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Honey Bee Swarms: What they are and what to do if you see one

3 May 2018

Following the long winter of 2017-2018 and the late spring, colonies of honey bees are under tremendous stress. In the wild the survival chance of a honey bee swarm is about 20 per cent. Collected, and housed in a hive by a beekeeper, the survival rate triples. The North Bucks Beekeepers Association (NBBKA) needs the help of everyone in Milton Keynes to ensure we collect as many swarms this year as possible. If you see a swarm of bees please contact the NBBKA on the swarm-line number at the bottom of this post. They will send a beekeeper to collect the swarm and provide it with a new home.

What is a honey bee swarm?

Swarms are merely colonies that are in transition. Normally these swarms are found hanging from tree branch, fence post or any place where the swarm can gather around the Queen while scouts are sent out to look for a more permanent home. A swarm left alone will only be in place from just a few minutes to a few hours and occasionally a few days. Generally, these swarms are very docile and the swarming bees usually will not sting. Before honey bees swarm they gorge themselves with honey before leaving the hive. This makes it very hard for them to double over and sting.

What causes honey bees to swarm?

Honey bees have a natural instinct to create new colonies by swarming. They may also swarm through overcrowding or because an old queen is thought to be failing and they wish to raise a new one. Honey bees usually swarm in early spring just as the colony is building up numbers in anticipation of the upcoming honey flow but swarming can happen through to late summer.

What should you do if you see a swarm? The collection of swarms is an important part of the work of bee keepers. You should never interfere with a swarm and pest control companies will not kill a swarm unless absolutely necessary.

Please contact:

NBBKA Swarm Hotline 07342 930851


Bee swarm poster

Book Your Place Now for The Parks Trust’s Walking Festival

30 April 2018

We everyone to head outside and join us on Saturday 12th and Sunday 13th May for our annual Walking Festival.

There will be 15 walks held throughout the weekend, located at different locations across the city, giving people the opportunity to explore somewhere new and enjoy Milton Keynes’ beautiful and inspiring landscapes.

The Heritage of Loughton Valley walk on Saturday 12th May at 2pm is sure to be a real highlight. This four-mile walk starts at Bancroft’s Roman Villa and then tours through the North Loughton Valley, exploring its rich history. Well behaved dogs are also welcome on this walk.

In addition, The Old and The New walk is shaping up to be a popular choice. This will cover over six miles of the city, contrasting the modernity of Central Milton Keynes to more historical areas, including Bradwell Abbey and an ancient woodland. This will be held on Sunday 13th May at 2pm.

Julie Dawes, Events & Community Engagement Manager for The Parks Trust, commented: “This year’s Walking Festival is set to be better than ever, with options for people of all abilities. With over 6,000 acres of parkland managed by The Parks Trust, there’s plenty of areas to explore and what better opportunity to head outside and visit somewhere new?

“We have also made sure to include a number of walks where people can bring their dogs along, such as a dedicated Woof Walk in Campbell Park. As ever, we could not do this without Milton Keynes Council, and our own volunteers, whose help with organising and running this weekend is absolutely vital.”

Spaces on walks should be booked online. Please visit www.theparkstrust.com/walkingfestival2018 to book tickets and find out more information.

Entries Now Open for The Fred Roche Travel Award

We are very proud to be supporting The Fred Roche Travel Award, organised by Milton Keynes Community Foundation. The three £500 awards are to support students who are studying horticulture, landscape design, architecture, urban design or arboriculture to broaden their subject knowledge through travel during the summer break. The Travel Awards are sponsored by The Fred Roche Foundation, The Parks Trust and an anonymous donor.

Who can apply?
In order to apply, you must be between the ages of 18 and 23 on 1 June 2018 and have completed your secondary education in Milton Keynes. You should now be in full-time higher education studying horticulture, landscape design, architecture, urban design or arboriculture.

Growing Local Talent
The Fred Roche Foundation was created to keep the MK spirit of creative exploration, innovation and strength of vision alive, and to celebrate the life and achievements of Fred Roche who played such a seminal role in the creation of the City. Their aim is to stimulate creative discussion and debate around subjects that are critical to the character and vitality of Milton Keynes and to foster respect for the great urban development and achievement the New City represents. With this in mind, MK Community Foundation will ask that the successful applicants write a blog and/or vlog, describing their travels, so that their experiences can be shared with a wider audience and encourage more awareness of the importance of studying horticulture, landscape design, architecture, urban design or arboriculture.

Applications will be reviewed by the MK Community Foundation panel and the winner will be announced on their website on Friday 1 June 2018.
How to apply
Applications should be submitted by completing an application form that can be found on the MK Community Foundation website www.mkcommunityfoundation.co.uk or alternatively you can call 01908 690276 if you would prefer MK Community Foundation to send you a form by post.

Deadline for completed applications is 14th May 2018 - Good luck!

Temporary Closure of Paths in Howe Park Wood

Due to excessively wet and boggy conditions in the wood, we have decided to close off the worst affected paths from Monday 23rd April for a short time.

Howe Park Wood is naturally a wet woodland and its flora and fauna reflect that. However, with the very wet and cold conditions we have seen over the past few months and increased visitor numbers, many areas have become so soft and muddy that they are almost impassable.

As a result, some people have created their own paths along the ditches which is causing erosion and damage to the flora. It is important that we do not cause disturbance in quiet areas of the woodland at the most important time of year for flowers and wildlife.

Surfacing the paths with woodchip is not an option at the moment but we plan to do this in the summer months when ground conditions are suitable.

Only three paths in the northern half of the wood will be closed off and all other paths will remain open to visitors. We apologise for any inconvenience caused but we hope visitors will understand our decision. All of the woodland rides should be fully open again very soon.

Wildlife Blog: Grass Snake

16th April 2018

The grass snake is the largest and most common species of snake in the UK. A full-grown grass snake can be over one metre in length and some people can find them alarming if they stumble across them whilst out walking. However, they are non-venomous and quite harmless to humans, preying on nothing more than amphibians and small fish.

At this time of year snakes are emerging from their winter hibernation. They may have been hibernating in an animal burrow since early November and on emergence it is not unusual for large numbers of snakes to congregate and bask together – known as ‘lying up’. The snakes will flatten their bodies to maximise the warming of the sun’s rays and contact with other snakes will help with the warming effect. We often receive reports of adders from our parks but none of these scarce snakes are found in Milton Keynes. The cream or yellow ‘collar’ behind the head is the most distinctive feature of the grass snake while adders have a clear zig-zag mark down their backs and are generally much smaller in size. Adders are known from one or two locations in Bedfordshire but are probably extinct in North Bucks.

Mating takes place in late spring and in June the females will lay up to 20 eggs in a rotting tree stump or perhaps even a garden compost heap. The tiny hatchlings emerge in late summer or autumn and will feed on mainly froglets and toadlets.

If you do come across a few snakes in your back garden or local park please just watch from a safe distance. You will soon see that they have nothing more on their mind than basking and will probably crawl away into cover as soon as they see you coming.

The Parks Trust Secures Compensation for Unlawful Felling of Trees

10 April 2018

The Parks Trust has secured compensation of £10,000 plus payment of its costs from the Burger King restaurant in Milton Keynes. 

In October last year contractors acting for the restaurant unlawfully felled eight horse chestnut trees and one alder tree on Parks Trust land adjacent to the Burger King outlet on H5 Portway in Central Milton Keynes.

We reported it to the police as criminal damage and sought compensation from Burger King to enable replacement trees to be planted. 

Faced with the prospect of legal proceedings being taken against it, the Burger King restaurant in Milton Keynes came to an out-of-court settlement.

David Foster, Chief Executive of The Parks Trust, said: “The public have a right to expect us to safeguard the parks and landscape of Milton Keynes on their behalf, and that is what we were doing here. We are always willing to talk to businesses about the landscape adjacent to them but if they take matters into their own hands, as in this case, we will respond robustly.

“Most businesses in Milton Keynes really value the landscape setting we provide for them and the contribution the green environment makes to the economic success of the city. It was disappointing that this was not the case in this instance when the trees, which were there for everyone to enjoy and to provide an attractive gateway into the city centre, were felled by the restaurant. 

“The trees were approximately six metres tall and over thirty years old and just beginning to make a real impact on the landscape. To replace each individual tree like-for-like would cost £10,440 plus the cost of delivery planting, so while £10,000 compensation might sound a lot, it in no way covers the loss suffered by the city.”



Willen Lake Launches New and Improved Website

20 March 2018

Willen Lake has launched a new website which offers customers an improved online experience; with fully responsive design, better interactivity including maps and video and integration with a new booking system.

Visitors to the website can quickly and easily find out information about all of the activities available at Willen Lake, such as Treetop Extreme, the county’s only urban high ropes course, equipment hire and watersports including wakeboarding, canoeing, windsurfing and many more.

The site is easy to navigate through a drop down ‘mega menu’, with separate sections for ‘Discover Willen Lake’, ‘What’s On’, ‘Watersports’, ‘Activities’, ‘Schools & Groups’.

For the first time, tickets for all the watersports and on land activities can be booked online through the one website, including sessions for Splash ‘n’ Play, one of the UK’s largest outdoor splash parks. Users can also buy tickets for more than one session at a time, allowing them to organise a day or week of activities if needed.

The new website has been designed to be very visually-led, with photos and new video content to inspire people as they plan their visit to the lake. It is fully mobile and tablet responsive, ensuring the website can be easily accessed while on the move.

Finally, a dedicated media section provides all the lake’s latest news, access to social media platforms and inspiration pieces.

Hannah Bodley, Head of Marketing, Events and Community Engagement for The Parks Trust, commented: “We are very pleased to launch our new website, which will enable visitors to plan their trip and book activities before they arrive at the lake. We’ve spent considerable time looking at improving the customer journey to ensure everyone can find the information they need quickly and easily and by making it easier to book sessions and activities. There is something for everyone to enjoy at Willen Lake and we look forward to customers being able to explore this using our new website.”

Rob Wood, General Manager at Willen Lake, added: “The new website has launched in time for the Easter holidays and the start of our peak season, and we think it will make a trip to Willen Lake better than ever. As we have taken over more activities at the lake, including the wakeboarding centre and Treetop Extreme, there was a need to create a new, combined website with all the key information in one place. There’s lots of fun to be had at the lake and the new website demonstrates this perfectly.”

The new website was designed and developed by Interdirect. Managing Director, Nicholas Mann said: “We are delighted to be working with The Parks Trust on a number of exciting projects, and particularly the launch of the website for Willen Lake. With more than 22 years’ experience providing marketing support to businesses and organisations from across Milton Keynes, we are proud to partner with an organisation whose vision is to create beautiful and inspirational parks, lakes and landscapes that will be loved by the people of Milton Keynes, forever.”

The new Willen Lake website has been introduced by The Parks Trust, which manages Willen Lake. A new website will also be launching shortly for the Trust itself.



Milton Keynes Children Explore Campbell Park at The Parks Trust’s Junior Park Rangers Conference

15 March 2018


We welcomed 62 children from primary schools and home educated groups across the city for our fifth annual Junior Park Rangers (JPR) Outdoor Learning and Sharing Conference.

The children enjoyed an action-packed day of outdoor activities at Campbell Park, which began with a ‘Which Park?’ photograph quiz, followed by a short Q&A session, where the Rangers put Landscape and Operations Director, Rob Riekie, ‘on the spot’ to answer their questions on both woodland management and Campbell Park.

Shortly after, the children split into groups to take part in a variety of different activities, including a ‘winter wander’, where they discovered natural ‘treasures’; a VIP woodland management experience and interactive Community Ranger challenges covering litter, water safety, feeding waterfowl and the Countryside Code messages of ‘Respect, Protect and Enjoy’, for the environment and Milton Keynes parks.

After lunch, there were more fun activities to enjoy; John Muir (environmental) Award inspired tasks, including using natural materials to create ‘mini national parks’ and individual group verbal presentations, showcasing JPR activities, competitions and quizzes.

This was a very important part of the day as the opportunity to communicate and share key environmental messages to peers, school and family and friend communities is an integral part of the JPR programme.

The Rangers also painted a rock, which will be used to create a ‘JPR’ themed mural, temporarily located in Campbell Park, the city’s Art park.

Each Ranger received their own cloth goody bag, including JPR baseball cap and individual attendance certificate. The Rangers were also very excited to take home wood souvenirs, kindly provided by the woodland experience team and some wild meadow flower seed to use within their school or group grounds.

The day closed with the winners of the team challenges being announced. In first place was Haslett Hedgehogs, second place Middleton Birds and third was Determined Dragonflies. Prizes included a variety of outdoor learning equipment.

Amanda Bailey, outdoor learning practitioner and co-ordinator of the JPR programme at The Parks Trust, commented:

 “We love the annual JPR Outdoor Learning and Sharing Conference, it’s a fantastic opportunity for children to get out into nature and find out more about the city’s green space and wildlife.

“Our Junior Park Rangers are such an asset to their schools and local communities as they are so enthusiastic about the natural environment and what they can do to protect and support it.

“We believe its hugely important to involve children in caring for the world around them and encouraging these positive attitudes from a young age, so we are dedicated to involving them in our activities wherever possible.”

The Junior Park Rangers scheme is free to join, simple to run and is fully supported by our Outdoor Learning Team.

As part of the scheme up to six children per school, from years 4-6, are recruited as Junior Park Rangers.

The role of a Junior Ranger is to share with their school community key environmental messages, particularly how they can help to keep MK parks safe, clean and full of wildlife.

Rangers have three main jobs: they read out a monthly seasonal bulletin in assembly; run competitions, quizzes and campaigns to raise awareness about events and issues in the parks; and set up and maintain a noticeboard with posters, pictures and maps.


For more information about Junior Rangers, please get in touch with our Outdoor Learning team, on 01908 233600 or education@theparktrust.com

The Parks Trust Wins Leisure, Entertainment & Arts Category at 2018 Milton Keynes Business Achievement Awards

9th March 2018

We are thrilled to have won the Leisure Entertainment & Arts Category at the 2018 Milton Keynes Business Achievement Awards.

A new category for 2018, the award recognises our extensive and varied events and activities programme.

In 2017, we organised and enabled over 500 events in our parkland, from popular, standalone favourites World Picnic and Spooky Halloween Walks to smaller, regular events such as Women’s Walking Network and Tree Tots.

Additionally, we offer an extensive programme of community engagement, working with local communities to encourage them to engage with their green and open space and developing our Community Ambassador Programme.

In particular, we are working closely with BAME communities through workshops, training and devoted staff resource, which led to several diverse communities hosting their own MK50 celebrations in 2017 including MK Hindu Association’s Mela, African Diaspora Day and Filipino Festival.

We also regularly bring many Milton Keynes organisations together through successful partnership working initiatives. Partnership projects in 2017 included several cultural firsts for the city including the History Festival, the Festival of Nature and the Illuminated Boat Festival.

Julie Dawes, The Parks Trust’s Events & Community Engagement Manager, commented: “We are so pleased to have been recognised at the 2018 Milton Keynes Business Achievement Awards. While managing and maintaining over 6,000 acres of green space across Milton Keynes is a big part of what we do, many people don’t realise just how many events and activities we organise in our parkland."

“We work very hard to ensure we offer a diverse programme that provides something for everyone, whatever your age, ability or interests. We want to encourage as many people as possible to get outside and enjoy their local environment and look forward to hosting many more fantastic events over the years to come!"

The Milton Keynes Business Achievement Awards were announced last night, Thursday 8th March at the DoubleTree by Hilton hotel at the stadium:mk. In addition to winning the Leisure, Entertainment & Arts category, we were also a finalist for Charity of the Year.

The Parks Trust Launches 2018 Photography Competition

28 February 2018

We want all keen amateur photographers to enter our 2018 Photography Competition.

The competition is open to people of all ages, with youth and adult sections for each of the three categories; Wildlife, Landscape and Parklife.

Our 2018 competition aims to highlight the beautiful and diverse landscapes, features and people of Milton Keynes. Images must be taken in the green space that is managed and maintained by The Parks Trust.

The competition begins on Thursday 1st March 2018 and closes on Thursday 6th September 2018. The winners will be announced on Thursday 20th September 2018.

David Foster, Chief Executive of The Parks Trust, commented: “We are very pleased to launch our 2018 photography competition. We always love to see the pictures people take while they are enjoying our parkland and have been staggered by the high quality received in previous years. Good luck to all who enter!”

There will be one overall winner of the competition, who will receive £350 of centre:mk gift vouchers. There will then be five other winners (youth and adult winners from each category, excluding the category which the overall winner was selected from) who will receive £50 in centre:mk vouchers.

To enter and for full terms and conditions, please visit our web page.