Discover – What Makes Greensand Country Special

Greensand Country covers 40 miles of scenic landscape, which is defined by the Greensand Ridge and reaches three neighbouring counties: from Cambridgeshire in the East, across Bedfordshire and to Buckinghamshire in the West. The area’s unique landscape and geology results in a place of rich natural and cultural heritage.

It’s no accident that Greensand Country is distinct from its surrounding areas. The acidic soil found here, resulting from the special geology of the Greensand Ridge, meant that the area was less well suited to agriculture and was instead used for the siting of monasteries.

Following the dissolution of the monasteries, the land was given to major landowners who established their own stately homes and gardens, deer parks and estate villages. Towards the middle of the 19th Century the railways, brought by the Industrial Revolution, transformed local towns and created new industries such as quarrying, brick making, cultivation and milling.

It is this mixture of historic parkland, estate villages and former industry – together with the patchwork of habitats along the Greensand Ridge itself – which combine to give Greensand Country the unique ‘sense of place’ that is cherished by residents and visitors today.

Historic houses and parklands: Nearly all of Bedfordshire’s Grade I listed manor houses are located within Greensand Country, including Woburn Abbey, Haynes Park, Moggerhanger Park, Southill Park, Wrest Park, Warden Abbey and the ruins of Houghton House. Grade II listed manor houses include Ampthill Park, Shuttleworth Mansion House, Segenhoe Manor, Flitwick Manor, Heath Manor, Crawley House, Hazells Hall and Aspley House. Many of these estates boast extensive historic parklands, which are characteristic of Greensand Country and offer space for visitors to roam amidst stunning scenery.

Heritage: There are numerous historical sites and heritage centres in the area. The Ridgmont Station Heritage Centre contains a collection of railway artefacts, whilst the Woburn Heritage Centre is a museum of local history. There are many parish churches, predominantly built of the local sandstone and notable buildings such as Ailesbury Mausoleum, situated in the churchyard of St
Mary’s Church, Maulden and believed to be the earliest mausoleum in England and St Mary’s Old Church in Clophill originating from Saxon times.

Natural Heritage: The nature and landscape of Greensand Country has been shaped by its geology, soils and historic land use. The area is famous for its patchwork of different habitats, including woodland, heathland (heather and acidic grassland), wetland, acid grassland, farmland and rivers.

Action points

Research the history of your local area and share your discoveries, or point people in the direction of local history experts.

Find out the location and opening times of nearby heritage sites and advertise these to your customers in advance (so they can arrange to visit, for example, when a particularplace is open to the public). Be sure to mention the smaller places as well as the big attractions – sometimes the less well-known sites are the most interesting!

Promote local guided walks or events run by heritage organisations or history societies.

Provide reference material if you have some – for example, books on natural and cultural heritage (ask for recommended books at your local library). This works especially well if you’re an accommodation provider or café – your guests will appreciate having some reading material that is relevant to their visit.

Speak to friends and neighbours about past events and reminiscences – some of the best stories are shared by word of mouth.