A Short Walk at Sandy Smith

Written by Diana Spencer on . Posted in Walk Of The Week

 

Location

– Sandy Smith and Chicksands

Distance

– 2 miles

Click on the map to see the full route on the Walk4Life website.

Time Taken

– about 1 hour

Great For-

Military History- Passes through the site of the Chicksands ‘Elephant Cage’ antenna

Wildlife– some nice birds of prey over the Sandy Smith reserve. Lots of wildflowers if you do this walk in the spring.

Good for Kids?

– Nothing specific

Good for Dogs?

– Yes, but must be on leads for much of the walk (you don’t want to have to chase your pet out of an active firing range…)

Admission/Parking Charges

– Free

Café/Toilets

– Several pubs and an Italian restaurant in Clophill

Footwear/Clothing

– Good walking boots, quite a bit of long grass so may want wellies or waterproof trousers if if there’s been a lot of rain

Accessibility

– Unsurfaced grass paths, some very rough and narrow.

Alternatives

– If you don’t fancy the trip through the military base, you can follow a permissive path round the edge of the Sandy Smith reserve

How To Get There

– Turn into Clophill village at the Flying Horse. Keep going straight on through the village and out the other side. When the road bends round right, keep going straight on following the blue signpost to Sandy Smith NR. Parking is on the wide verge just by the entrance to the reserve.

Other Info

– This was quite a quiet walk when I did it this week and didn’t really show the walk at its best! I’m putting this on the list to do again in spring when the wildflowers at Sandy Smith are out and the paths are lined with Bee Orchids

The Walk

The walk starts at the entrance to Sandy Smith Nature Reserve, past the main Greensand Trust entrance sign and straight up the hill.

The wildflowers on the verge are slightly past their best now but this is a fantastic site for Bee Orchid in June. The main wildlife interest this time round was a pair of Buzzard circling up overhead and a couple of late Red Admirals fluttering around the hedge.

The walk heads uphill towards the black grain silos, then bends right so you pass the silos on your left.

As you walk past the silo there’s a huge patch of bare ground in the field to your right, created by the Greensand Trust as habitat for insects and other invertebrates.

This area of the reserve was part of the historic parkland of Chicksands and little bit further along you’ll find an interpretation board with a map from the 1800s showing some of the old field names and field boundaries.

A short walk later on, you reach the edge of a wood (if you want a slightly shorter walk you can turn right here and follow the boundary of the reserve) and the footpath carries on past the lichen covered, carved MOD stone and into the wood.

A few yards into the wood there’s a gap in the fence and a turning with a warning sign for the military base. Go through the fence here and follow a very winding track through these woods, keeping an eye out for yellow-topped footpath posts.

As you come out of the wood turn left and head along a very narrow and overgrown little track, then right out of the trees and into the open space around the Defence Intelligence base.

The firing range is off to you right, with plenty of warning signs to keep you heading in the right direction. On the left in the distance are broad fields of sunflowers which look to have been planted as bird cover.

Also on the right in the short grass are a series of large concrete circles. These mark the site of the now dismantled ‘elephant cage’ direction finding antenna array.

When you come to the post marked with a couple of direction arrows turn right along a bit of narrow path and then a track towards Chicksands. The track was neatly sprinkled with lots of young Common Puffballs some bright white inside and some on tall, thick conical stalks.

At the little buildings follow the path with the slightly wriggly ‘arrow’ on. From here on in the path is a bit of a struggle but you essentially keep following the high fence and the yellow footpath arrows.

There are some nice views over towards Rowney Warren, some nice flocks of Greylag Geese moving between the fields and the square pond, and we were accompanied by the pretty much constant barking of nearby Muntjacs.

After some exploratory scrambling through long grass, and a bit of strange detour through the small wood you reach the fence of the Chicksands base itself. This is on the site of Chicksands Priory and the Priory buildings still survive, although you can’t manage to get a view of them through the surrounding trees.

The path skirts round the base, crosses the entrance drive and then strikes off towards another high fence. There’s a clear gap in the fence where the path then goes back into Sandy Smith.

Over on the left of the path is the grassland running down to the edge of the Flit, which will eventually be part of the new Flit Valley walk from Westoning to Shefford.

From here you just follow the very pretty double hedged path around the low part of the reserve.

There were a couple of Kestrels hanging about on the wires, a Great Spotted Woodpecker in the big stag oak, and I got landed on by a passing Common Darter

Just a short walk after the big oak and you’re back in sight of the buildings and just need to turn right to get back to your car. 

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