Bedfordshire Choice Award
Voting has now closed for The Bedfordshire Choice Award, a new award for 2021, which recognises the project that best promotes a living and thriving countryside as chosen by the people of Bedfordshire.
The results of both the formal judging and the Bedfordshire Choice Award will be revealed later this summer, but in the meantime we hope you enjoy reading these short summaries of the projects. These are in alphabetical order by project name and are based on the information provided in the application forms.
Abbey Fields Roundabout Group
The Abbey Fields Roundabout Group have replanted and taken on the care for all five roundabouts on the Abbey Fields estate in Elstow, with shrubs, trees and flowers. The group has recently created a picnic area on the Abbey Fields Moor, with picnic tables, a planter box and trees. This gives a place for people to rest when walking on the Moor for their health as well as being a place for parents to sit and watch their children playing on the grass. During Covid the Group felt strongly that they could make a difference by showing the community hope and care.
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. Signage has been created and installed 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.
Aragon lacemakers was formed in 1977. The aim of the group is to ‘Keep Lacemaking Alive’ by promoting this local, traditional craft. Aragon lace members regularly undertake demonstrations at The Higgins, Hobbycraft, Steam Fairs and in Bedford town centre. This gave them the opportunity to show case not only the specific Bedfordshire laces but all other bobbins laces. Everyone is encouraged to ‘have a go’ and make a lace snake. Each year Aragon members select a charity to support and raise money through the sale of goods, raffle and the annual Lace Day open to lace makers across the country.
The Big Beds Clean Up
George set up The Big Beds Clean Up because he wanted to make a difference to the local area and raise awareness of environmental issues. His nominator said “The local community is improved by removing litter but there is also an educational element to the litter picks. My children can see first hand how much litter is dropped and the impact it has on the environment. It also teaches them about community action. George is a great role model for young people as he is getting out their and making a difference.”
Edible High Town
Edible High Town is a group of local residents who have helped transform six bits of disused land to create edible pocket gardens or raised beds around the High Town area. They help look after a community orchard in People’s Park, grow vegetables and fruit in their community garden, have a pumpkin patch and work with local charity NOAH to support their gardening classes in the raised beds they manage. Edible High Town have taken pieces of land that have often been sites of fly-tipping or misuse and made them places that the community can work together and congregate to share growing skills and learn from each other. They have also helped support other local initiatives that are starting up around Luton and helped form the loose network of food growing projects across Luton called ‘Edible Luton’.
Hay Lane Flowers
Hay Lane Flowers are cut flower growers, growing on a three acre site in Stagsden. They produce a wide range of seasonal cut flowers for the wholesale and retail trade. Sustainable production techniques are a priority and they work with nature to produce high quality flowers without air miles, needless chemical usage and plastic packaging. They also work closely with the community, including delivering primary school sessions during wellbeing weeks and with the Kings Arms Project pathways to employment team, giving talks and providing work placements.
Houghton Hall Park Kitchen Garden Volunteers
The volunteer group brings together a host of varied members of the community. The produce and flowers that are sold provide healthy and sustainable options for the community, and all the profits from sales are ploughed back into the project. This is a holistic way to engage with nature and help with the issues of mental health, food poverty and healthy choices at the same time. The work that the volunteers produce is also a draw for the public, who often visit the park just to see the latest display.
Kings Arms Garden
The Gardens are an oasis in the middle of Ampthill, a busy market town. 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.
Linch Furlong, Community Orchard and Riverside Meadow, Oakley
The project provides public open spaces which are managed to improve biodiversity. Three grassed areas have been transformed into environmentally friendly public spaces. Wild flower areas have been planted in all three sites and the flowers used are tailored to the differing soil type of each site. Areas of long grass are mown and left to dry so that the seeds drop and are then collected but left on site in specific areas to provide habitats for invertebrates. Timber from tree works is left in situ to provide habitats for wildlife. The community orchard has been planted with heritage fruit trees which, as far as possible, are native to Bedfordshire. In 2020 several hundred pyramidal orchids flowered in Linch Furlong and they were seen for the first time in the Orchard and Riverside Meadow.
New Community Woodland in Houghton House – Phase 1
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.
Penrose Roots Community Based Recovery Services
Penrose Roots connects with marginalized individuals who would not normally use nature, gardens or the great outdoors to improve their lives, working with the socially isolated, those with mental health, learning disabilities and the general public to create an inclusive community by gardening. They have a community garden and also support and assist other growing initiatives across Luton. They recently assisted in planting a hedgerow in an area where they will be helping local residents make use of a space that locals have used as a fly tipping area for some years in to a thriving community garden.
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.
Re-Phil’s Zero Waste Shop
The zero waste shop is currently operating as a delivery service due to COVID restrictions. They buy food ingredients in bulk, dispense them in quantities according to customer request and deliver them in paper packaging, thereby reducing plastic waste. Customers can buy in smaller quantities than they can from supermarkets and other retailers, which makes the service accessible to more of the community and also helps to minimise food waste. The shop also showcases local suppliers, including; eggs, honey, freeze dried fruit, skincare products and knitted household goods such as soap savers and scrubbies.
This family farm sits along the banks of the River Great Ouse as it meanders through the beautiful North Bedfordshire countryside. They use the fresh milk from their free range, pasture fed herd of cows to make artisan ice-creams. The herd of cross-bred Jerseys and Friesians produces high quality milk which is just perfect for making ice-cream. Customers not only love the taste of the ice cream, but love the fact they can see the cows, and that the ice cream has been made on-site, becoming far more aware of food provenance, food miles and standards.
Rural Revolution is about connection. It is about connecting people together in a community, and connecting the community to the joys of the beautiful Bedfordshire countryside. Rural Revolution believes in making change through positive actions. From popular community litter picks to growing free plants for local residents and schools, Rural Revolution has something to offer for everyone. Already this year Rural Revolution have cleared a huge amount of litter from the local area, and they have given away hundreds of free plants and trees. Upcoming projects include a monthly online magazine, guided walks and outdoor yoga and wellbeing classes.
Stopsley Community Gardens
The garden opened after the first lockdown and aims to provide a great place for everyone in the community to come together, to share and learn new skills, whilst growing fresh produce to promote healthy living. The team believe that the garden will provide a multitude of therapeutic and well-being benefits to help improve the mental health for all in the local community. The community garden will be a place were visitors of the garden will be able to be informed about local initiatives for example local food banks or be able to take part in courses which will encourage positive mental health and wellbeing.
Trees for Leighton-Linslade
Trees for Leighton-Linslade is the largest tree-planting scheme the Town Council has ever planned. All three Central Bedfordshire Council ward areas have been included in an application that will see 63 new trees planted. The trees have been chosen for their Carbon Performance rating and will bring a range of other benefits including a positive impact on the health and wellbeing of residents, providing wildlife habitats, increased pollinator numbers, reduction in soil erosion and cleaner air. The scheme also aims to foster community spirit and educate people about the benefits of trees and nature.
Treewell Community Farm / Green Gym
Treewell bought a dilapidated chicken farm nearly two years which had over 30 vegetable patches which were disused and a beautiful Victorian greenhouse. Over 30 volunteers have transformed the land and grow their own vegetables for free. The project has provided an excellent opportunity for people struggling with mental health issues or for those who don’t have gardens.
Woburn Country Foods
Based at their farm in Haynes, Woburn Country Foods have developed a unique cure to provide delicious nitrate free bacon and gammon. With health and well being at the forefront of people’s minds, they have developed a nitrate and E number free bacon and gammon that has the same great flavour as their traditional cured products. They have just begun the roll out to their four retail outlets and are ready to supply Bedfordshire farm shops as well as pubs and restaurants when businesses reopen after lockdown.
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 these stressful times. They roast Fairtrade Coffee, packed in compostable bags, with labels made of paper impregnated with wild flower seeds to plant. They have also started to distribute coffee to customers in reusable plastic tubs, saving 300 bags per week. They plant around 150 trees per year at the Forest of Marston Vale.