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Learning from the past

Group of students working on a church.

Modern day bricklayers at Bedford College have been learning about ancient stonemasonry skills at the Church of St Leonard in Old Warden, which is situated within Greensand Country.

The church dates back to the 12th Century and is now a Grade 1 Listed Building. An exterior wall was lost amid an overgrown stretch of single track road, and that has been repaired by hand by the young people.

There to show them how was Martin Fildes from Riverdale Stone of Sharnbrook, who started his own working life as a YTS bricklayer.

“I found stone masonry was more creative and so I moved into that line, which is so interesting. We now have a team of 12 and help to restore properties all over the UK.

“The great thing here is that these young people are going to leave their mark on this landscape and be part of an ancient tradition of skilled masonry.”

Group of students working on a church.

Head of Construction Dean Gibson said: “This has been a great opportunity for these trainees who are full-time Level 2 Diploma Bricklayers. They all have jobs already or lined up where they can quickly be earning up to £250 a day and will always be in demand. They can keep their skills updated and progress to Higher Education.

“We are grateful to Tarmac for donating the sand stone, which is a very expensive material and to the Connolly Foundation for additional funding to make this activity possible.”

Dean comes from an extensive background in construction education. Together with rest of The Bedford College Group, he is now introducing T-Levels to the mix. These are an alternative to A Levels where students combine academic students with 100s of hours of work experience and can led them straight into supporting roles in construction site management.

The overall project at the church is part of the work between Bedford College and the Greensand Country Landscape Partnership. The Greensand Country Landscape Partnership, is a partnership of organisations, landowners and communities that are working together to help raise awareness of this distinctive, special and loved Greensand Country landscape and to reverse the decline in its distinct character and special qualities.

This strong and diverse partnership has together delivered an exciting array of nearly 100 projects in Greensand Country over the last five years.

Claire Poulton, the Landscape Partnership Programme Manager says:

“We are really proud of the string of successes that have been delivered by all these different organisations working together.  All the work that has been done has brought benefits for both people and nature.

“We have restored a number of walls and buildings around this landscape, which have helped contribute to the sense of place. We have been working at a landscape scale to restore habitats and bring back diverse and wonderful wildlife that you can now find again in this area.

“We have created new walks, cycle routes and horse riding routes, so that you can now explore this ‘green oasis’ of peace and quiet in rolling countryside, and appreciate the breath-taking views, slow down, unwind and connect with nature.”

Find out how you can discover Greensand Country yourself by  visiting

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