Summer Programme – Walk Descriptions

Although it is not possible to hold our usual programme of summer walks for groups of Society members this year, you can still visit the sites and try the walks for yourself!

Walk leaders are doing their walks to provide information about the route and descriptions of the wildlife that may be seen.  You can use these to explore the sites on your own or with family. If you aren’t able to visit the sites in person, use these descriptions to find out more about the wildlife in and around Milton Keynes.

Do let us know what you see either by sending your sightings to sightings@mknhs.org.uk or your experiences to webeditor@mknhs.org.uk

The first walk description is below, prepared by Joe Clinch.

Summer walk: North Loughton Valley Park and Bradville

This evening walk was scheduled as part of the 2020 Summer Programme to take place on Tuesday 2nd June, to be led by Joe Clinch. This short report has been compiled by Joe from notes made during visits in mid- and end-May. (It is also available as a PDF file: MKNHS North Loughton walk May 2020)

Car parking:  Parks Trust North Loughton Valley Park car park (map reference SP826 404) at Bancroft Park, Constantine Way, off H2 Millers Way.  (Please avoid parking in the adjacent Bancroft Park Residents Club private car park at MK13 0RA.)

The walk as described is wholly on hard core paths mainly though the Park. The only section where social distancing requires special care is mentioned in the text in bold. If the area is not familiar, you are advised to print off a map (pages 3 and 7 of the Milton Keynes 2017 Official City Atlas would be best if you can access a copy) and take this with you (or a digital equivalent). The total length of the walk is about 3.5 kilometres and with stops should take not more than about one and half hours to complete.

The route follows a path downhill from the car park and when you come to a junction after about 50 metres take the left fork sign posted to North Loughton Valley Park which you will reach after about another 300 metres crossing the brook at the end. (You will pass fairly dense shrubs and trees on the way down to the right where you may hear or see a variety of small cover loving birds although none that caught my attention on these visits). You are now going to turn left to follow this valley path for the rest of the outward journey.  The Loughton Brook is an important Green Corridor which crosses Milton Keynes from Tattenhoe in the south west to New Bradwell in the north where it joins the Great Ouse.

The Park must have been landscaped and planted about 40 years ago: there are no ancient trees but the original plantings are now mature. It is a delight to walk through particularly in the spring and summer with areas of trees, scrub, managed meadows, mown grass, plus the banks of the brook itself. Bird species seen here include Grey Heron, Little Egret, Mallard, and Bullfinch, with plenty of singing warblers in the undergrowth (I heard Chiffchaff, Black Cap, and Garden Warbler). Look upwards occasionally and if you are lucky you may see a Buzzard, Red Kite or Kestrel flying over (just Buzzard for me). The shrubby areas were full of flowering May mid month but by the end of it the flower of the Elder had taken over. The managed meadows included Yellow Rattle, Ox-eye Daisy and Meadow Buttercup in flower. (The path will take you under Millers Way and it may be wet here because of a drainage leak from the embankment above).The path now swings to the right and slightly uphill into a small wooded area and then on to the edge of a more open area to the left and this is a Wet/Dry Balancing Lake. Look (or listen) for a Green Woodpecker here and many corvids.  Continue along the path towards the Redway  bridge over Grafton Street ahead of you. Go under this bridge and immediately up the narrower steepish path to the left to join the Redway across the bridge to Bradville. As you do so look to the left to view the Grand Union Canal aqueduct and down to the right to the bank below which is going to be the next wildlife location to visit.  Once across the bridge there is a slight grass rise ahead and if you go up it for about 10 metres you will be able to see the Bradwell Windmill.

Now follow the well graded path sloping down the side of the bank to the Redway that follows Grafton Street. Turn right onto this remembering that it is a bike route (and a downhill race track for some). The Redway is wide here and there is about an additional metre of mown grass either side of it. The bank on the right stretching down to the aqueduct bridge is a good sun trap and has been carefully managed by the Parks Trust to provide a flower rich habitat attractive to pollinators.  Allow at least 10 minutes for a close look at it. The late spring/early summer flowers include Birdsfoot Trefoil, Goatsbeard, Ribwort Plantain, Germander Speedwell, Bee Orchid (many fewer than in previous years), Cut Leave Cranesbill, and Yarrow. The bank is alive with invertebrates: Orange Tip, Common Blue, and Yellow Brimstone butterflies; bees; bumble bees; beetles; Six Spot Ladybird; Banded Demoiselle; the electric blue of (?Common Blue) Damselfly; spiders; and more.

 Bee Orchid

For the return walk retrace your steps over the Redway bridge and follow the path back to the Park with the Wet/Dry Balancing Lake now on your right. When you get to the turn off to the right which you had walked down and sign posted to the Car Park, ignore it, and keep walking on along the valley.  The brook meanders through the meadows here with the uncut grass areas again dotted with patches of Meadow Buttercup and Ox-eye Daisy. You will reach a wooden causeway across the brook to the right after about 400 metres. You are going to turn here and cross it. To maintain safe social distancing you should avoid passing anyone on the causeway – this is a single track route and can get busy. Once across it you will see the reconstructed foundations of Bancroft Roman Villa in front of you. It is worth a short stop to read the interpretation boards. You are now at a mown grass slope with the car park at the top of it. Follow the hard core path and then turn left and you are soon back where you started!

This route makes a very interesting and attractive natural history walk with its variety of habitats plus the bonus of two historic sites. Why not try it for yourself? There are plenty of birds, flowers and invertebrates to identify and enjoy: and if you hurry the bee orchids may still be in bloom?

Joe Clinch, Walk Leader
1st June 2020