This 50 acre reserve is managed for public access and conservation. Its main features are species of grassland, wildlife ditches, scrubland, a scattering of native trees, bushes and a running stream, which together make it an important refuge and development area for wildlife. It is a pleasant and relaxing place for walking, unwinding and wildlife watching.
Henlow Common and Langford Meadow lie within the parish of Langford, but only since 1985 after a land swap. As registered common land, it keeps its original name.
Common land is a relic of a system that operated in medieval times. Today the Lord of the Manor, or owner, is Bedfordshire County Council and common rights are held by one person.
Hedges were traditionally used as barriers and boundaries. This is true of both Henlow Common and Langford Meadow too. The creation of hedges took off with the "enclosure movement" in the 16th century. Over 200,000 miles of hedgerow were probably planted between 1750 and 1850. Hedges are also valuable to stock and crops by providing shelter, reducing the earth erosion, provide much habitats for wildlife and are a source of wood.
The boundary edge of Henlow Common is mainly Hawthorn due to its protection with dense thorns and hardiness. Others include crab, apple, dog rose, holly, oak, ash and spindle
The hedges have to be kept in check in order to maintain their interest for wildlife and to prevent them growing into trees. They are coppiced and laid, where the plant is cut at the base.
Willows thrive on the wet soils on both Henlow Common and Langford Meadow and their roots help stabilise the river banks, drainage ditches and pond edges. Willows are important to wildlife wherever they grow.
There are many species of willow that exist in the British Isles. The most common willows found in the Ivel Valley basin are Crack Willow and White Willow. The White Willow is distinctive from the Crack Willow by the grey tinge to its leaves. Bat Willow is also found in the valley for the production of cricket bats.
Historically willow has been use to make thatching spars, baskets, fence posts, polo balls and even artificial limbs; as a source of animal fodder and firewood.
Pollarding is where the branches or limbs of a tree are cut about 2-3m high above the height of the grazing animals, this encourages new growth. This process removes the weight from the branches and the new growth strengthens the trunk.
Pollarding is the traditional practice of harvesting wood from a tree that is growing on grazed land. The practice dates back to a time when wood was a valuable commodity.
Pollarding is important to willows because they tend to be very fast growing trees. Without regular cutting they will become top heavy and can split and fall down. Disease can then enter the exposed trunk and ultimately kill the tree. Pollarding helps to prolong the life of the tree and must be repeated every 5-10 years.
Local farmers allow cows and cattle groups to graze on the reserve. There is generally a cattle free area if you do not want to walk too close to them. Always go round the cattle rather than through them for their wellbeing and your safety.
Walking dogs is welcome, but please keep them well under control around the cattle and to reduce the disturbance to local wildlife in the reserve. Very important: Please clean up all mess after your dog to reduce disease and to ensure that others can enjoy the site safely - Several dog bins are in the vicinity in and around the reserve. Please use these or take your dog waste home.
There are two entrances off the southern edge of Henlow Common next to the A6001 the road between Henlow and Biggleswade just before Langford near the garden centre. One entrance follows the river closely to Langford Meadow and Langford Mill, the other goes directly across Henlow Common. On reaching the north end of Henlow Common a fence with two crossing points at the east and west ends. The two entrances onto Langford Meadow are particularly useful if the resident cows are blocking one or the other, which has been know to happen on occasions.
Car Parking can be found on some residential streets (e.g. Riverside Gardens) both at the southern end of Langford and at the local recreation park car park half way up Langford just off Mill Lane near Langford Mill itself.