At the heart of the new BRVP an extensive area of floodplain forest will be created, covering around 240 hectares (or 2.4 square kilometres) in total, stretching from near Priory Country Park in the west along the river corridor to near Danish Camp north of Willington in the east. The floodplain forest will be well-wooded, comprised of up to 50% trees and scrub, and will provide the ‘ecological heartland’ of the BRVP.
It will become a low-lying landscape of interconnected forested wetlands with lakes, pools, marsh, reeds and naturalised channels, crossed by paths and boardwalks. Careful design of the floodplain forest will allow for increased storage of flood waters to help reduce and manage flood risk along the River Great Ouse. Within the floodplain forest, some areas of woodland will be planted and managed to produce biomass for use as a local carbon neutral source of fuel.
The focus within most of this area will be on passive, quiet recreation, providing places for people to have contact with nature and relax in a natural and relatively ‘wild’ setting. Some areas of the floodplain forest may be made inaccessible to the general public, so as to provide undisturbed areas exclusively for the benefit of wildlife. Elsewhere, as well as routes for walkers, cyclists and riders there will be opportunities within the floodplain forest for providing routes for other users, such as a ‘canoe trail’.
The National Cycle Route 51 serves as the main access corridor for walkers and cyclists through this part of the proposed floodplain forest, with new main routes created along sections of the river and linking north into Bedford. These will form key parts of the Bedford Green Wheel, a planned cycleway loop around the town. Parts of this area already been worked for sand and gravel and restored to farmland will require revisiting to create the mosaic of woodlands and wetlands central to the vision for BRVP.
Other areas have been or are being restored for conservation (e.g. pools, grassland, reedbeds), where opportunities will exist for further enhancing these areas for people and wildlife.