BRCC achieves Level 3 of the ACRE Quality Standard for a further 4 years

Written by Jon Boswell on . Posted in Latest News

ACRE (the umbrella body for Rural Community Councils in England) has recently confirmed that BRCC has achieved Level 3 of the ACRE Quality Standard (the highest level) for a further 4 years until June 2019, following its external reassessment earlier this year.

The Standard, which is endorsed by the Charity Commission, contains nine separate elements such as Managing Activities, Financial Management, Trustees and the Board and Networks and Partnerships.

BRCC Chief Executive Jon Boswell said, “We are delighted that the quality of BRCC’s work, governance and management has once again been recognised by ACRE. We look forward to building on the assessor’s feedback to continue to improve as an organisation into the future.”

LEADER Funding Goes Live!

Written by Lisa King on . Posted in Beds & Hunts Claylands, Greensand Ridge LAG, Latest News, Rural Development

Bedfordshire Rural Communities Charity (BRCC) is delighted to announce that funding through the Rural Development Programme for England (RDPE) LEADER Programme is now available to small businesses, farmers, foresters and communities in both the Greensand Ridge and Beds & Hunts Claylands areas.

From 2nd November 2015, businesses and communities in the rural areas of the Bedfordshire & Huntingdonshire Claylands, and the Greensand Ridge area of Central Bedfordshire and parts of South Cambridgeshire will have the opportunity to apply for funding through the 2015 – 2020 LEADER programme. Match-funded grants of between £10K to £80K will be available through a competitive process for projects that create jobs and grow the local rural economy.

BRCC managed the Greensand Ridge LEADER Programme from 2007 – 2013, during which time 15 projects were funded through the Programme, £1,386,470 was distributed as investment grant funding. This was the first time that LEADER funding had been available in the area and it resulted in the projects levering in a total volume of investment of £4,800,000, and helped to create 65 new jobs and numerous volunteer opportunities. Additionally, many other local businesses and suppliers were supported and benefitted mutually through increased partnership working and co-operation.

If you have an idea for a project, would like to be involved with one of the Local Action Groups or require more information about eligibility and the application process, please visit the Local Action Group pages using the links below or contact Ian Campbell, Rural Development facilitator at or on 01234 832612.

For projects in the Greensand Ridge Local Action Group area visit their website here.

For projects in the Beds & Hunts Claylands Local Action Group visit their website here.




RevIVEL of the IVEL

Written by Cliff Andrews on . Posted in Biggleswade Green Wheel, Green Infrastructure, Ivel Valley Conservation Vols, Latest News

The Upper & Bedford Ouse Catchment Partnership (UBOCP) will be holding a community engagement day on Biggleswade Common on Sunday 13th September.

The event, which will run from 10.00am to 3.00pm will provide information on a wide range of issues, as well as a hands-on opportunity to support river restoration works on the River Ivel. Visitors are welcome to pop in at any time, for as long or short as they wish. Information on topics such as water quality, angling, invasive non-native species, habitat conservation and rivers restoration techniques will be available. Members of the public who want to roll their sleeves up will be able to assist in constructing willow bundles which will be used to help protect sections of riverbank against erosion.

Bedfordshire Rural Communities Charity and the Environment Agency, both key members of UBOCP, will host the event, which will be located where the River Ivel is joined by Bells Brook – approximately 400m (5 minutes walk) north of the Dan Albone Car Park.

BRCC’s Cliff Andrews says ‘We hope to have a large tank with some of our local river fish; and also a 3D river model which can demonstrate erosion and deposition processes. I’m really looking forward to that’.

The practical works being undertaken are part of a series of enhancements being undertaken with funding that UBOCP secured from the Catchment Partnership Action Fund. Further works to be undertaken on the Ivel at Biggleswade common over the coming months include re-profiling of the most-eroded sections of bank, fencing, tree planting and the provision of designated cattle drinking areas.

For more information about the event contact:

For more information about the Upper & Bedford Ouse Catchment Partnership, please visit


Rate your views of the Greensand Ridge

Written by Lisa King on . Posted in Greensand Country Landscape Partnership, Latest News, Rural campaigns, Rural Development

The ‘Secrets of the Sands’ Landscape Partnership for the Greensand Ridge needs your help to build a visual record of our landscape using a new smartphone app called ‘Rate My View’.

Developed by Plymouth University in partnership with the South Devon Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) team, ‘Rate My View’ is an exciting new way to capture and share what you really feel about your local landscape. By helping us to explore the area, better understand how we all see it and discover what we particularly value about it, you will be adding valuable pieces to our jigsaw allowing us to complete the giant puzzle which makes up the Greensand Ridge landscape.

If you would like to play a part in this exciting project, please visit the App Store or Google Play and download the free app. Once installed on your smartphone you will be able to take a photo of your favourite place on the Ridge and then tell us why it is special to you.  Please make sure your GPS is on when you take the photo as this will enable us to pinpoint the location.  The app gives you the option to include three phrases with your photo to describe Why this is your favourite place on the ridge, what it means to you and Why it makes the Greensand Ridge unique to you. You can then upload and rate your pictures of the Greensand Ridge to the Rate My View website and also see how other people view our local landscape.

It’s easy, quick and good fun to use – so have a go and help us in the process.

BRCC wins national Fundraising Innovation award

Written by Jon Boswell on . Posted in Volunteering, Warden Abbey Vineyard

BRCC has won the Fundraising Innovation category of the first ever Grow your Tenner awards, run by Localgiving. This award recognises the charity that ran the most effective, unique and inspired fundraising campaign to make the most out of Grow Your Tenner in 2014.

Grow Your Tenner is an online donations matching scheme, matching donations of up to £10. We used it as an opportunity to run a “Donate a Vine” campaign, where supporters were encouraged to make a £10 donation towards planting new vines at Warden Abbey Community Vineyard. The campaign was promoted via email, web, social media, wine trade press and staff email signatures.

The campaign raised over £2,000 for the project from 89 new donors. This enabled over 200 vines to be planted, the first at the vineyard since it was first planted almost 30 years ago.

The vines were planted on 17 and 19 May 2015.  Vineyard Manager Jane Markham said at the time: “The new planting of over 200 vines is a big milestone for the restoration of this historic vineyard. We were delighted that Charles Whitbread was able to join us on one of our planting days, as this made a lovely link to Lady Whitbread’s original vision of restoring the medieval vineyard when she planted vines at Warden Abbey back in 1986.  All our volunteers did an amazing job to get it all planted up despite all that the weather threw at us this week.”

You can find more information about the Grow your Tenner awards, including more information about our successful campaign, here.

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)



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