Elfield Nature Park – Tuesday 8th August 2023 report

A visit to Elfield Nature Park – Tuesday 8th August 2023 – Carla Boswell
All photos © Sue Lafferty Hayward

Elfield Nature Park is around 4 hectares of mixed woodland, mature scrub, open grassland and a series of ponds. The site is rich in wildlife, with its range of habitats supporting dragonflies, bees, butterflies, birds, amphibians and bats. It is a secure nature reserve which is not open to the general public.

Thank you and well done for those of us that braved the weather; it was drizzling somewhat as we navigated through the Bowl access roads, whilst the Event organisers were packing up the Reggae Festival from the previous weekend.

A hardy bunch of 10 of us met up, including members of the Elfield Bushcraft Group to assist with gate access, for a good hour’s walk round the site.  Wellies felt essential but it soon stopped raining and the skies cleared. As were we leaving the sun was setting and the bird song re-appeared.  Since it was a bit damp, we thought it would be a perfect opportunity to check the artificial covers objects (ACOs) for amphibians and newts rather than focusing on Plant ID, as we were missing many of our botanists.

With Great Crested Newts being a protected species, licence holder Carla Boswell was able to check the ACOs, which are a combination of metal, carpet and bitumen squares, and record our findings.  Sadly, there were no reptiles due to the wet and low temperature. Nevertheless, although we are just outside the survey season, through checking 13 ACOs we uncovered a total of 10 Great Crested Newts.  5 adults and 5 juveniles.

Great Crested Newts (Photo © Sue Lafferty Hayward)

We also uncovered some Great Crested Newts in other locations: one of the tree stumps in the car park and a big stone along the track.  Elfield Nature Park has recently been a receptor site for amphibians trapped from the development site opposite.  Let’s hope they don’t move back!

Elfield Park looks completely different to last year’s dry parched visit and is looking very lush and green, with lots of interesting fungi too.  The main walking track, up the middle hill, is a carpet of bird’s foot trefoil, a sight to behold!  We discovered some Red Bartsia on site, something we’re not sure if we have seen before in Milton Keynes  (identification confirmed subsequently). We were too late in the year for the orchids but perhaps we can revisit earlier in the 2024 programme.

Unidentified fungus, left; Red bartsia, right  (Photo © Sue Lafferty Hayward)

The finale for the visit was a peek into the honeybee hives, hosted by James Chew and Colin Bowker from the Elfield Bushcraft group. James and Colin took on the initial couple of hives at the site and have since grown their broods and collected swarms from across MK to have 12 active hives this year.  They also sell their honey and perhaps there’s a potential winter talk on their beekeeping activities for the society?  This year’s honey is darker and fruity from bramble flowers, and James has sent his honey off for pollen DNA analysis!

Honeybees  (Photo © Sue Lafferty Hayward)

Elfield Bushcraft group of friendly independent volunteers is open to new members, to help maintain and improve the site.  The main activities include sharing bushcraft skills; such as fire-building, shelter-making, knot practice and wood-whittling. They use basic tools to improve the natural environment and carry out tasks for The Parks Trust, such as mending fences, observing wildlife and tending plants. They meet every Tuesday from 11am to 2pm finding time for a chat over food and hot drinks too.  They hold taster sessions before joining and group members pay a small fee each month into the kitty to finance supplies.

For more information please contact: ElfieldBushcraft@gmail.com

Carla Boswell
August 2023