January and attended the Inspired by Nature and Student COP2 event at Flitwick Library in March.

The highlight of this quarter has been the graduation of our Youth Rangers at Rushmere Country Park.  The last practical task of tree felling was followed by preparation of their guided walk for parents. The Youth Rangers really excelled on the final presentation day not only confidently talking about their experiences on the walk but also producing a short film about the scheme. Trustee Simon Collier presented the 11 Youth Rangers with their John Muir Award certificates – a proud moment for everyone.

Partnerships & Development Projects

Over 70 people attended drop-in workshops held for the Aspley Heath Green Infrastructure Plan and Wing Environmental Enhancement Plan, both of which will feed into their respective Neighbourhood Plans.  Work continued with the Barton-le-Clay GI Plan, focusing on Local Green Space designation in particular, helping to ensure valued but unprotected local spaces can be protected from inappropriate development.

Local Nature Recovery Strategies are a new government initiative that will set out how nature can be helped to recover through the creation and linking of habitats, and the improvement of existing areas, across the county.  It is expected that they will take 12-18 months to complete.  In its role as Facilitator for the Bedfordshire Local Nature Partnership, the Trust is helping to prepare for the development of the Bedfordshire LNRS by engaging stakeholders who will be involved.

The Greensand Country Landscape Partnership’s first AGM was held, formalising the post-Lottery Funded phase, with new and existing partners coming together to discuss project ideas for 2023. 23 partners have now signed the ‘Collaboration Agreement’ formalising their role in Greensand Country going forwards.  Our themed working groups (‘Caring for the Landscape’, ‘Greensand Country Heritage’, ‘Enjoyment and Wellbeing’, ‘Rural Economy and Sustainable Tourism’, ‘Local Action on Climate Change’) have all met so that different organisations and groups can get together to discuss how the Partnership can make a difference. 

An innovative pilot project giving information on agriculture and conservation using QR codes along public footpaths has been launched and we continue to support other teams within the Trust, such as with the promotion of the Greensand Champions scheme.

A ‘Volunteers Celebration Event’ was held in March, organised by the Greensand Trust and supported by the Wildlife Trust, through the Upper and Bedford Ouse Catchment Partnership.

The event was held as a thank-you to Volunteer River Wardens for their hard work and commitment.  Over 30 volunteers attended, with a keynote presentation from Joe Pecorelli from the Zoological Society of London – a leading light in involving local people through ‘Citizen Science’.  An ‘Outfall Safari’ training session was organised and run by the Trust in February, helping establish a system for monitoring pollution through surface water outfalls into rivers.  The event was held at Rushmere Country Park/Riverside Walk in Leighton-Linslade.  Unfortunately Jon Balaam, who led the event, tested positive for Covid on the day, and had to deliver virtually – with thanks to the Wildlife Trust and others for their help with the outdoor session!  Volunteers have continued to carry out River Habitat Surveys across the Catchment as part of the ‘Strategic River Restoration Plan’.  With a lot of attention on water quality and pollution, it is important not to forget that the physical modification of river channels can be just as detrimental to wildlife.


The new team is settling in well at Ampthill Park and has been busy with the regular contract work.  Additional work has included
 assisting with the creation of a performance area near the café and planting a hawthorn hedge and a cluster of oak saplings at the back of the play area.  Volunteer tasks have returned with the
 clearance of laurel in places to enhance the original Capability Brown design of the Park.

Considerable work has been going on at Clophill Lakes in the last few months – including the tree felling and scrub clearance necessary to ensure that groundworks later in the year do not disturb nesting birds.  New views have been opened up by taking out some of the lakeside trees in places.  A 55m boardwalk with a viewing area has been installed to take visitors over the boggy area between the two lakes – although it will not be available for use until the rest of the site infrastructure is complete and the site opened to visitors. The boardwalk has been funded by Grantscape.  A less positive occurrence was the discovery of a leaking sewage pipe under one part of the site.  Anglian Water have repaired the pipe however it is very old and should really be completely replaced to prevent such incidents in future.

A group of Trustees from the Clophill United Charities visited the Lakes site in March, following their contribution to the ongoing Clophill Lakes Appeal.  Meetings have continued with Clophill Parish Council to keep them updated on progress with developing the site.  In February another successful tree planting event was held at the Lakes.

At Linslade Wood the Friends Group continued coppicing to produce stakes and binders for hedge laying; they also cleaned out nestboxes ready for the new breeding season.  Other activities included a hedgerow planting day in conjunction with Central Bedfordshire Council which 15 volunteers and 24 members of the public attended, planting 1000 hedgeplants.  At Studham Common work included the installation of new information panels and the removal of tree guards from around heather plants.  The Friends of Knolls Wood continued laying the holly hedge along the Sandy Lane boundary and a holly clearance task took place at Heath Wood and Meadow.  Hedge-laying has also been taking place at Tiddenfoot Waterside Park together with more routine maintenance work on paths and fishing swims.  A task was held at Avery’s Meadow to tidy up fallen brash and fly-tipped tree waste.

At Sandy Smith NR the volunteers have been putting their new hedge-laying skills to good use, tackling a further stretch to add to the length done at their training day last year.  The annual reedbed cut was carried out in February and scrub control has taken place.  Scrub control was also the order of the day in one of the SSSI fields at Maulden Heath.  Work for Central Bedfordshire Council included two ride management tasks at Centenary Wood and a tree planting task at Flitwick Wood.

At Rushmere, heathland restoration has continued in Oak Wood, Nightjar Valley and on Lords Hill with the assistance of our weekly volunteer groups. The Youth Rangers helped clear and open up the viewing area on Lords Hill looking back across to the visitors’ centre and also installed a rustic fence to prevent unauthorised access down the hill and into the conservation area.  Rustic fencing has also been installed at the entrance to Baker’s Wood near the Stockgrove car park to try to prevent the bluebells being trampled.

Biodiversity and Heritage

Archaeological survey work funded by the Greensand Country Landscape Partnership took place at Sandy Smith NR and Clophill Lakes.  This work revealed some minor earthworks surrounding Cainhoe Castle and possible ridge and furrow within the wider site. Sketches were produced showing Cainhoe Castle and the later manorial site, which will inform how we interpret the site in the future. At SSNR the location of various traces of the reserve’s past within the Chicksands Priory estate have now been mapped.

Development work continued on the Flora Guardians project with the Beds Natural History Society, the Wildlife Trust and the Beds Recording and Monitoring Centre.  After last year’s pilot project plans were drawn up for a larger project in the coming year.

The main ecological work at Clophill Lakes this quarter has been the continued monitoring of the various badger setts on site, however, the highlight of the period was the sighting of two otters, possibly a mother and well-grown cub, in the river on site in February.  Other interesting records included a calling water rail and finding hibernating young lizards under a fly-tipped car cushion near the A507 boundary!

During the quarter we supported the Beds Recording & Monitoring Centre with a Natural England pilot project to identify flagship species for Bedfordshire to be used to raise awareness of the Local Nature Recovery Strategy.

Ecological consultancy work was carried out at seven sites.  This included preliminary bat roost assessments, biodiversity enhancement schemes and the new biodiversity impact assessment metrics which are part of the new planning requirements for Biodiversity Net Gain.  An ecological survey of the Broughton Brook corridor at Husborne Crawley was carried out to support a river restoration project in conjunction with an Anglian Water project which is seeking to address low flow issues.


Our Facebook audience increased slightly this quarter to 1,848.  Post reach and engagement both increased by 15-20%.  The top performing post was the promotion for a ‘Be an Owl Detective’ event to be jointly run by GST and the BNHS.  Page reach and visits were down on the previous quarter however that quarter had included paid promotion for the Clophill Lakes appeal.  Social media response to our tree planting event at Clophill Lakes in February was good.

Two press releases were issued during the quarter, one on the new Youth Ranger scheme and the other the Leighton Buzzard Green Gateway feature.  Leighton Online covered the Gateway story.

Analysis of our Google Search performance showed that the Trust website was visited by 14.02K (up from 12.33K) with 125.4K impressions in this quarter.  Top performing searches were Rushmere Country Park, Ampthill and Woburn bike day ticket in January/February but in March this changed to events at Rushmere/ Rushmere walks and trails/ Easter I Spy trail.

Facilities and associated activities

The Rushmere management plan has been updated prior to this year’s application for Green Flag status being submitted.  Energy efficiency audits were carried out for the visitor centres to help identify how savings can be made given the rise in energy costs.  The Treetops café menu was revised.

The January RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch event was held at the Park and was very successful with visitors spotting birds from the Visitor Centre decking and an educational craft activity available for children.  The Park also hosted a British Orienteering event and at the February half-term a self-led Animal Tracks trail was made available to visitors.  In March a Brink Bike event was held trialling e-bikes.

Heron Watch was very successful again this year with several new volunteers joining the team.  Our volunteer photographer been taking some wonderful photographs we have been able to share via social media.  About 18 pairs of herons have nested at Rushmere this year.