Cranfield University has played an important role in improving and maintaining the natural environment around Milton Keynes for future generations.

The Floodplain Forest Nature Reserve is the result of 48 hectares (nearly 120 acres) of the Great Ouse Valley at Manor Farm near Old Wolverton being transformed by The Parks Trust.

Cranfield has been measuring the environmental effects of restoring the habitat over the last four years, in partnership with The Parks Trust and the Environment Agency. This is through developing and implementing environmental monitoring programmes at the site covering factors such as soil type, water quality and ground water levels, land forms, vegetation, and the different species of animals, birds and insects.

Dr Monica Rivas Casado, who has led on the project for Cranfield, said: “The Parks Trust will be using this information to have future environmental monitoring programmes in place which tell them how successful the restoration scheme has been.

“Our work has helped them in deciding where and how much to allocate for each monitoring programme. This is so important as otherwise it will be very difficult to tell the public if things are getting better or not, or having an economic value, if monitoring does not take place.”

This project is part of The Parks Trust’s long-term vision to increase biodiversity in Milton Keynes and make wildlife-rich landscapes accessible to the public. It involved the removal of sand and gravel deposits from beneath fields of agriculturally-improved pasture, restoring the land into a mosaic of new water channels, pools, marshy areas and islands within the river floodplain which resemble a prehistoric natural landscape.

Work began on extracting gravel from the site back in 2007 by project partners Hanson UK, who also helped design the restoration scheme, and this took seven years to complete. The Parks Trust will now manage the remodelled landscape and developing wildlife habitats.

Countryfile television presenter and farmer Adam Henson was the special guest at the official launch event in late August which Dr Rivas Casado also attended along with representatives from The Parks Trust and Hanson UK.

Phil Bowsher from The Parks Trust said: “Cranfield’s research is helping us understand the full environmental effects of the scheme and to share this knowledge with those considering similar floodplain restoration schemes elsewhere. We are identifying the best way to manage the Floodplain Forest to further develop into a diverse wildlife habitat which the local community can experience and enjoy.”

•	Left to right: Dr Monica Rivas Casado (Cranfield University), Countryfile’s Adam Henson, Phil Bowsher (The Parks Trust) and David Weeks (Hanson UK) at the Floodplain Forest Nature Reserve official launch.
Dr Monica Rivas Casado with Countryfile’s Adam Henson, Phil Bowsher (The Parks Trust) and David Weeks (Hanson UK)

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