Howe Park Wood is an area (25 hectares) of semi-natural ancient woodland with a rich variety of wildlife situated in the south west of Milton Keynes near Westcroft and Tattenhoe.
Howe Park Wood was probably included in the Domesday Survey of 1086 and in Medieval times would have been a significant resource for the inhabitants of the nearby village of Tattenhoe. It was acquired by Milton Keynes Development Corporation in 1968. By this time the wood had become very overgrown after many years of neglect and members of Milton Keynes Natural History Society were closely involved in restoring coppice management to the wood as well as in recording its biodiversity. In 1994 the wood was designated a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) largely due to its population of Black Hairstreak butterflies. The site has been owned and managed by The Parks Trust since 1992. In 2014 a Visitor and Education Centre was built just to the north of the wood.
What to look for:
A wide variety of species can be seen here at different times of the year, but Howe Park Wood is particularly noted for its butterflies.
Howe Park Wood consists mainly of Pedunculate Oak, Aspen and Ash with an understorey of Field Maple, Hawthorn, Blackthorn and Goat Willow. It also has a substantial amount of Hornbeam which is rather unusual in North Bucks. Perhaps the finest tree, however, is an ancient Crab Apple situated in the north west corner of the wood, thought to be the oldest specimen in the county.
Wild flowers are at their best in spring with fine displays of Primrose, Bluebell and Wood Anemone as well as Common Dog-violet, Early Purple Orchid, Common Spotted-orchid and Herb Paris. Keen botanists may be interested to know that Howe Park Wood is also home to a rather insignificant, but rare, grass: a hybrid between Floating Sweet Grass (Glyceria fluitans) and Small Sweet Grass (Glyceria declinata).
Among the mammal species regularly recorded are Hedgehog, Red Fox, Badger and various bat species. As well as Muntjac, Roe Deer have also begun to be recorded in the wood and are best looked for in the early morning.
A wide variety of woodland birds can be found and nesting species include Tawny Owl, Stock Dove, Nuthatch and Treecreeper. In summer most of the widespread warbler species can be heard. Spotted Flycatcher used to be a common breeding species but sadly has declined in recent years, although it is sometimes seen around the edges of the wood. Buzzard and Red Kite are an increasingly common sight overhead.
The wood is renowned for its butterflies with 30 species recorded in the past twenty years. Many people search for, but few find, the Black Hairstreak. One of the best areas to search is along the bridleway near the car park on the northern edge of the wood. Mid to late June is the best time to look. Other species recorded in the wood are Purple Hairstreak, White Admiral and Silver Washed Fritillary which has returned to the area after many years absence. In the meadows bordering the wood Meadow Brown, Ringlet, Marbled White and Common Blue may be seen.
The ponds in and around the wood support a wide variety of dragonflies including Emperor, Broad-bodied Chaser and Common and Ruddy Darter as well as most of the more widespread damselflies.
These ponds also provide habitat for an important population of Great Crested Newt. A visit in March should reward the naturalist with a huge number of mating and spawning Common Toad.
Howe Park Wood species glossary
The scientific names of all the species mentioned for Howe Park Wood can be found in order of appearance in the species glossary.
How to get there
Howe Park Wood is located in Tattenhoe in the west of the city, bounded by Chaffron Way (H7) and Tattenhoe Street (V2).
There are two car parks, one on the northern side of the wood off Chaffron Way (H7), Grid reference 829346 and another on the southern side off Howe Rock Place, Tattenhoe Grid reference 837344. It is also close to the redway cycle route.
The nearest public transport
Buses (routes number 2, 8, 24/25 and 28 ) run to the Westcroft District Centre situated close to the northern side of the wood where there are also various shops and fast food outlets.