Old Warden Tunnel Nature Reserve is a hidden Gem on the Greensand Ridge Walk. Formerly the Bedford to Hitchin Railway line the area in and around the tunnel, on the embankments and where the line used to run is now a fully preserved nature reserve for Flora, Fauna and indiginous local wildlife.
The tunnel itself is now closed off and disused. It is unsafe to traverse Old Warden Tunnel due to lack of maintenance but nature makes it home now in the tunnel as well as around it.
It is a diverse area for the growth and development of nature in deepest rural Mid Bedfordshire.
This cutting and tunnel were constructed to take the London, Midland & Southern Railway's main line from
Bedford to Hitchin. Opened in 1852 the line closed in 1963, part of the Beeching Cuts, but before the rails and sleepers were removed it had a brief moment of fame when part of 'Those Magnificent Men in their Flying Machines' was filmed there in 1964. The Wildlife Trust has leased the reserve since about 1973.
The reserve includes the slopes of the cutting, covered with species, rich calcareous grassland and some scrub. The tunnel itself is not part of the reserve, and is blocked to permit access only for the bats and possibly other animals that might roost there.
You are welcome to walk in the nature reserve, but please respect the needs of wildlife and other visitors by keeping dogs on leads and clearing up after them.
The bee orchid, ox-eye daisy, spiny restharrow and quaking grass that thrive on the sunny slopes of the cutting are indicators of unimproved grassland on neutral soil. A wide variety of insects feed on nectar from the flowers growing in the grassland; the grasses themselves are food and shelter for many small mammals. Regular grazing, maintenance or mowing and disposal of the cuttings prevents trees and scrub from invading the grassland of the cutting. Elsewhere on the reserve the trees provide food and shelter for birds, including, woodpeckers, owls and other locally found birds of prey.
The Wildlife Trusts continue to work locally in towns and the countryside to make the England and the rest of Great Britain richer in wildlife.