We need your help to protect one of Milton Keynes' ancient woodlands!
In Milton Keynes we are blessed with beautiful parks, woodlands and lakes. One of the most special of these is Howe Park Wood, located on the west of the city, this is a particularly important site, so important in fact that it has ‘SSSI status’. This means that the woodland is a ‘Site of Special Scientific Interest’ as designated by Natural England. Places that are given this status are required by law to be protected and managed in order to preserve wildlife in the area. SSSI sites currently cover approximately 7% of land in the UK, so this title is a true honour and a big responsibility for the Trust.
Howe Park Wood provides a safe home to many endangered animal and plant species – including bats, the extremely rare black hairstreak butterfly and great crested newts. All of these face UK-wide population threats and declines. We also have veteran (very old) trees including a crab apple and oaks over 400 years old. Two hundred plant species can be found here, a few of which are very rare in Britain, including Herb-Paris and some orchid species.
Historically the wood was managed as a source of timber in medieval times, to rear wild pigs in and as a deer park. In fact, the woodland itself was noted in the Domesday Survey of 1086, meaning this area of Milton Keynes has likely existed for well over 1,000 years. Today the wood is enjoyed by thousands of people every year, encouraging a broad love and respect of wildlife. However, with ever increasing footfall, The Parks Trust is having to take extra measures to ensure that this critical habitat is protected from permanent damage.
From March 2022, we at the Trust are asking the public to keep dogs on leads at all times when walking in the woods. This is in order to protect any ground-nesting animals from being injured or disturbed by dogs. The scent left by dogs can also have a negative effect on the behaviour of other animals, so it is important that they stay on the main designated paths and do not enter the woodland undergrowth.
Even without a dog, you can play your part in protecting Howe Park Wood by sticking to the designated pathways and refraining from damaging any plants or building shelters such as dens. Regular visitors may have noticed we have recently blocked some of the undesignated trails through the scrubland. These trails have been created by years of visitors trampling plants and creating their own routes through the woods. Whilst we encourage exploration of nature, we do need to ensure the integrity of the woods is respected and any further damage is prevented. These blockages are therefore in place to encourage regrowth of depleted areas and further improve the parks’ biodiversity. In turn, we hope to see some of our rarer plant species bounce back and flourish in our woods once more.
You may also see work being carried out by our team on your visit including tree thinning and coppicing work. These management practices have been carried out for centuries and have been monitored, researched and proven effective in their positive impact on improving biodiversity. In particular, they allow light to get to the woodland floor to increase woodland plants and maintain a range of habitats. One iconic and much-loved plant which benefits from this work is the English Bluebell – a threatened and protected species.
We’d like to thank all of our park users in advance for their understanding of the changes and for helping us protect this incredibly important woodland.