An Ampthill amble
Prompted by the CPRE Bedfordshire 2021 Living Countryside Awards which featured five projects from around Ampthill, we explore what the Georgian market town has to offer to lovers of the great outdoors.
Ampthill sits on the Greensand Ridge and the area is home to a wide variety of habitats, including heathland, woodland and parkland. Greensand Country is also rich in history, Ampthill was granted its Market Charter in 1219 and now has a strong Georgian character. The region has over the centuries been home to monastic houses, stately homes and gardens, deer parks and estate villages.
Whether you’re looking for a stroll round the town’s historic streets, places to spot wildlife, a bracing walk through parkland or just a good cup of coffee there’s something for everyone.
The Ampthill Buzz
“The Ampthill Buzz” project is managed by the Ampthill Climate Change Group which aims to turn selected close-mown turfed areas within the town into wildflower havens. Ten sites across Ampthill have been chosen with the aim of increasing local floral diversity and invertebrate populations by allowing the urban space to link existing supported habitats including County Wildlife Sites. As you explore the town, look out for the signage which has been created to tell residents more about the project. The group are also running a ‘Be a Bee-Friendly Gardener’ campaign, encouraging residents to provide more food and habitat for pollinators in their own gardens.
Kings Arms Garden
The Gardens are an oasis in the middle of Ampthill. The Friends Group aims to manage the garden in ways that protect and enhance wildlife; provide physical and mental health benefits associated with outdoor activities for visitors and volunteers; provide opportunities for people of all ages and backgrounds to experience, learn about and appreciate nature; promote community activity, interaction and cohesion, involving volunteers and visitors alike, including groups with particular needs; secure a tranquil green space in an urban setting; and provide social and cultural benefits associated with sense of place and belonging.
The Pod, wooden sculpture – Ampthill Great Park
Local wood sculptor, Ian Freemantle, has created a bespoke climbing area, pod, and chill-out zone for older children. Timbers from trees in the Park, that have had to be felled, were used to create the structure. The sculpture was inspired by local youngsters who came up with the initial idea and worked with Ian to develop the design and test the structure during the construction phase.
Ampthill Great Park was a royal palace and hunting ground, the current park was created by Capability Brown. The Greensand Ridge Walk cuts through the park and there are also a number of themed trails to explore.
New Community Woodland at Houghton House – Phase 1
Houghton House is just a mile out of Ampthill and was built in around 1615 and is usually acknowledged as the inspiration for the ‘House Beautiful’ in John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress. It commands fantastic views across the surrounding countryside.
This new woodland has yet to be named and the Forest of Marston Vale will be working with local people and organisations to choose a name that reflects the site’s social, historical and environmental significance. The first phase of planting started in January, and began a three year project that will involve residents, local people and community groups getting the opportunity to shape the Bedfordshire landscape and engage with their environment. The majority of planting will be done by people living in or connected to the area. The woodland will also be connected with local Rights of Way networks and will act as a buffer woodland for Kings Wood SSSI.
Wooden Hill Coffee Company Ltd
Wooden Hill Coffee Company have set up a roastery just outside Millbrook, which since Covid has been turned into a takeaway cafe. Being a mile from Ampthill, they have seen many people using the opportunity to walk up to the roastery, get some exercise, grab a coffee and get some much needed normality during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Walks and trails
You can find a wide range of walks and trails to help you explore Ampthill and its surrounding area via the links below:
Wildlife Trust sites
Cooper’s Hill is home to Bedfordshire’s largest remaining area of heathland and is a designated Site of Special Scientific Interest. You will also find woodland and a small area of acidic mire and ponds. Cut-throat Meadow is a small remnant of a much larger meadow, overlooked by a steep wooded slope. A pond is popular with dragon and damselflies. Both sites can be found on the outskirts of Ampthill.