King’s Wood and Rushmere National Nature Reserve gains 43 hectares

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An area of land dedicated to the conservation, study and enjoyment of England’s wildlife is to be made even bigger with an extension to Bedfordshire’s largest National Nature Reserve.

Already boasting around 148 hectares, the protected area at King’s Wood and Rushmere is set to gain an extra 43, bringing its total size to 191 hectares.

Best of England’s nature

The extension into Buckinghamshire, granted by Natural England, means that an even greater, cross-county area of countryside and wildlife will benefit from legal protection and expert environmental management.

People will benefit too, with National Nature Reserves being much-loved places to enjoy and study the best of England’s natural surroundings.

Located between Milton Keynes and Luton, the National Nature Reserve at King’s Wood and Rushmere is one of just three such sites in Bedfordshire.

Home to variety of species

Established in 1993, the reserve includes heath, ancient woodland, grassland, wetland, Sites of Special Scientific Interest, and parts of the Rushmere Country Park.

It is home to a variety of species including the barbastelle bat, the purple emperor butterfly, and Bedfordshire’s largest population of lily of the valley.

The 43-hectare expansion covers land managed by Tarmac and The Greensand Trust, which already manage parts of the existing reserve alongside Central Bedfordshire Council and the Wildlife Trust for Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire and Northamptonshire.

Managing nature’s recovery

Tarmac has passed strict assessments to become an ‘approved body’ for managing National Nature Reserves. It is one of just a few commercial organisations nationwide to have achieved the status, showing it has the skills, capabilities and desire to manage nature’s recovery and encourage people to connect with their environment.

Part of the site, Shire Oak Heath, has recently been acquired by The Greensand Trust, which carries out conservation work and provide access across much of the King’s Wood and Rushmere National Nature Reserve. The charity is working hard to bring the rare heathland habitats back to their former glory.

Alan Law, deputy chief executive for Natural England, said:

This is a great example of partners working together. The additional land owned by Tarmac and The Greensand Trust will extend the National Nature Reserve in the landscape; this is a great opportunity to recover nature and for more people to connect with nature.

Justin Tilley, nature recovery senior advisor for Natural England, said:

England’s National Nature Reserves are the crown jewels of England’s natural heritage. These rare and precious sites secure our country’s wonderful wildlife and rich geology for us all. They inspire, give opportunities to learn about nature and its conservation, and encourage people to connect with their wider surroundings. We’re delighted that this extension brings even more of this amazing natural habitat into the highest category of environmental protection and management.

Michael Charlton, estates manager for Tarmac, said:

We are really proud to have received ‘approved body’ status from Natural England, which has enabled us to add more of our land to the National Nature Reserve. We have been working closely with our partners for nearly 30 years to restore the historic woodland structures and heathland which makes this site so special. We look forward to continuing working with our partners to ensure the success of King’s Wood and Rushmere National Nature Reserve for many years to come.

Jon Balaam from The Greensand Trust said:

This latest extension of the National Nature Reserve demonstrates the importance of this area for nature, and the inclusion of parts of Rushmere Country Park means that people can explore parts of this wonderful site. It also demonstrates the value of working in partnership to achieve a common goal.

National Nature Reserves were established in 1949 by the National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act. They are selected for being the best examples of England’s special biodiversity and geology and are looked after in the best possible way – not only for nature’s benefit but for everyone to enjoy.

There are now 224 National Nature Reserves across the country, each protecting and showcasing some of the best wildlife and landscapes England has to offer. Together, they cover an area of 94,400 hectares.

‘Crown jewels’ of nature

Natural England manages 142 of them either on its own or with others, while the remainder are managed by approved bodies.

In total, there are three National Nature Reserves in Bedfordshire: Barton Hills, Knocking Hoe, and King’s Wood and Rushmere. Together, they now cover 312 hectares of the county.

More information about National Nature Reserves and how to visit them is available on GOV.UK.

The Greensand Trust is seeking financial support to help them bring more of this special site into positive conservation ownership. More information about the charity’s King’s Wood Appeal is available on its website greensandtrust.org.

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