Short Walks in Bedfordshire

Descriptions - Videos - Proper parking instructions

Sandy Smith Nature Reserve

Description and Walk

There are at least two ways onto the Sandy Smith Nature Reserve that we know of, and for walkers the best option is probably via the lane adjacent to Top Farm. Cyclists are better served by the entrance at Standalone Warren. Both addresses are set-out below.

For walkers beginning at Top farm there are two entrances close to the small parking area, one is next to a large five-bar gate, the other is a marked footpath. Whichever you choose to take, the walk makes a natural circuit: you enter through one entrance and end-up at the other. Both are within metres of where the cars are parked. See our route map.

This 93 hectare site is owned and managed by the Greensand Trust, and is at least partially situated on the site of the formerly, locally well-known Chicksands ‘Stonehenge’ radio antenna array. This was a military facility operated by the United States Air Force which was used, along with other such bases around the world, to triangulate radio transmissions emanating from the Russian Armed Forces. These days, satellites do the job.

As well as being a nature reserve, part of Sandy Smith still functions as a live shooting range used by the army at JFC Chicksands. On Sunday mornings in the autumn and winter there are often red flags flying to signify clay pigeon shooting, deer culling and military target practice. The golden rule, therefore, is to always follow the many signs, observe the red flags, and keep to the marked footpaths. In any event, it’s difficult not to notice the sound of gunshot or to hear the spectacular echoes that sound ominously like near-miss ricochets.

According to one soldier we spoke to, the sound of gunfire and the sight of red flags is still not sufficient to deter some walkers, who occasionally insist on strolling onto the live ranges. Tip of the day: Don’t do it.

With regards to the Standalone Warren entrance, this presents as one very long path running between two sides of a large, unpromising wood. Unpromising because the wood is rather dense and not especially inviting – think Bilbo Baggins and Mirkwood, except this one is probably not enchanted. Cyclists, on the other hand, can traverse the lengthy woodland path with ease, and ultimately do whatever it is that cyclists do. I’m not really sure where they end up, but the nature reserve as a whole would be too grassy and bumpy to make off-road cycling very enjoyable.

Sandy Smith is a pretty big site and there are parts of it that we have not explored yet, even though we have been three times. So, it's worth visiting, though rather unsung.

Short Video of Sandy Smith Nature Reserve

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Parking is Free.

Parking addresses: Small parking area on the lane adjacent to Top Farm, Shefford Road, Beadlow, Shefford SG17 5PL. The Nature Reserve is sign-posted at the bend in Shefford Road beside the Farm. If you look at Google maps, look for the business indicator for Grows Well. Parking here is for around 10-12 cars, but demand is unlikely to exceed spaces. Entrances to the reserve are at either side of the small parking strip. Either way makes for a nice walk and the route is circular, so you can go in one entrance and out of the other.

Alternatively: Appley Wood Corner, Standalone Warren, Haynes, Bedford MK45 3QQ. Slightly fewer spaces here, and it's a more popular entrance for cyclists and dog walkers. Even so, the chances of getting parked there are pretty decent - it's rarely very busy from what we've seen.

Parking for Sandy Smith Nature Reserve

Small parking area adjacent to Top Farm. Entrances to the reserve on either side of it.

Off Longsalde Lane opposite Woburn Golf Club

An alternative entry point is at Standalone Warren. Limited parking, though.

Place/s to Eat

The Flying Horse at Clophill is a short drive (maybe two miles) from the nature reserve. In fact, it's on the same road.

Address:  The Flying Horse, 2 The Green, Bedford, Bedfordshire, MK45 4AD.

Tel: 01525 860293

Website: The Flying Horse  Opens in new tab.

The Flying Horse pub at Clophill

Further Information

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The Greensand Trust here

The Flying Horse here

Top Farm Entrance here

Standalone Warren parking here

PDF with details

The pdf, below, contains address and parking location details similar to the ones on this page. Print out the pdf file if you want something to carry with you. Pdf opens in a new tab.