Sandhouse Lane Nature Reserve

Sandhouse Lane Nature Reserve (SP 9365 2975) is about 4 hectares (10 acres) of scrubby woodland, rough grass and “lichen heath” that have grown up in an old sand quarry that was worked from 1948 up until the 1960’s, when it became used for dumping waste asphalt. The land is owned by Lafarge Aggregates, but has been managed as a nature reserve by the Greensand Trust since 1999.

How To Get There

The reserve is close to the A5, NNE of Heath and Reach and half a kilometer – as the megachiropteran flies – SSE of the Flying Fox pub, or about half a mile from there by road. Park on Sandhouse Lane and enter the reserve through the gate on its north side (SP 936 299). There is another pedestrian entrance from the footpath on the reserve’s south-eastern side (SP 9357 2965).

What To See

Sandhouse Lane Nature Reserve is a quiet place of hollows and hummocks, bristling with hawthorn and bramble. Trees and bushes hide two rainwater-filled, clay-lined ponds that may dry out in hot summers. Despite this, the water attracts Great Crested Newts, Common Frogs and Toads, and is an important breeding place for dragonflies and damselflies, with about 20 species recorded (though not necessarily breeding!), including several rarities.

Downy Emerald (male)

Downy Emerald (male) by Christian Fischer CC BY-SA 3.0

In 2006 Bedfordshire’s first Downy Emerald Dragonfly – an insect scarce north of the Thames – was reported from here, the first in the county for 50 years; and the White Legged Damselfly and Hairy Dragonfly have also been recorded from the site.

Green Hairstreak on leaf

Green Hairstreak by Charlesjsharp CC BY-SA 4.0

In spring and summer you may also spot up to two dozen butterfly species in the open areas, including Marbled White, Dingy Skipper and Green Hairstreak. Other notable insects include solitary bees and wasps, and the Long Winged Conehead, a nationally scarce bush-cricket.

A “lichen heath” covers the delicate, thin soils that have formed where a thick layer of asphalt has been dumped. Aside from lichens, the heath – and the reserve in general – is home to numerous moss species, and also to wild flowers, such as the Pyramidal, Common Spotted and Bee Orchid, Broad-leaved Helleborine, Dropwort and the non-native Blue Fleabane.

Useful Links

Public Transport

The Parks Trust

Greensand Trust