Expert volunteers called upon to help rural community projects to flourish

Written by Jon Boswell on . Posted in Latest News, Rural campaigns

Over 170 people across the UK have now volunteered as a Village SOS Mentor, offering local projects with access to an impressive range of skills and experience.

These volunteer mentors provide FREE advice as part of Village SOS, a national campaign which aims to keep rural community projects alive and thriving. The campaign is supported at a local level by a network of organisations such as BRCC, meaning that projects can access support that is tailored to their needs and offers the greatest benefit to them.

Mentors include are parish councillors, committee members, business people, retirees and accredited professionals, and they have all signed up to share their expertise with projects involved with the Village SOS campaign. If you think that you’ve got something to offer the campaign then sign up and get involved.

If you have a story to share that could inspire and guide others – including the setbacks, successes and celebrations – then now is the time to get involved. Village SOS is running training for new Mentors at the Leicester Creative Business Depot on Monday 21st September and is currently looking for new recruits.

Ivan Annibal, Rose Regeneration who leads on the Mentor training, said: “The Village SOS Mentors are at the core of this rural campaign. We aim to get projects learning from others and one of the best ways to achieve this is to get a mentor from one project sharing their knowledge with another. It is about offering projects a fresh pair of eyes to look at what they are doing from a different perspective, helping them to consider what is going well and what could be improved.”

Any rural project providing a service in their local community can apply for one to one support to help their project develop. Whether they need advice on business planning, consultations, funding applications or promotion, projects applying for support from the Village SOS campaign can get help now.

To find out more about the Village SOS campaign and the role of the Village SOS Mentors visit the campaign website ( or contact the VSOS Community Manager Chris Cowcher on 01285 653477.

Warden Abbey Vineyard Open Day and Wine Sale Sunday 20th September 11am-4pm

Written by Jane Markham on . Posted in Latest News

Entry £2 adults, children free.  Free parking.

Come and find out the story of the medieval vineyard and abbey, why and how the monks made wine, and how we care for the vines all year round.  There will also be tours, wine tastings, other local food stalls, BBQ and other refreshments.  Located near Old Warden, the vineyard is now run by Bedfordshire Rural Communities Charity as a community vineyard which is cared for all year round by volunteers and works with other local charities and schools. The Open Day is organised by the Friends of Warden Abbey Vineyard. For more information and directions see or phone 07981 113714        Please note, may not be suitable for those with limited mobility.

Vineyard Open Day Poster

Introducing ‘Secrets of the Sands’ the Landscape Partnership

Written by Lisa King on . Posted in Latest News

‘Secrets of the Sands’ is the Landscape Partnership for the Greensand Ridge, a long narrow wooded sandstone ridge lying to the south of Bedford and surrounded by clay vales. The Ridge extends for 35 miles from Leighton Buzzard in the south west to Gamlingay in the north east.

The story of the Greensand Ridge is steeped in its geology and how the lightness and acidity of its sandy soils led it to be considered for centuries as ‘marginal land’ amidst the more fertile soils around it. As a consequence, major landowners used the Ridge for hunting, recreation, forestry, heathland and livestock grazing. They built manor houses for themselves, and estate villages for their workers.

This heritage has been gradually declining for decades due to the changing economics of land use, and modern built development. The ‘Secrets of the Sands’ brings together the key partners in this distinctive landscape to reverse some of this decline, raise awareness amongst local people and visitors alike of the Ridge’s unique heritage, and involve them in creating a sustainable future. BRCC and the Greensand Trust are leading the ‘Secrets of the Sands’ Heritage Lottery Funded Landscape Partnership Scheme for the Greensand Ridge.

You can learn more about the vision for this programme here (click)

Act now to provide more rural affordable housing

Written by Jon Boswell on . Posted in Latest News, Rural campaigns

Rural Housing Week (6th to 12th July) provides an excellent opportunity to highlight the problems faced by many people and households in rural Bedfordshire in finding suitable local housing that is affordable for them.

As the Rural Housing Alliance says, “affordable housing is fundamental to the economic and social wellbeing of rural England”. Yet in Bedfordshire, as with all rural areas, there is a real shortage.

Just in the 25 parishes where BRCC has carried out Housing Needs Surveys over the past few years, we have identified a need for nearly 300 additional affordable homes (for rent or shared ownership) for local people in rural Bedfordshire. Typical households in need are young adults still living with their parents; growing families needing more living space; or older people seeking to downsize, but with no suitable and affordable properties available locally. However, over the last 5 years housing on rural exception sites (which is made available to local people in the first instance) has been built in Bedfordshire at a rate of only around 10 units per year.

Meanwhile, housing in Bedfordshire villages is generally more expensive than in urban areas, with little available for under £150,000. Levels of both private and social rented housing are lower than in urban areas, and the government’s proposed Right to Buy extension will deplete this stock still further (see Mark Shucksmith’s analysis here). Social and affordable rented housing that is not on rural exception sites is allocated on the basis of level of housing need, rather than living locally – with demand greatly outstripping supply, those households not in the highest priority categories are unlikely to be able to access it.

One result of this shortage of affordable housing is that young adults are unable to stay in the villages in which they grew up, and only more affluent people are able to move in. Most villages saw a striking decrease in the 25-44 age group in just 10 years between 2001 and 2011, with a corresponding growth in those aged 45+.

For more affordable housing to be built to meet local needs, more rural exception sites need to be brought forward by Housing Associations and willing landowners, in close liaison with Parish Councils wishing to meet the current and future needs of their parishioners.

For further information on our rural housing service, please contact Jemma McLean at or on 01234 834932.

(Pictured: a rural exception site in Caddington)



Rural Housing Week

Written by Cliff Andrews on . Posted in Latest News, Rural campaigns, Rural Housing Enabler, Supporting Communities

This week (6th – 12th July) is Rural Housing Week. The aim of the week is to highlight rural housing issues and to showcase the great projects that have been delivered nationally to tackle these problems. This is an excellent opportunity to shine a spotlight on successful developments that offer a lifeline to local people in our market towns and villages, and to reinforce the message that housing is vital to the survival of rural communities and services.

To find out more about Rural Housing nationally, visit: 

BRCC’s Housing service assists Parish Council to undertake Housing Needs Surveys in order to help provide affordable homes for people within their community.  For more information on our service, please contact Jemma McLean at or on 01234 832932


Have you met the Village Agents of Bedford Borough

Written by Teresa Moon on . Posted in Just Ask Village Agents

We make home visits to older people living in villages in Bedford Borough, to help them with free support & assistance.  From advice on home security & safety, to keeping warm in the winter & reducing energy bills, pensions & benefits, advice for carers, support for people living alone and help filling in forms.

We also try to make sure village residents don’t miss out on freebies such as carbon monoxide monitors, security timers, energy saving radiator sheets, and Message in a Bottle (a way of capturing all your essential personal details, in case of a medical emergency). Thanks to the Bedfordshire Police Partnership Trust, we have been able to arrange for the Bobby Van to fit smoke alarms & door chains in homes where they are needed.

This year we have had a particular focus on Transport with the launch of the “Wheels in Motion” scheme. This scheme provides lower cost transport for older residents in rural areas of Bedford Borough. It offers two options – either door to door transport in a disability adapted vehicle at a fixed rate, or volunteer drivers who offer a door to door service in their own cars.

Village Agents are funded through BRCC by Bedford Borough Council. Our biggest challenge is letting people know we exist! We have limited resources for publicity & would like to thank you for your support in raising awareness of our services. We have an A5 poster which we would welcome help in displaying in Bedford (Borough) villages.

If you would like to make a referral to the Village Agents Scheme, please leave the details on our Freephone number: 0800 039 1234.


(Above image): One of our clients, who is happy with the carbon monoxide monitor we supplied her for free, through the generosity of the Katie Haines Memorial Trust.

Village SOS

Written by Cliff Andrews on . Posted in Latest News, Rural campaigns, Supporting Communities

BRCC, working in partnership with our national umbrella body – ACRE – have staff time available to support enterprising communities under the Big Lottery funded Village SOS initiative.

The initiative is all about helping communities to survive, thrive and become more enterprising. That might be by keeping services such as shops or playgroups alive for your village or by starting up a new enterprise that could create income to benefit your local area.

For more information visit: or e-mail


“Friends of Warden Abbey Vineyard” launched in English Wine week.

Written by Jane Markham on . Posted in Latest News, Rural campaigns, Warden Abbey Vineyard

The Friends of Warden Abbey Vineyard has just launched its new membership scheme in a package that will appeal to supporters, gardeners and wine lovers alike.  For a modest subscription, members can help support the community vineyard project and in return benefit from a range of opportunities.

Vineyard Manager Jane Markham said “It’s an exciting time for English wine, with home grown wines now gaining international awards, the number of vineyards expanding rapidly, and growing press interest. Now people can get involved through our new membership scheme. As well as newsletters, discounts and special events, members will be able to arrange to visit us as many times as they like for free when we are at the vineyard, so they can see the vines and grapes developing throughout the year. There aren’t many working vineyards where you could do that and someone has already suggested it would be really nice gift for a wine enthusiast!”

Full details are on the vineyard website at

The vineyard has been managed by BRCC as a community venture since 2010.  The Friends of Warden Abbey Vineyard was set up by volunteers to spread the word about the vineyard, its activities and opportunities, to increase the involvement of people in the vineyard, and to raise funds to support the project and further development of this historic vineyard.

Warden Abbey grapes

Warden Abbey grapes

Welcome to new MVCRP volunteers

Written by Stephen Sleight on . Posted in MVCRP, Ridgmont Station, Volunteering

Wishing a very warm welcome to Mandy Field and Teresa Hopkinson who have recently joined the MVCRP team.  Mandy is our new Volunteer Administration Assistant and Teresa is our Data Entry Assistant.

BRCC has a range of other volunteer opportunities at our offices in Cardington, London Road (Bedford) and Ridgmont Station Heritage Centre.  For further information, please contact Stephen Sleight on 01234 832645, or email:

Contact us

  • Main Office.
    The Old School
    MK44 3SX

    (01234) 838771
  • Email.
  • Follow us.

Latest on twitter