Rushmere Country Park,
The Geeensand Trust
Heron View Visitor Centre
Heath and Reach
Bedfordshire LU7 0EB
Tel: + 44 (0)1525 234260
Rushmere Country Park near Leighton Buzzard is managed by The Greensand Trust and is our local stomping ground. We often go out there for walks, but for some reason haven’t got around to writing about it for Access-Out-There. To rectify this we have put this short piece together with video clips and photos from at least three different visits. Instead of narrating a day out there as we normally do, you’ll find more of a montage of observations on the accessibility of the park and what you can expect to see, or at least what we have seen on our various visits.
Our car just knows the way to Rushmere Country Park but if you are living further afield you can find it by taking the Woburn Road off the A5 towards Heath and Reach. In the middle of Heath and Reach village take a right turn onto Linslade Road. The entrance to the park is about a mile down the road on the right. You will drive through an automatic barrier to enter the Park. The barrier will need to be fed £2 before it will lift to let you out when you later leave.
As you drive slowly up the park road towards the car park you find yourself passing a small lake, and going through some of the 400 acres of fields and woodland through which trails pass. Drive slowly and keep your eyes peeled you may see some interesting nature – on one occasion we had to stop the car for five minutes and watch fascinated while a tiny stoat dragged the body of a freshly caught rabbit across the road .. with no decent camera with us on that occasion the only picture we got was on my phone and could have been anything!
The car park is at the top of the hill near to the visitor centre. There is a lot of parking and the spaces nearest to the visitor centre are reserved for disabled badge holders, there is room for about eight vehicles in these spaces. This part of the car park is tarmac as is the path towards the visitor centre and towards the walks.
The new improved visitor centre was opened in 2015. Here you will find Greensand Trust volunteers who will tell you about the park and what you can expect to see when you visit. There are loos including one with good facilities for disabled people. There is also a cafe for that cake and a cuppa after your walk (the menu extends far beyond a cake and a cuppa of course, and there is no reason why you should wait until after your walk! ). You can take your tea at one of the tables inside but we prefer to sit outside on the boarded balcony which overlooks the woods and the lakes. There are bird feeding stations here and in the spring you can join the heron watch volunteers. Here the balcony is at the same level as the top of the trees growing down by the lake in which the heronry which can be seen. If you look carefully you see the herons on several nests. If you are lucky and at the right time of year, you can see them feeding their chicks. During the heron watch weeks the volunteers often have bird-watching monoculars set up trained on the nests which they are happy to let you look through. From Titania Richard found using these to be difficult, but there are also binoculars available if you don’t have your own so you do stand a good chance of seeing into the nests. Failing all of that, inside the visitor centre there is a TV monitor with a live feed from a webcam set up in one of the nests. It is easy to lose a couple of hours here watching the comings and goings of the birds. If it is not spring and you don’t see the herons you’ll almost certainly see something whilst quietly slurping your tea here, we have seen nuthatches, woodpeckers, jays, buzzards, kites and more.
We usually leave our visit to the Heronry until after our walk. There are a couple of trails of different lengths which loop around the park and are relatively Titania friendly though occasionally we’ll go off exploring alternatives with varying success rates. Initially the path is a wide typical woodland walk path. It is fairly hard ground, reasonably easy for Titania (especially when she has her new Free-wheel attached) but depending on the time of year or recent weather liable to be leaf strewn (it is woodland after all ) or muddy in patches.
Simply follow the main path for a while until it comes to a large clearing with a large “WILD THINGS” gate with off to your left looking like something out of Game of Thrones. Here there are options to head left or right. Take the right route for the shorter loop, but don’t follow the signs to Stockgrove (steeply downhill and not for Titania.. even on a good day! Stockgrove park is connected by trails to Rushmere, but for Titania if we are going for a walk around there we will take the car to Stockgrove.) Stockgrove will be the subject of another report on Access-Out-There later in the year. Instead take the trail which goes back more or less in parallel with the main path. This is narrower and more overgrown and “rooty” than the route you have just been on but it is navigable without requiring too much extra muscle power. Eventually it meets the path you came down, leaving you pointing in the direction of your cup of tea.
If you were to head left on one of the trails before the clearing you will be on a longer loop. Through the woods, the trail will definitely be leafy though the terrain varies sometimes decent path, sometimes muddy, and there are areas which are slightly sandy. Eventually you will come across a large green lawned area which is near the car park and Heronry and perfect for picnics. Once again this loop should be manageable without extra horsepower.
The video clip below is of a visit in autumn of last year on one of our experimental alternative longer routes which found us trekking through the woods where, in parts, extra Di-power was needed for Titania even with her FreeWheel.
This trail included a flight of long shallow steps and further on took us to a hidden pool in the depths of the forest. The trail brought us out and back up the hill to the edge of the forest where we could gaze over the fields of the shires. Titania’s eye ran out of battery so the last you see is Di disappearing into the distance to check the terrain of the next trail. Unfortunately this was before we got to the forest pool – so you’ll just have to take our word for it!
As you can see from the video this experimental trail was quite a trek. There was a lot of downhill, including those steps, which of course meant there was a lot of uphill too. Together with the muddy trails, the root and rocks across the path we certainly got our workout that day! But was fun!
There is much to see whichever trail you take. Along the path you will come across woodland sculptures, a giant’s chair, and giant spider, or tiny fairy homes as well as many others, you just need to keep your eyes open. The trees are beautiful (at least to tree-huggers like us) you will hear more birds than you see, but you will see plenty.
At different times of year we have come across different things. We were lucky enough to see some sand lizards on one of the sandier paths, they scuttled right between Titania’s wheels one summer day. On another occasion we stopped to watch courting jays nest building.. well the female was nest building, the male seemed to be just sitting there looking pretty. And in autumn you will see all sorts of fungi along the paths.
Rushmere Country park is a good place to go for a cup of tea whilst watching the herons at Heronry, and it is also a great place to go out there if you are happy to get some exercise going around the trails some of which are easier than others! You’ll often see something interesting so it’s nearly always worth all that effort. And if you don’t spot anything out there there’s always that cup of tea and a cake!
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Richard & Di
17th March 2016