North Loughton Valley Park 11 June 2024 – Trip report

Above: Loughton Brook (Photo: Joe Clinch)


North Loughton Valley Park is managed by the Parks Trust and forms one of many parks along the Loughton Brook valley which provides a green corridor that stretches from Tattenhoe in the south west of the city to New Bradwell in the north where it joins the Great Ouse.

This section of the valley consists of four main habitats all heavily influenced by the development of Milton Keynes: the Brook itself and its surrounding wetlands; thickets of Blackthorn, Wild Plum, Hawthorn, and Elder; mown grass and managed meadows lined by trees and bushes; and an area of rough grass, and scrub  which makes up the wet/dry balancing lakes that control the risk of flooding in New Bradwell and beyond. There is no evidence of habitats that predate the development of Milton Keynes other than the Brook itself. A fifth habitat is outside the Park on the east bank of Grafton Street where it cuts through the Boulder Clay and Jurassic Cornbrash (limestone) sub strata and is an important habitat for wildlife in its own right.

The focus of the walk was the observation, identification, and recording of flowering plants, birds, and invertebrate species. A handout listed species seen at this location on previous visits and distributed to the 23 participants. The evening was dry with a mix of sunshine and cloud.

The Habitats

The route started from the Bancroft Park car park. Our first stop was to add Yellow Vetchling to the plant list. The dense area of trees and shrubs offered cover to birds in song and also a good view of an adult Great Spotted Woodpecker and juvenile. The boggy area near the edge of the Brook included Meadowsweet, Water Mint, and Great Willowherb. Crossing the Brook took us to the mown and managed meadow grass of the eastern slope of the valley with its backing of trees and bushes. The managed meadows of grasses, Meadow Buttercup, Red Clover, semi parasitic Yellow Rattle, and Ox-eye Daisy were in flower interspersed by occasional Ribwort Plantain, Goats-beard and Pyramidal Orchid. The route moves uphill away from the brook through a copse where somewhat to our surprise Water Figwort was coming into flower.

On this visit we by-passed the wet/dry balancing lake with its substantial broad earth dam since it had recently been rough mown but on our return journey we had a good view of a Buzzard launching off from one of the metal and concrete structures. Along the path edges at the foot of shrubs and hedges, Hedge Bedstraw, Black Medick, Imperforate St. John’s-wort, Common Vetch, Yarrow, Herb Robert, and Bristly Ox-tongue were amongst the plants identified.

Meadows and trees, N Loughton Valley, 11.06.24 (Photo: Joe Clinch)

A Redway bridge took us over Grafton Street with good views of the Grand Union Canal aqueduct to one side and looking down on the west facing bank that we were to visit on the other. The Redway below the bank was our longest stop. A stretch of about 150 metres has been planted as a flower-rich habitat to attract pollinators including Birdsfoot Trefoil, Common Vetch, Germander Speedwell, Cut-leaved Cranesbill, Goats-beard, Ribwort Plantain, and Bee Orchid. Unfortunately, the Bee Orchids and Fox and Cubs on the land between the Redway and Grafton Street seen on the recce for the visit some 5 days earlier had been mown in the interim.

Common Bird’s foot trefoil (Photo © Joe Clinch)

Our return route followed that of the outward one. It concluded with a short stop at the stone outline of the Bancroft Roman Villa. This was built in the late Third Century replacing an earlier Iron Age farm settlement and demolished in the Fifth Century AD. Interpretation Boards explain the history of the site.

A full Species list for the visit can be found here.
Unsurprisingly for an evening event there were few invertebrates seen but there was one Common Frog.


North Loughton Valley Park is yet another location where we have to thank the early planners of Milton Keynes for creating habitats for wildlife that have grown in biodiversity over the past 50 years, and the Parks Trust for its management of them.

My personal thanks to Paul Lund for accompanying me on the recce, acting as co-leader, and for the Invertebrate List; Anne Champion for the Plant List; and Harry Appleyard for the Bird List.

Joe Clinch, Leader
June 2024