Greensand Country on horseback
This project aimed to map the horse riding routes available throughout Greensand Country so that they could be added to the interactive map on the website. A leaflet could then be produced for distribution, and guided rides were held to showcase the routes and their connection to the landscape and heritage of Greensand Country. Volunteers would also be engaged to act as route champions, assist with way marking, and lead the guided rides. The project manager Ann gave her time in a voluntary capacity to lead the project to ensure the volunteers were coordinated and the outputs met.
The leaflets and e-resources produced have made the routes and information accessible to everyone. The pleasure ride that was delivered allowed this information to be disseminated to other riders, and their input and interest was useful feedback in assessing how well the routes and heritage information was received.
The project successfully recruited four volunteers to manage the route tasks, and their efforts allowed the project to complete all the infrastructure needed for the routes to take place. Furthermore, the project overachieved in terms of the volunteer hours committed, with 548 hours volunteered in total exceeding the initial 500-hour target.
Benefits to heritage & landscape
As a result of this project, heritage in Greensand Country has been better understood. The riding routes on the interactive map have allowed horse riders to explore the wider landscape of Greensand Country. This has meant greater exposure to the built, designed, and natural heritage of the area.
Meeting the County Historical Information Officer, Stephen Coleman was a particular highlight as it gave the project great insight into how the heritage of Greensand Country could be incorporated meaningfully into the routes.
The landscape is both better connected and more accessible. The leaflet and routes on the interactive map now make it easier for people to explore Greensand Country on horseback. The landscape is better understood, and therefore the threats that it faces can be more widely contextualized as more people have gained close connections and experience with Greensand Country.
Challenges & lessons learnt
Covid-19 has been a particular problem as it has meant that the guided rides have not been able to take place. Therefore, the routes have not been enhanced by a guide being able to disseminate additional information on the cultural and natural heritage of Greensand Country. The evaluation workload has at times been an additional admin task given the voluntary nature of project management for this project.
One lesson learnt has been the involvement of the County Historical Information Officer. They have provided much insight into making the information along the routes accessible. Should a similar project occur in the future, they would be a valuable resource.
“I have ridden most routes, particularly Lidlington (Brick Route). The ride offers amazing views across Bedfordshire from the top of the hill, followed by a lovely and quiet bridleway past the Millbrook proving ground. And the large area for parking a trailer at the Forest Centre is an added bonus. The leaflets were great and made exploring my local area a stress free and informative experience (unlike when I have tried riding around Toddington to be met by dead end bridleways). I highly recommend riders to use these routes (and have introduced others to the area) and would love to see more!”– Neil Stanley
“I have ridden most of these rides. All fab info and with parking assessed already a great bonus. Love to ride new routes and found these most beneficial . Thank you”
– Lynn Rumball
“As the lead volunteer on this project, I have found it a challenging but rewarding experience. I have explored parts of the area that I did not know well and learnt a lot about the heritage of Greensand Country. My meeting with the County Historical Information Officer, Stephen Coleman, was one of the highlights of the project – I could easily have been distracted! I have also enjoyed immensely organising the Bluebell Ride using two of the routes (Bluebell and Warren) which has given many more riders the opportunity to explore the routes than guided rides would have (we have over 140 at the May 2021 ride). I expect this to become an annual event.”
– Ann Kennedy
“Participating in the creation of the leaflets gave me a great excuse to make my husband leave the house and saddle up (on his bike) and join me in the Bedfordshire Countryside. I am familiar with the routes but having someone who was not leading the way meant I slowed down and got to really enjoy the woodlands and views. We were lucky that the wildlife was plentiful on the days we were out and we got to see several species of deer along with the usual suspects namely squirrels and pheasants. Studying the routes and waymarkings carefully also enabled me to take notice of other paths that link in to the mapped routes, opening up the area further.”
– Clare Wild