What is hay cutting?
Hay cutting involves mowing and bailing grass at a particular time of year – when there are sufficient nutrients in the grass for it to be used as food for animals during the winter months.
Why do we carry out hay cutting?
The Parks Trust and their farming partners carry out hay cutting every year to help support their livestock. For hundreds of years, collecting and storing sufficient hay for the lean winter months used to mean the difference between life and death for cattle and sheep and often for the survival of the farm. Now we have access to other foods to supplement their diet, but it is more environmentally responsible to feed them on locally grown grass.
We also cut hay for biodiversity reasons. Our hay meadows have been sown with native wildflowers. This helps provide much needed food for pollinators such as bees and butterflies, species that are increasingly under threat. Mowing the land and removing the hay reduces nitrate levels released into the soil and over the years encourages wild flowers to compete with the nitrate hungry grass.
Frequently asked questions
- A branch overhangs my boundary. What can I do?
Overhanging material is usually dealt with as part of our thinning and coppicing programme. Unfortunately, it is not practical for us to respond immediately unless the overhanging branches are causing, or are likely to cause, actual damage to your property. If you prefer not to wait, you can cut the branch at the point at which it enters your property. The only exception to this are trees which are protected (see below). Hedges which run alongside garden boundaries are usually routinely cut once a year on the Trust side.
All Parks Trust tree-felling operations are subject to an overall plan which has been approved by the Forestry Commission.
- How do I know whether the trees adjacent to my boundary are legally protected?
A small number of older trees in Milton Keynes are protected by a Tree Preservation Order (TPO) or blanket TPO areas (covering whole areas). Others are protected because they are situated within a conservation area. The Park’s Trust’s landscape staff can usually advise you whether the trees bordering your property are protected. But it is the local authority, Milton Keynes Council, which is responsible for administering TPOs and conservation areas within the city. If in doubt contact the Council before undertaking tree work. The Council's on Arboricultural Officer, Bob Widd, can be contacted on 01908 691691.
- Why have you let the trees grow high enough to block the light to my garden and make it shady?
The Parks Trust believes it is important to be a good and responsible neighbour. When we are thinning plantations along garden boundaries we generally write to our neighbours in advance of any works. Where possible we favour smaller growing trees and shrubs in order to minimise the effect of tree shade on gardens. It is inevitable that with so many tree-covered areas bordering gardens, some gardens will at some time be in the shade. Some neighbours will like the seclusion the trees offer, others will not. We have to take a balanced view and consider factors such as the landscape, its general design, how it is now, the future and its neighbours, while not forgetting wildlife habitat influences.
- Why do you cut trees down?
There are a number of reasons why you may see our contractors removing trees. When MK was originally planned, a significant amount of landscape, including millions of trees, was put in place. To achieve an instant green effect (perhaps where a large construction area was planned) the planting involved very tight spacing and used a large number of fast growing species. Such mixes are not sustainable and in time the trees competing for the same light and space will fail (think of an overcrowded seed tray). On a positive note it allows the Trust to select and retain the most appropriate trees for their location, health and aesthetics, while removing the inappropriate trees. Thinning works may have to include the removal of trees where they have become diseased or present a hazard to the public.
In the main, however, tree thinning is part of a careful programme of traditional landscape management designed to create and maintain the beautiful parks and open spaces we all enjoy in Milton Keynes today. In summary, our woodlands, spinneys and the planting alongside the roads have been carefully managed to provide a healthy, safe and above all attractive landscape for us to enjoy and for wildlife to thrive in.
In some cases, such as our cricket bat willow plantations, the trees were grown as a crop to be harvested.
- Why have you cut down the shrubs and killed them?
Cutting back (coppicing) some shrubs in the dormant season is an important and traditional technique that actually promotes the plants’ health and allows rich, vibrant regrowth that brings colour to the landscape. Many of the city's plants are grown on harsh clays or made up soils. Although full of nutrients these soils can present tough conditions for plants to flourish as they can be dry in the summer, water logged in the winter and compacted. If left to their own devices there are real dangers that plants will over extend themselves and consequently the roots will not be able to sustain the rest of the plant. Coppicing helps reinvigorate the plants while extending their life.
- Why have you thinned out the trees near my property, making it less secure?
Security of property is a matter for the occupier. Landscape plantings were never intended to act as security barriers. It is not possible to manage them effectively in this way. We would always ask and expect our neighbours to be responsible for their own security.
- What can I do about your thinning and coppicing programme which has reduced the screening around my property and taken away my privacy?
Ultimately the landscape can never be a guaranteed screen as it is a living dynamic thing that changes over time. Trees and shrubs are constantly growing and changing and need proper management. Thinning and rotational coppicing does involve opening up areas from time to time, but as light levels increase and nutrients become more available, tree and shrub re-growth increases dramatically to fill the space. We tend to coppice shrubs in the dormant season between Christmas and the end of March and it is not unusual to see the re-growth reaching a height of 1 metre by the end of August.
- What about increased noise levels I experience since you thinned the trees and shrubs nearby?
Noise issues usually arise where homes are adjacent to the parkways or grid roads. While trees and shrubs may have a limited effect on noise levels it is actually the width and mounding of roadside reservations that has the most impact on noise reduction in residential areas. All noise attenuation planning considerations in Milton Keynes were calculated ignoring any potential effect of vegetation.
- Can you do anything about the leaves falling into my garden in the autumn and causing a nuisance?
We appreciate that while dead leaves are not a nuisance in the legal sense of causing ‘substantial harm’ they can be irritating. Unfortunately, it is simply not practical for The Parks Trust to remove leaf litter from individual gardens. We do have a programme of tree works on the boundary throughout the city but with the grid roads alone being 180 kilometres long this is not a quick job. Whilst not aimed at dealing with leaf nuisance in private gardens, this work will help reduce the aggravation this issue causes.
- Will tree roots which are crossing my property boundary damage my foundations?
Like tree branches, roots do not respect boundaries. Removal of larger trees and vigorous shrubs adjacent to property boundaries helps to reduce the problem. Occasionally on clay soils tree roots may cause shrinkage beneath a building foundation causing differential settlement particularly where foundations are shallow or inadequate. Most modern Milton Keynes homes are built with foundations which took account of local planting (often in place before the buildings) and are deep enough to avoid the effects of clay shrinkage from trees growing on Parks Trust land. There are many other causes of subsidence other than tree roots extracting moisture. Property owners do have a legal right to remove any tree roots that enter into their land. If you choose this course of action we would like to be informed, as it may have a bearing on how we manage those individual trees.
If you are concerned that roots from The Parks Trust’s trees have damaged your property please inform us as soon as possible. You should also consult your property insurers or seek other professional advice.
- Why didn’t the Parks Trust consult me before undertaking work near my property?
We believe it is important to consult and inform our neighbours about significant or sensitive works near their boundary but it is not always straightforward. For example, the Trust carries out over 2,000 separate tree and shrub works in the city each year and resources mean that it simply is not possible to inform all our neighbours about such routine thinning and coppicing operations. However, we do try and identify largescale works or those that might be sensitive to local residents. We then write to residents informing them of the work taking place, explaining why it is happening and giving them an opportunity to query the work or take action such as upgrading their fencing.
We are always happy to deal with your queries, and explain about upcoming works, some of which are posted on this website.
- Why are all the Horse Chestnut trees dying?
Horse chestnut trees in the UK have been under increasing attack from several diseases, namely bleeding canker, Leaf Miner moth and leaf blotch.
- How does the Trust deal with these diseases?
One of the messages linked to the effects of climate change is that it will lead to trees in the British Isles being more open to pests and diseases which have traditionally been associated with warmer climates. One tactic we use is to not rely on mono-cultures or single species of tree, but use a diversity of species. When carrying out thinning works we look to retain various types of trees rather than one type. Sudden and acute diseases of Oak is perhaps a reason we should not be over reliant on Oak as we do not know what affect those diseases will have in the future.
When carrying out new planting works we tend to use trees with a good record against pest or pathogen attack such as the Wild Service Tree (Sorbus Torminalis). We have no intention of removing Horse Chestnut from the Milton Keynes landscape but will perhaps not be so reliant on them as we have been in the past.
- Can I take dead wood from the parks, grid roads or woodlands?
Dead wood provides an important habitat for insect life, which in turn helps support the rich variety of birds and butterflies you see in the parks. So we’d prefer you to leave dead wood where it is.
We do harvest and sell logs from some of the trees that are felled during thinning operations. These log piles are the private property of the Parks Trust. The logs are cut or chipped for use elsewhere in the parks or gathered together to be sold in quantities of approximately 5 tonnes which are then delivered to paying customers. Find out about firewood sales here.