At the final club meeting of 2019, Tuesday 7th May, Eloise Markwick of the Greensand Country Ridge Organisation (GCR) gave a 30 minute presentation entitled “Greensand Country”.
The Greensand Country Ridge is an elongated area just south of Bedford and stretches from Leighton Buzzard to Gamlingay. A map is shown below, click map to open a larger copy
Whilst the Greensand Ridge walk, which is based on this area, is a well known footpath, the actual Greensand Ridge area is much wider, as can be seen in the map.
It is this odd shape that outlines the geological characteristics unique to this area, namely the underlying greensand rock. Historically the rock has been quarried locally and has been used to build many structures, more often than not boundary walls.
The soil in this area tends to be low nutrient and supports important low-nutrient plants. As this is not such good agricultural land much of this area has been used for woodlands, parklands and monastic sites (examples: Woburn Abbey and Old Warden Abbey.)
The GCR is tasked with “Conserving and managing the natural country of the Greensand Ridge.” It is recording the remaining structures, encouraging the preservation of the historical aspects and promoting traditional skills.
Eloise has had a database prepared of the existing, known structures (around 500 but probably many more undocumented ones) built with greensand stone.
These are at the potential risk of disappearing forever due to neglect, poor or incorrect maintenance, vegetation overgrowth, demolition, road salting and general lack of awareness.
Eloise is trying to educate owners to be aware of what they own and to train apprentices in correct maintenance and repair. She now urgently needs a photograph of each structure, these will be added to the records that will be housed at the Bedfordshire Archives. These photographs will form important historical records and may become the last record of some.
The GCR are seeking the help of BCC volunteers to help them complete this photographic work.
Eloise is in the process of arranging a date for a walk and talk from their architect, to be held in a Bedfordshire village where many examples of greensand stone can be found.
Following Eloise’s talk a small group of members have already volunteered but I thought everyone who was not there on Tuesday should be aware of this potential. If you have a strong interest in this work please do contact me ASAP at firstname.lastname@example.org.
There are several other aspects to this interesting opportunity which I am happy to talk to you about if you are interested.