by Sarah Featley
Adam Henson, farmer and rural TV presenter, officially opened The Parks Trust’s new Floodplain Forest Nature Reserve on Thursday 25th August 2016.
The Parks Trust has converted 48 hectares of the Great Ouse Valley near Old Wolverton, Milton Keynes into the reserve, with the help of Hanson UK. The transformation of the reserve began with an initial idea 20 years ago, with work commencing in 2007.
Adam was joined at the opening event by Cllr Steve Coventry, Mayor of Milton Keynes, key representatives from The Parks Trust including David Foster, Chief Executive and Phil Bowsher, Head of Landscape Strategy and Development, and David Weeks, Head of PR and Communications at Hanson.
Members of the public who attended on the day were able to meet Adam and take a look around the site, and also join in on a number of fun activities, including guided walks, bird spotting and bug hunting. A real treat for many was the sighting of a Great White Egret, an uncommon large white heron which has only started breeding in the UK within the last four years.
This development of the Floodplain Forest Nature reserve puts Milton Keynes at the forefront of demands both in the UK and internationally to create and restore wetland habitats. The comprehensive restoration project incorporates a variety of elements (such as interlinked channels, shallow pools and gravel islands) to return the area to what it might have looked like more than 5,000 years ago – a wildlife-rich floodplain forest.
In addition, the quarrying that took place as part of the development generated around 686,000 tonnes of minerals, most of which was used to meet local demand.
Phil Bowsher commented: “We’re thrilled that our new Floodplain Forest Nature Reserve is now officially open. It was a great day with lots of visitors enjoying a guided tour of this special area, and plenty of takers for a selfie with
“The new reserve forms a key part of our long term vision to increase biodiversity in Milton Keynes and make landscapes packed with wildlife accessible to people. We’re very much looking forward to seeing how the area develops over the months and years to come.”
Martin Kincaid, Biodiversity Officer, at The Parks Trust added: “Now the reserve is open, we’re very keen to encourage the public to make the use of the area and see how it changes throughout the year; with different species of birds and animals visiting and the changes in vegetation; we also have plans to introduce ponies and cattle for grazing just as the prehistoric forest would have been grazed by wild animals in the past.
“It’s a fantastic spot for walkers although we ask that dogs be kept on their leads throughout the area so as not to disturb the wildlife. It is also important that people remember that the reserve will flood so it might not be fully accessible all year round!”
For more information visit: http://www.theparkstrust.com/parks/floodplain-forest
· The project has involved the removal by quarrying of sand and gravel deposits from the river floodplain by Hanson UK, The Parks Trust’s partner in the scheme.
· The removal of the sand and gravel has enabled the formation of a mosaic of new water channels, pools, marsh areas and small islands within the river floodplain.
· Work to extract the gravel from the site began in 2007 and was completed in 2014.
· The landscape will flood regularly when water levels in the river Great Ouse rise. As well as creating a wildlife-rich habitat, the project has also been intended to enable the more natural functioning of the river floodplain.
· This varied floodplain habitat will mature into a diverse ecosystem supporting a wide range of plants and insects, amphibians, birds, fish and mammals such as otter and water vole.