Wildlife sites in Bedfordshire

A Bedfordshire woodland by Laura DowntonA Bedfordshire woodland by Laura Downton

Wildlife sites in Bedfordshire are called County Wildlife Sites (CWS). There is a network of around 400 of these sites across the county - covering just under 7% of the county

Habitats & Locations

Bedfordshire’s Wildlife Sites include:

  • Woodlands: mainly on the Greensand Ridge - which runs from Leighton Buzzard diagonally across the county to Gamlingay - and in North Bedfordshire. New woodland is being created in the Marston Vale, south of Bedford.
  • Lowland Heathland: Bedfordshire has about 42 ha of heathland. All of it occurs on the acidic, sandy soils of the Greensand Ridge. Existing heathland sites are located in four clusters around Heath and Reach, Wavendon, Ampthill and Sandy.
  • Grasslands including:        A Bedfordshire lowland meadow
  • Lowland meadows (neutral - soil pH around 7) - majority are found north and east of Luton and in the Ouse valley west of Bedford.
  • Floodplain grassland is located in the Ouse, Ivel, Ouzel and Flit valleys.
  • Acid grassland (soil pH of less than 7) occur mainly along the Greensand Ridge.
  • Calcareous grassland (soil pH of more than 7) largely found on the steep slopes of the Chiltern Hills in the south of the county and in small pockets in north Bedfordshire. 
  • Roadside verges, disused railways and green lanes: act as important habitats and wildlife corridors that link sites and make it possible for threatened species to move from one site to another
  • Churchyards: can form, in some parishes, the last remaining fragment of old, agriculturally unimproved, wildlife rich grasslands and they are often the last refuge within a parish for the species and habitats that they support.

 What the Wildlife Trust is doing in Bedfordshire

The Wildlife Trust maintains a database of all CWS and runs a monitoring programme that aims to visit each site on a rolling basis.

This allows us to find out what wildlife is currently on or is using the site. We also assist landowners in looking after their CWS. We offer free advice on the most wildlife friendly options for a site's management and information on the species to be found, as well as help and information on sources of funding for conservation-friendly management.

This website includes information on grassland management as well as a grazing network, to put landowners in touch with local graziers, and a hay network, to put a directory of local contractors who can help with fencing or hay cuts.

If you own a CWS or think you might have an area that qualifies please contact Laura Downton.

Current projects

'Scrub Off' is a Biffa Award funded project restoring calcareous grassland CWS around the North Chiltern Chalk Living Landscape. As the name suggests the project focuses on restoration of grassland features by tackling scrub and introducing management.

The Wildlife Sites system

The CWS Panel is made up of the Wildlife Trust, Bedfordshire Biodiversity Recording and Monitoring Centre, Luton Borough Council, Bedford Borough Council, Central Bedfordshire, Greensand Trust, Bedfordshire Natural History Society, Bedfordshire Rural Communities Charity and Natural England.

The aim of the partnership is to work together to maintain and restore the wildlife interest in Bedfordshire and provide the best help, advice and services to owners and managers of wildlife sites.

The CWS system involves:

  • Surveying and re-surveying CWS.
  • Recognising new CWSs and modifying information held on existing sites when changes occur.
  • At CWS panel meetings, new CWSs are selected by assessing their wildlife importance in a county context against carefully constructed selection guidelines and new sites are recognised if they meet these guidelines. 
  • Supplying information on the wildlife interest of CWSs to landowners and other organisations whose work may affect CWSs.

View the selection guidelines. 

Case study: Totternhoe meadow

The herb rich hay produced from this meadow provided excellent fodder for her horses. The cost of small square bale of hay in 2011 peaked around £6 in Bedfordshire so this local, cost effective source of hay was particularly welcome. This arrangement is set to continue.

A successful match made between a hay meadow in Totternhoe and local horse owner.

Chris and Carole contacted the Wildlife Trust in 2009 as they were unable to find anyone to cut their 1.47 ha wildflower grassland CWS meadow for hay.

Laura Downton of the Wildlife Trust was able to find a local horse owner who needed hay for her horses over the winter. The horse owner took 75 small square bales from the field in August 2009, July 2010 and July 2011.

Fore more information see the Bedfordshire and Luton Biodiversity Monitoring website.




FilenameFile size
Bedfordshire Wild Places newsletter 2010.pdf1.48 MB
Bedfordshire Wild Places newsletter 20141.01 MB
Bedfordshire Wild Places newsletter 2008.pdf1.45 MB
Bedfordshire Wild Places newsletter 2007.pdf1.18 MB
Bedfordshire County Wildlife Sites573.75 KB
Bedfordshire Wild Places newsletter 2016.pdf1.69 MB