Historic Parkland Walks
Written by: Jon Balaam
This project was established to unlock some of the perception around the historic parklands of Greensand Country being inaccessible, ‘keep out’ landscapes. It sought to develop two trails, one in the east of Greensand Country, and one in the west, focused on two areas where historic parklands form an important part of the landscape and history of the area.
Both routes use existing public rights of way and have been signed using Greensand Country branded signage, and have accompanying leaflets downloadable from the Greensand Country website, with the Western Parkland Walk also including two interpretation panels, one overlooking Crawley Park, the other Aspley park.
Accessibility was an important consideration, with the Western Parkland Walk being short in length (3.5 miles) and accessible from Aspley Guise or Husborne Crawley, and while the Eastern Parkland Walk is longer (10 miles) its rouse comprises a ‘figure of 8’, with one loop being walkable from Gamlingay, the other from Everton.
Both routes have included guided walks as part of the Greensand Country Festival to raise their profile and embrace people with Greensand Country.
The Walks are through highly attractive countryside and provide opportunities for people to explore the area without having to do a longer walk.
The Western Parkland Walk in particular has proved very popular with participants of the Greensand Country Festival and especially the Bedfordshire Walking Festival – a 2021 event was heavily over-subscribed.
The interpretation is high quality and provides new/interesting information previously not available other than through the Bedfordshire Archives. It (and the signage) also play an important role in raising the profile of Greensand Country and promoting the brand/identity.
Benefits to People
The routes particularly benefit the residents of Aspley Guise, Husborne Crawley, Everton and Gamlingay, being situated on their ‘doorsteps’. Participants in guided walks have come from these areas and further afield.
The routes, through interpretation and leaflets, provide information on the history of the landscape and the historic estates, particularly through the 18th and 19th centuries. They provide maps and images of the landscape as it was, and showing how the estates had such a significant impact.
Did your project help groups traditionally excluded to engage with the heritage? Which groups? How?
No. Although the guided walks were widely promoted they did not attract people who might be considered to be excluded from such activities.
What difference has the project made to you personally?
I feel a sense of ‘ownership’, and it has also helped me learn about an aspect of Greensand Country I didn’t know a great deal about. Plus it helped me brush up on my guided walk leading skills!
Benefits to Heritage & Landscape
The project is very much about raising awareness of the Parklands and their influence on the landscape. Participants in guided walks have found this element interesting. We have been contacted by participants of guided walks to say that they have walked the route again because they enjoyed it, or because they have tried the other Historic Parkland Walk.
The landscape is more accessible in that the walking routes are clearly signed with good quality maps (providing reassurance) and are easily walked from local villages. However, much more could be done to engage wider audiences in the future.
Challenges & Lessons Learnt
Agreeing routes was initially challenging – while the routes existed on the ground, various considerations meant that they took some time to agree, partly because the Greensand Trust and BRCC took over delivery of this project rather than develop it ourselves. This led to significant delays. Agreeing interpretation locations for the Eastern Parkland Trail was difficult, with considerations around privacy of parkland owners, and unfortunately the only solution was to drop this from this walk.
Originally the Western Parkland Walk was intended to include Segenhoe Manor as well, but the routing required significantly greater distances to be covered (reducing ‘accessibility’) and a significant amount of walking alongside the M1, not ideal! This was therefore removed from the route.
We would have early engagement with parkland owners to ensure they fully understood proposals from the start – it was clear some may have supported the concept but not the detail.
I have really enjoyed being involved with the Western Walk. I have learnt so much about the area and look forward to joining the guided walks again in the future.
-S.M, guided walk co-leader
The Parkland Walks take you through some of the best but also least well known parts of the Greensand Country landscape.
-J.B, project manager