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Flooding in Milton Keynes’ Green Space

4th January 2018

Over the Christmas period some of Milton Keynes’ parkland, which is cared for and maintained by The Parks Trust, was subject to flooding, due to the quick snow melts, which were followed by rain.

Flooding affected many of our parks, which is not surprising as a number of them are found within natural floodplains, such as the Ouzel and Ouse river valleys. This includes the Floodplain Forest Nature Reserve at Wolverton where the Konik ponies were safely moved to higher ground.

We also saw rises in water levels at lakes such as; Furzton, Caldecotte and Willen that in turn will have affected the associated parks and paths. The development corporation appreciated that building a new city, with its associated hard surfaces and infrastructure, meant far quicker run off of storm water into rivers than would naturally occur and so these lakes were designed to act as a flood defence system of the city and surrounding areas

Such lakes are technically termed ‘wet balancing lakes’ (they always hold water).  They have inlet and outlet sluices. These gates and the flood defence mechanism are managed by Anglian Water, who look at regional patterns when it comes to flood management. The ‘balancing lakes’ are brought into action in such instances as when river levels are rapidly rising and more rain is forecast. Anglian Water will initially lower the inlet sluice gates letting water into the lakes and then, as the river levels start to drop, they will open the outlet sluice. All the lakes and the immediate area have a maximum amount of water they can take and each incorporates an ‘overflow dam’ to ensure they take no more than this. Each lake can hold between 1.0 and 1.4 metres of water above their normal levels.

 Dam

The above photograph is of the 'over-spill dam' at Caldecotte Lake north. The height of this dam ensures the lake can only take so much water before it discharges it back into the river system.  It is the combination of all the lakes being used together that helps reduce the risk of serious flooding to the city.

We understand that the flooding of these areas may surprise some park users, but we want to reassure you that this flooding is to be expected. These designs and their engineering ensure large areas of Milton Keynes, Newport Pagnell and other downstream communities do not suffer severe flooding.

 

Ends.

The Parks Trust Shares Annual Report and Financial Statements at Public Meeting

The Parks Trust has published its Annual Report and Financial Statements for 2016-17.

These show the charity has continued to strengthen its financial position, largely due to the success of its commercial property and investments. This has enabled the Trust to continue to manage the parks, woodlands and lakes across the city to a high standard and to invest in new facilities in the parks. The Parks Trust is also getting closer to achieving its objective of long term financially sustainability.

David Foster, Chief Executive, commented: “When looking at our financial performance it is important to remember that we are entirely self-financing and receive no money from the government or council tax; all our work is funded through our commercial property, our investments and various enterprises on our parkland including the leisure activities at Willen Lake, cricket bat willows and our farming.

“This is why our target of becoming financially sustainable is so important if we are to continue to be able to manage, maintain and improve the city’s green spaces while weathering any financial storms that may come our way in future.”

The report and statements were presented at The Parks Trust’s annual public meeting, which was held at Campbell Park Pavilion, the Trust’s head office, attended by around 100 people.

This meeting gave residents and stakeholders the opportunity to find out about what The Parks Trust does as a charity, while giving them a platform to feedback and ask any questions they may have.

Presentations were made by David Foster; Richard Forman, Chairman; and Julie Dawes, Events & Community Engagement Manager. These reflected on the achievements of the last year and provided insight into what the Trust has planned for 2017/18 and beyond.

David added: “Our Annual Public Meeting is a key event for us as it is the way we account to the people of Milton Keynes. The parks, lakes, woods and landscapes are such a significant part of the fabric of Milton Keynes.  The green space continues to play a vital part in the success of the city, both culturally and economically and it is really important to us that people have confidence in the way we are managing them and in the Trust.

“This is particularly important when you consider the large-scale investments that are currently being made into our green spaces, with Willen Lake partway through a multi-million-pound improvement programme, and projects shortly due to commence at Furzton Lake and Campbell Park.

“We are dedicated to ensuring the parks of Milton Keynes can be enjoyed by all, both now and in the future, and this would not be possible without the hard work of our staff, volunteers and trustees; we would like to take this opportunity to thank them for all they do.”

Questions raised by the public at the meeting included those about the role of the Trust in the new green space being provided in the expansion areas, which David Foster said continued to be somewhat unsatisfactory: “With the really good developers we are very involved and there is a coherent and sensible process for the design, implementation and transfer of new green space.

“But in some areas the landscape is being dealt with as an after-thought and this leads to travesties, such as some of the lovely old agricultural hedges in the Western Expansion Area being sold off piecemeal to individual housebuilders who are proposing to set up local management companies that will impose an annual charge on the new households to pay for their upkeep.

“It’s such a shame especially as we have a tried and tested model that has been working well for 25 years.”

Another question asked what the Trust could do to help Milton Keynes Council maintain its landscape to a better standard and David Foster replied that the Trust was keen to explore ways to do this in the coming year.

To download The Parks Trusts’ Annual Report and Financial Statements for 2016/17 please visit here.

Why do we cut down trees?

13th January, 2017

You may have seen our recent blog post about the coppicing work we carry out on our land. This activity is supported by tree thinning, which also takes place this time of year.

It’s important that as the guardians of over 5,000 acres of green space in Milton Keynes, we manage the land effectively to ensure it is kept in the best possible condition for people to use and enjoy now and in the future.

Tree thinning is key to this – while you might think that cutting down trees is a bad idea, it’s vital for ensuring remaining trees and the shrubs and wild flowers beneath them are strong and healthy. If you’d like to find out more, read on for our quick-fire guide to tree thinning…

  • What is thinning?

Tree thinning is the process of removing certain trees (often weaker or badly formed trees) from a wooded area, with the overall aim of creating a well-spaced and structured woodland using a diversity of healthy, well-formed trees that have the space to develop and grow further.

  • Why do you need to thin trees?

When Milton Keynes was created, trees, shrubs and plants were planted at high densities, often using fast growing species to create an instant green landscape.  Although achieving the objective of quickly ‘greening’ the s city. The tightness of planting was unsustainable over a long period of time as the trees grow and compete for light.  As the trees continue to grow, thinning is essential to ensure the remaining trees have enough space and light to thrive.

While for those looking in it might not seem a positive thing to be doing, if thinning is not undertaken these trees that are artificially close to one another then compete against each other for the available light and become thin and spindly with no relative stem strength, as they put all their growing energies into going skywards.  Eventually they are prone to blowing over or snapping, or as they get stressed become diseased.

  • How do you decide what trees to thin?

It’s a very careful process to identify which trees will be removed, and which will remain. The number of trees removed depends on the type of tree and the density of the planting.  We try to retain healthy and well-formed trees in a diversity of species, so we are not relying on one trees species, which could then be vulnerable to pests and disease.

This process and its results will be carefully monitored to ensure the best results. It can be repeated over many years until the trees mature and their growth slows down.

  • What about the wildlife?

All the work we carry out in our parks is expertly timed to ensure it has the least possible impact on the wildlife and other park users. For this reason, tree thinning is carried out in the winter so it doesn’t affect wildlife and bird breeding seasons.  By thinning out the upper canopy trees it also allows light into the plantation floor which enables the shrubs and ground vegetation beneath to grow, which further helps create wildlife habitat such as feeding (e.g. insects and berries) and nesting opportunities.

As with any of the work we do, we’re very happy to answer any questions you may have about tree thinning. Do get in touch with us through our website, Facebook or Twitter.

What is coppicing and why do we do it?

30th January, 2017

The management of our parks takes place all year round, and the current wintery months are the perfect time for coppicing. We know it may seem odd to many that we would be cutting back the many plants that are spread across Milton Keynes’ green space, but please rest assured; it’s a key part of our land management.

For those new to this subject, we’ve put together a quick guide to coppicing – what it is, and why it’s so important.

  • Coppicing – what is it?
    Coppicing is the traditional process of cutting back woody plants to just above ground level. Lots of plants are suitable for coppicing, including laurel, hazel, dogwood, rose and willow. It’s been part of land management for hundreds, if not thousands of years.

  • How does it affect the plant?
    While the plants are in their dormant period (e.g. the plants’ nutrients and sugars are stored safely in the roots) the plants are cut/coppiced down to ground level. They then start to regrow when spring arrives. It might seem back to front, but this actually helps the plant and helps prolong the life of individual plants – rejuvenating shrubs which have become too tall/over extended, dense or have lost their colour. It also helps to eliminate pests and diseases, while helping to prolong the life of the plants.

  • Why do we need to do it?
    Apart from supporting plant health coppicing helps to open up the ground to other plants, which is important for a varied green space. It is also important to ensure the city’s roads, footpaths and redways are safe for people to use, maintaining the site lines and lines of vision.

You may well see our landscaping team coppicing in our parks over the next couple of months – if you’ve got any questions, do ask them or get in touch with us through our website, Facebook or Twitter.

Meet the Volunteer – Bob Booth

Are you looking for a new challenge for 2017? Keen to give back to your local community? Then why not join our volunteering team – we have over 200 volunteers who play a vital role in helping us to keep the parks beautiful and exciting places to visit – but we are always looking for more.

We interviewed Bob Booth, who has been a volunteer for The Parks Trust since 2009, to find out more about what is involved.

  • Why did you decide to become a volunteer for The Parks Trust?

I became a volunteer for The Parks Trust in Autumn 2009, when my wife Gill and I moved to Milton Keynes. I’d previously volunteered with the South Manchester Group of the British Trust for Conservation Volunteers when I was living in Salford Quays so I looked for something similar.

Since becoming retired, there are two main reasons why I chose to volunteer. Firstly, I believe that after leaving work, if you don’t do something that helps those around you in some way, there is a danger that you feel you are not contributing to society any more. Secondly, it’s important to keep physically and mentally active during retirement and there is lots of research into the benefits of this.

  • What type of activities have you been involved in as a volunteer?

I mainly help with practical tasks every other Wednesday; this is a fixed commitment in my diary now and I really enjoy it. The work is very varied – we do tasks including coppicing, dry stone walling, hedge laying, planting and scrub clearing. I also helped with the preliminary interviews for the Rugby World Cup volunteers in 2015. The Parks Trust isn’t the only organisation I work with; I also volunteer for Milton Keynes City Discovery Centre, and am an archivist at the library; it’s important to have variety!

  • What do you enjoy the most about volunteering?

I really enjoy hedge laying and am grateful for the opportunity to take part in this activity with The Parks Trust. Hedge laying is an intellectual as well as a physical challenge; the aim is to use the lengths of the stems to strengthen the hedge at the bottom, cutting and bending them along the length of the hedge. You have to decide which branches can be ‘pleached’, and then make sure you don’t cut them too much.

It’s a real skill and the great thing about helping with hedge laying is that you can really see the results – I was at Willen Lake recently and saw a hedge I helped to lay a few years ago; it gave me a real sense of pride to see it and say ‘I did that!’

  • What has been your favourite experience as a Parks Trust volunteer?

It’s difficult to pick one but what I love about volunteering for The Parks Trust is the general experience of coming together with like-minded people, and working as a team with great leadership. I really look forward to Wednesdays now – it’s great to see what you’ve done and know you’ve achieved something.

  •  Would you recommend volunteering for The Parks Trust to other people?

Absolutely – you have to be up for a physical activity though! Volunteers at The Parks Trust are treated really well; the charity is supportive and appreciative which makes you feel valued. It’s a very satisfactory pursuit and one I would definitely recommend.

  •  What advice would you give to someone keen to try volunteering?

There are a lot of opportunities available to volunteer in your local area; whether that’s for The Parks Trust or another organisation. Decide what you like doing and what you want to do for others and then look for something that fits. Then if you are interested do it!  Don’t do something you don’t think you’ll enjoy.  Most importantly, have a go and have fun!

Wildlife News by Martin Kincaid - Autumn/Winter 2016

Willen Lake (both North and South) has been a birder’s paradise in recent months. On 7th November, local bird watcher and sometime Parks Trust volunteer Paul Moon spotted two juvenile Velvet Scoters in front of the hotel on South Lake. Scoters are sea ducks and these birds should be more at home on the North Sea in November, but they clearly found Willen to their liking as they remained until at least 22nd and were even joined briefly by a Common Scoter! A striking pair of Red Crested Pochards were also present for much of that month, as was the wandering Black Swan.

Meanwhile, the North Lake was also attracting interest. A fault with the flood control system on the River Ouzel resulted in the lowest levels in this lake for many a year, with large areas of mud and shingle exposed in front of the Peace Pagoda for several weeks. Although this was a little late for the main autumn migration, numbers of wading birds were much improved, with Redshank, Snipe, Common Sandpipers and Green Sandpipers daily visitors, together with large groups of gulls and lapwings. A greater surprise was a Short Eared Owl – once a regular winter visitor to Willen, before the lake was even excavated – who put in a few brief appearances between late October and 10th November. It was probably seen off by the pair of buzzards who are resident on the island. Unfortunately, one thing missing so far this winter is a large swarm or ‘murmuration’ of starlings. If anyone sees this at Willen Lake, or elsewhere in the parks, do please let us know.

Turning from birds to mammals, in October, whilst taking part in a volunteer task clearing reeds in front of the Willen Lake bird hide, volunteer George Beer found an old harvest mouse nest - a great find. At around the same time, a lady in Stony Stratford reported a dead harvest mouse which had been brought in by her cat, and I was able to confirm this identification. We have in the past found a few harvest mouse nests whilst working at Walton Lake and at Blue Bridge so it is good to know that his declining and elusive mammal does persist in some of our less tidy areas of parkland. The harvest mouse has now been mounted and together with George’s nest will become an exhibit at Linford Lakes Nature Reserve.

In the past few days, Mark Strutton has twice seen an Otter whilst jogging around North Willen Lake (to be clear, it was Mark who was jogging!) The area around the flood control system would seem to be the place to look. Harry Appleyard saw a very late Noctule Bat foraging over Howe Park Wood on 8th December.

In partnership with Friends of Linford Lakes Nature Reserve (FoLLNR) have recently established a mammal recording group for this site, which we already know supports a good diversity of mammal species. The chief aims of this group are to monitor populations of some key species and also to survey for some of the more elusive species which may be present – like the aforementioned mouse! Lewis Dickinson will be steering this group for The Parks Trust and we will provide a few training workshops in skills such as owl pellet dissection and small mammal tracking. If anyone is interested in joining this group, please let Martin or Lewis know by email:  m.kincaid@theparkstrust.com or  L.dickinson@theparkstrust.com

Meet our new Education Rangers - Rosanna Clarke & Amanda Bailey

Meet Rosanna!

Hiya, I’m Rosanna (or Rodi) and I joined the Parks Trust in October 2016 as a full-time Education Ranger. My role involves working with all members of the community to engage them in outdoor learning activities. I mostly work with school, pre-school and home education groups to encourage them to spend more time in our parks exploring the range of educational activities we have to offer.  My main focus is on The Parks Trust’s ‘Youth Ranger’ group, which consists of 40 young people between the ages of 11-17 who meet up every third Saturday of the month to get involved with wildlife and conservational projects.

I have a degree in Zoology in which I spent a year in the Bornean rainforest studying the conservation of a variety of wildlife. Since then I have spent the last few years working within the education sector of various charities and organisations including The Mayhew Animal Home, Danau Girang Field Centre, Mead Open Farm and Aldenham Country Park. My main interest is in encouraging young people to discover and explore the natural beauty and diversity found in our local parks. I am very excited to be working with such a respectable and passionate team, it has been such a pleasure to meet some of the lovely volunteers that have helped on the educational sessions and I certainly look forward to meeting the rest of the volunteering team, your help is much appreciated!

Meet Amanda!

Hi what a difference a year makes …. certainly where my role at The Parks Trust is concerned. In 2015 I was an Education volunteer, assisting Youth Rangers, then a Community Team Intern, pond dipping and shelter building with brownies and cubs and finally part of the Rugby World Cup event team - varied and wonderful experiences with amazing people. Then in August 2016 I applied to be a part time Education Ranger and was fortunate to be offered the role. So I left my teaching job at a local MK school, joined the Trust in September and in my spare time I’m an Outdoor Activity Instructor at Woburn Center Parcs, teaching guests all about archery, laser combat and how to safely ride a Segway. I look forward to catching up with all my ‘old’ volunteer friends and meeting new volunteers.

 

Hear Wayne's Volunteering Story at The Parks Trust...

Wayne Coulter has been a volunteer for The Parks Trust for about a year, and recently helped out at our annual Make a Difference Day. He talks to us about what he enjoys most about volunteering…

Why did you decide to become a volunteer?

I’ve got an eight year old son and we like to cycle around different areas of Milton Keynes together. Becoming a volunteer was great opportunity for us both to put back into the areas we have both enjoyed so much. It’s also good a way to ensure my son is spending time outdoors and learning more about Milton Keynes and the importance of volunteering.

What type of activities have you been involved in as a volunteer?

We’ve been involved in a number of activities, including the Nature Day at Howe Park Wood, World Picnic at Campbell Park, and Make a Difference Day. I once spent an evening making insect hotels with other volunteers which was a lot of fun!

What do you enjoy the most about volunteering?

It might sound a bit cheesy to some but I love discovering all the hidden gems, places, people and wildlife that go into making Milton Keynes a great place to live. My partner Anita has lived in Milton Keynes for over 30 years and through volunteering I'm discovering parts of Milton Keynes even she didn't know existed.

Would you recommend volunteering for The Parks Trust to other people?

Definitely! The great thing about it is that you don’t have to have a formal arrangement in place – you can help as much or as little as you like. Volunteering for The Parks Trust can be completely flexible around you and your diary; what we like to do is see when we have a gap in the calendar and then find out what we can do to help at that time.

What has been your favourite experience as a Parks Trust volunteer?

I was quite heavily involved with the Nature Day and that was great fun – building the insect hotels and then helping out on the day itself.

Did you enjoy helping at the Make a Difference Day?

Yes it was really good – we were planting bulbs at Willen Lake North in the shape of a 50, in preparation for the city’s 50th anniversary celebrations next year. I’m looking forward to seeing the plants come up.

What’s your next task as a volunteer for The Parks Trust?

Enjoy the volunteers’ Christmas party!

Volunteering at The Parks Trust

Winners announced for The Parks Trust Photography Competition 2016

The Parks Trust’s 2016 Photography Competition aims to highlight the beautiful and diverse landscapes, features and people of Milton Keynes. The competition has three different categories - wildlife, landscape and parklife and is open to both adults and children.

We would like to thank all the entrants to The Parks Trust Photography Competition 2016, there were some truly amazing shots of Milton Keynes.

Congratulations to the winners:

10 times Milton Keynes captivated us with its autumn beauty

On a clear autumn day, there’s nothing better than a stroll through the colourful parks and woodlands of Milton Keynes. We pick 10 of our favourite photos that capture this glorious season.

  1. As autumn falls on Milton Keynes, the town becomes its most colourful.

  1. From the abstract beauty of a crisp autumnal day…

  1. to this sea of bronzed leaves at Willen South.

  1. The 18th century splendour of Great Linford Manor is framed by green and gold.

  1. Even rainbows can’t compete…

  1. Ruby boughs in Campbell Park make a striking scene…

  1. …and we can’t wait to wander down this canal towpath lined with golden poplars.

  1. Because whether it’s the tranquil scenes by Willen Lake…

  1. … or these flame-hued carpets of fallen leaves…

  1. we think Autumn in Milton Keynes is a truly beautiful time.