A local environmental charity is looking for support to help it buy and maintain an area of heathland near Rushmere Park.
The Greensand Trust are trying to raise the £50,000 needed to buy Shire Oak Heath, a 17-acre site
neighbouring Rushmere Country Park. The Trust already runs Rushmere on a not-for-profit basis. Now, the Trust wants to secure the nearby site so that it can become part of the park. They hope to restore it to a thriving, well-maintained area of heathland and believe it would also provide a safer cycle route into the park.
The Trust launched an appeal to buy the site in July this year and has so far raised over £12,000 from public donations. It is hoping to secure a number of grants very soon which would take the total raised to around £40,000, leaving them a shortfall of £10,000 to ensure the future of the site.
Runners and volunteers of Rushmere park run, which takes place at the Park every Saturday morning at 9am, recently turned up dressed in purple to represent heather of the heathland and raise awareness of the Shire Oak Heath appeal. The appeal has a month left to run. Jon Balaam, the Trust’s Director of Development, joined the park run. He expressed his thanks to park run organiser Tracey Cardno and her team for their hospitality and willingness to support the appeal.
Shire Oak Heath was once a thriving heathland so it has great potential for restoration. Heathland within Rushmere Park already under the Greensand Trust’s management has been restored to such a degree that Natural England recognised it as part of an extended National Nature Reserve (NNR) of Kings Wood & Rushmere in 2016.
The unrestored area the charity aims to purchase remains at risk. It was identified by Natural England as being in an unfavourable and declining condition due to lack of management. It is now a neglected remnant of what was once a thriving heathland.
If the Trust is unable to raise the necessary £50,000 it needs for the purchase, it will have to scale back or delay its aspirations on restoring the site to a thriving heathland providing valuable habitats for a number of species.
One of its aims for acquiring the site is to provide a safe cycle access to Rushmere from Heath and
Reach but this may have to be put on hold if the funding is not made available.
Jon Balaam added: “We’re calling on the local community and all those who enjoy Rushmere Country Park and value our conservation work to support this appeal to secure this site and help us to reverse its decline so it can once again be regarded as a valuable heathland habitat.
Jon said, “Adding Shire Oak Heath to Rushmere Country Park will provide a welcome extension to what is already a much-valued local site offering further opportunities to all our visitors, including safer access for cyclists.”
Donations can be made via: https://www.greensandtrust.org/Appeal/restoring-shire-oak-heath-appeal
The Greensand Trust is an independent environmental charity that works with local communities and landowners to conserve and promote the distinctive landscape, wildlife and history of the Greensand Ridge and to improve access, understanding and enjoyment of this fascinating area. Find out more at www.greensandtrust.org
Rushmere Country Park is located at Herons’ View Visitor Centre, Linslade Road,
Heath & Reach, Bedfordshire LU7 0EB. Managed by The Greensand Trust, working
in partnership with Central Bedfordshire Council, the park is run on a not-for- profit
basis for the benefit of visitors and wildlife.