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Cooper's Hill

Bedfordshire's largest remaining area of heathland

This reserve is on the Greensand ridge, a geological feature which stretches across the county from Leighton Buzzard in the southwest, to Gamlingay in south Cambridgeshire. Historically the site would have been grazed by sheep or cattle and the heather would have been used by locals as fuel, bedding and for thatching roofs. The ashes from burnt bracken were also used as a source of lye for soap making.

Local records indicate that Cooper's Hill was once known as Ampthill Warren. The Normans are thought to have introduced rabbits to Britain in the 11th Century for their meat and fur. Warrens were set up on areas of light soil where landowners dug burrows to encourage the rabbits. Later, the seventh Duke of Bedford planted conifers on the heath, but these were felled in 1917 to help the war effort. The reserve contains large areas of heather growing together with birch and oak trees, plus gorse and broom scrub. Invasive bracken can kill the heather by shading it out and so is removed in places.

The north western corner of the reserve supports a small area of acidic mire and ponds, where the water table reaches the surface above the impermeable Ampthill clay. Marsh violet can be found here with willow carr gently shading the water. The open heath provides a home to the common lizard and insects such as solitary bees and wasps.

Woodland towards the north of the site grows over gently undulating ground with beech and lime in addition to the more usual birch and oak. The mocking call of the green woodpecker can often be heard, especially when disturbed from the ground where it gathers ants. Many nesting birds take advantage of the protection of the spiky gorse, which gives off its distinctive coconut smell in high summer. The reserve is owned by Ampthill Town Council and is designated as a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI).


The map below is for indication purposes only and does not show the Wildlife Trusts definitive land boundary.

Nearby nature reserves

Cut-throat Meadow
1 miles - Wildlife Trust for Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire and Northamptonshire
Flitwick Moor (& Folly Wood)
2 miles - Wildlife Trust for Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire and Northamptonshire
Fancott Woods & Meadows
6 miles - Wildlife Trust for Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire and Northamptonshire

Nature reserve map

Contains Ordnance Survey data © Crown copyright and database right 2012. For indicative purposes does not show exact boundaries.

Reserve information

On the western outskirts of
Map reference
TL 028 376
Best time to visit
May - Jun
Jul - Sep
Oct - Nov
Get directions
Find out here
Public transport
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Opening Times
Open at all times
12.50 hectares

From A507 travelling east from Woburn turn left onto B530 towards Ampthill town centre. After 150m, park in lay-by opposite the football club.
Walking information
Firm, sandy paths with some slopes
Park in layby opposite the football club. Walk down track past the rugby club for 200m to reserve. The reserve is also accessed from the Alameda and Station Road in Ampthill.
Dogs must be on lead
Grazing animals
Reserve manager
Tel: 01234 364213