The Meadows, Sandy

  • Lead Partner or Organisation: Central Bedfordshire Council
  • Other Stakeholders: Bedfordshire Rural Communities Charity
  • Greensand Country Landscape Partnership Themes: Living Heaths
  • Forward Plan Themes: Caring for the landscape
  • National Lottery Heritage Fund Outcomes: Environmental impacts have reduced,Heritage is better managed,Heritage is identified/recorded,Heritage is in a better condition,People have developed skills,People have volunteered time,The local area/community will be a better place to live work or visit

Written by: Nick Costin

The project is essentially the biodiversity improvement of the water meadow in particular, but also the wider area surrounding the site containing new transitional accommodation, known as The Meadows, Girtford Bridge, Sandy. Initially, the Council’s Housing Service (the landowners) were going to plant 1,000s of trees on the meadow, but ecological advice was that the water meadow should be improved and managed to restore its value as a valuable water meadow habitat. Absence of any management before acquisition by the Council in 2019, has led to a deterioration in the condition of the water meadow. The plan included the use of grazing cattle, tree pollarding and secure fencing around the meadow. There are also plans to replant more native species around the whole site.


This project was a “first” for the Housing Service, real biodiversity improvement to a previously neglected area. The project was impacted by COVID and loss of ecologists, but we did achieve a “tidy up” of the meadow and made it secure for the provision of Dexter’s cattle in the Autumn 2021. Some non-value Leylandii were removed ready for re-planting, which is the next step. More can be achieved over time, this is just a start (hopefully).

Benefits to People

Due to circumstances, the project has not yet benefitted many groups. Eventually it is hoped that community groups can study/see wildlife that will hopefully return. However, even in early stages, a volunteer group has reduced an invasive species from the river and another group has found evidence of harvest mice.

The project has been difficult to keep to timescales with COVID impacting and loss of key ecologists. The delayed planning approval also delayed progress of replanting.

Benefits to Heritage & Landscape

It is better understood to a degree, but the Housing Service are not now “experts” by any means. The meadow will remain better managed if the farmer returns his Dexter’s cattle later in the Spring when it becomes a little drier.


Challenges & Lessons Learnt

COVID, loss of expert advisors to the Housing Service was a real blow, competing priorities for Housing Officers, delays to achieving planning approval and subsequently meeting planning conditions. This last factor is still impacting progress.

Unsure, as the project is far from complete. However, it has been challenging to meet timescales for the reasons provided above.

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