This is the valuable Greensand Ridge with its woodlands, valleys and hills gently sweeping through the countryside. There is a narrow escarpment formed of Lower Greensand, with a distinct scarp slope to the north-west and a dip slope to the south-east. Some of the hills have been covered with conifers as humankind made their impression on the landscape but with its uncharacteristic soil of the region it holds a diversity of flora and fauna supported by its distinct geological consistency. The ridge holds sand which creates an acidic belt of land where heathland, acid grassland and ancient woodland flourish. The more common fauna of the coastal sand settings can be found here with the adder and common lizard. The nightjar, woodpecker, buzzard, muntjac deer (which is the symbol for the Greensand Ridge Walk), green tiger beetle, small-leaved lime, bluebells and lily-of-the-valley are found in the woodlands.
The Greensand Ridge was formed about 145 million years ago and is the outcrop of the Cretaceous period that runs through the middle of Bedfordshire. Greensand sandstone is unique in the area with its content including an iron bearing mineral causing a green tint. The geology of the ridge consists of the Lower Greensand and this comprises of a series of sands, often stained yellow, orange or brown due to the presence of iron. In the east of Bedfordshire these sands are known as the Potton Sands and further west, towards Buckinghamshire, as the Woburn Sands. The sandstone is made up of layers of sand, clay and chalk which were deposited in a shallow sea during the Lower Cretaceous Period 120 million years ago and hardened over time. Beds of decomposed volcanic ash, known locally as “Fullers’ Earth”, are found at some locations in the Lower Greensand succession. The movement of the earth caused the layers to crease and buckle into the ridge itself then as the glaciers retreated 12,000 years ago the valleys were gorged out. These glacial valleys are mainly dry but the Ivel valley in Sandy is an example of a wet habitat interrupting the ridge.
The River Flit and Ouzel are the major water sources in the Greensand Ridge adding moisture to the valleys. The flood meadows and mires which occur near the rivers provide natural habitat for willow, black poplar, sphagnum moss and water rail. Heather and gorse are common plants found on the ridge, a shocking contrast when approached from the clay surrounds, where these plants just will not grow. The sand enriched land has long been quarried to provide building material for the local region. An example of a distinct sandstone building in the region is Northill church. Many of these quarries have been excavated to their limits and then left to nature, creating new, natural habitats with lakes, sandy shores and gravely beds.
Following the Greensand Ridge is the walk which hugs the brow of the crest. The Greensand Ridge Walk traverses 40 miles from Leighton Buzzard in the west to Gamlingay in the east, passing through the villages of Heath and Reach, Woburn town, Eversholt, Millbrook, the edge of Ampthill and Maulden, Clophill, Haynes, Northill, Sandy and Everton. There are well maintained paths passing through kissing gates, over footbridges and along the small country roads. There are a number of historic parklands and estates, including Woburn, Haynes, Shuttleworth, Sandy Lodge and Southill along the route. The walk was first created in 1976 to enable the population to explore the wealth of heritage and wildlife on the ridge. In 12 months, 50 stiles, 12 small sleeper footbridges, 10 gates, 4 sets of steps, 130 waymark posts, 2 five-metre bridges and 110 walk signs were erected, costing a total of £30,000, half of which went on building a new footbridge over the Ouzel. It was a conjunction of co-operation between the Bedford Rambling Club and Bedfordshire County Council and after several years of waymarking the walk it was officially opened on 19th October 1986 by Sir Derek Barber, then Chairman of The Countryside Commission, in the grounds of Woburn Abbey. In 2004 the walk was updated and improved as Bedfordshire County Council worked in partnership with the Greensand Trust, the Ivel and Ouse Countryside Project, Mid Beds District Council, the Long Distance Walkers association, Ramblers Association and Bedfordshire Rural Communities Charity. The relaunch was held in Ampthill Park, adjacent to Katherine's Cross. This long belt of land was once part of Henry VIII’s hunting ground and excellent views over the valleys can be enjoyed. Walking on the Greensand Ridge is one of the only areas in Bedfordshire to walk without becoming 6 inches taller from the clay stuck to your shoes!
To claim this Earth Cache you must complete a short walk taking you through the edge of Haynes village; the middle part of the Greensand Ridge. Complete the activities below and ensure you post the pictures on the cache page and send us an email with the correct answers. Please don’t mention the answers in your logs as they will be deleted if they give the game away.
Park at N52 03.515 W000 23.660
This is the junction of the Greensand Ridge Walk as it climbs into the village. There are good views across the landscape in which to see the distinct escarpment. Walk up the hill to N52 03.740 W000 23.672.
1. What is the Elevation of the ground at this point?
2. Where is the highest point of the Greensand Ridge Walk?
Take a photograph of yourself (or your GPS if on your own) with Hill Farm house in the background (Style 1 in the gallery).
The second location is at N52 03.561 W000 23.204. Continue up the hill and along Northwood End Road to find the kissing gate. This area is known locally as the ‘Sandpit’ and the short walk takes you from Northwood End Road to Appley Corner. Though not part of the Greensand Ridge Walk it shows the Greensand Ridge consistency here as there is a big hole in the ground!
Take a photograph of yourself (or your GPS if on your own) with the big oak trees in the background (Style 2 in the gallery). These old trees include a striking dead one in the middle of the small copse and views of the ridge in the background.
3. What are the main types of slope which occur on the Greensand Ridge, which orientation do they occur on and what do these terms mean?
4. The views of the ‘Sandpit’ are best at N52 03.586 W000 23.173. Which notable animal now calls the ‘Sandpit’ its home?
Now continue back to your car by walking along the road via N52 03.432 W000 23.306. This takes you past Appley Corner where the Greensand Ridge Walk continues up the hill along the side of Chicksands Wood. Continue past here along the road and grass verge path to return to your car.
We hope you have enjoyed this Earthcache and have learnt some valuable information about the area.
FIRST TO FIND: WELL DONE ELEPHANT HUNTER!