Environmental charity The Greensand Trust is appealing for help to raise funds to purchase the remains of Shire Oak Heath, a 17 acre site neighbouring Rushmere Country Park, so that it can join the park and be restored to a thriving, well-maintained area of heathland. Its addition to Rushmere will also create an opportunity for a safer cycle route into the park.

Shire Oak Heath, an area of neglected heathland now overgrown with Birch, adjoins Rushmere Country Park and was once a thriving heathland. A section of Shire Oak Heath is already under The Greensand Trust’s management at Rushmere and has been restored to such a condition that Natural England recognised it as part of an extended National Nature Reserve (NNR) of Kings Wood & Rushmere in 2016.

The unrestored area the charity hopes to purchase remains at risk, identified by Natural England as being in an unfavourable and declining condition due to lack of management, and is now a neglected remnant of what was once a thriving heathland.

The current owners, recognising the work of The Greensand Trust to improve the surrounding area and habitats, have agreed to transfer the land to The Greensand Trust on the understanding that a public appeal is launched to help raise the funds to secure the site and its restoration – estimated to be around £50K.

By acquiring the land The Greensand Trust also aims to provide an alternative safe cycle access to Rushmere via Thrift Road in Heath and Reach, rather than the currently promoted route along the busier main Linslade Road.

The Greensand Trust Chief Executive Gill Welham said: “We’re launching this appeal in the hope that the local community and all those who enjoy Rushmere and value its conservation will support our attempt to secure this land and help us to reverse its decline so it can once again be regarded as a valuable heathland habitat in this area.

“The addition of Shire Oak Heath to Rushmere Country Park will provide a welcome extension to what is already a highly valued leisure facility and provide further opportunities for all our visitors, including safer access for cyclists.”

Donations can be made via: www.greensandtrust.org/appeal/restoring-shire-oak-heath-appeal