Nature

There is a wide range of flora and bird species at the park, this has been recorded in surveys carried out over the last few years. Much of the land has been disturbed over the years of gravel extraction, but some areas have also been left relatively untouched. The restoration of the formerly worked areas has progressed and wildlife should continue to thrive across the park. The Herts and Middlesex Wildlife Trust are actively involved with developing the nature reserve at the park. Their is a range different habitats in the park; ancient woodlands, open meadows and reed beds. All of this attracted a variety of wildlife. Seasonal changes mean that year round there are interesting things to see.

Here are some of the bird species recorded at the park in recent months:

Hobby, Winchat, Peregrine Falcon, Brambling, Willow Warbler, Cuckoo, Sand Martin, Garden Warbler, Common Tern.

A squirrel in the park woodland.
A squirrel in autumn (Will Davis)

We invited Jo from the Herts & Middlesex Wildlife Trust to give us a summary of the park from their perspective. Jo’s article can be read below:

Nature at Panshanger Park

Panshanger Park supports a wide range of wildlife with many different habitats. Its varied history of landscaping, farming and quarrying has allowed for a patch work of habitats to have been established across this 1000 acre site.

The Mimram valley is notable for several water features including the Broad Water, a diversion of the Mimram which has been dammed to form a sinuous lake. The Broad Water is a product of the original Repton landscape. More recently there have been lakes created from the quarry gravel extraction process. These lakes provide valuable feeding grounds, of county importance, for migrating winter wildfowl such as gadwall as well as providing year round habitat for more dabchicks (also known as little grebes) than anywhere else in Hertfordshire. In late summer, an osprey often also takes advantage of the lakes, stopping for fishing opportunities, when passing through Panshanger on its annual migration.

Dabchicks (or little grebe) dive to the lake bottom to feed on invertebrates and small fish ©Tim Hill

The river Mimram that flows through the centre of the site is an excellent example of a globally rare chalk stream habitat. It is home to fish such as grayling and trout as well as many aquatic invertebrates and plants. Sedge and reeds along the banks as well as the edges of the lakes are a great habitat for the rare water vole. Wet grasslands such as Broadwater Marsh and Forty Acres are nesting sites for lapwings and the little ringed plover, a rare migrant, whilst the ponds attract many species of dragonflies such as the spectacular emperor.

Water vole nibbling on some vegetation ©Russell Savory

Throughout the park there are over 800 ancient and veteran trees including the famous Panshanger Oak, thought to be 450-500 years old. These trees and the wildlife they support are amongst the most ecologically important elements of the park. They provide homes and food for a variety of birds, bats, invertebrates and fungi. Woodlands in the northern part of the park, such as Lady Hughes’s wood are host to a wonderful display of bluebells during the Spring along with other woodlands that are adorned with snowdrops at the end of winter.

A carpet of bluebells in Lady Hughes’s woods ©Ian Carle

Wildflower meadows have been seeded throughout the site to increase biodiversity and soil structure as well as to encourage pollinators such as bees and butterflies. Long horn cattle graze the site on a rotational basis and in so doing, remove dominant grasses and open up gaps in the sward allowing flowers to germinate.

There are a variety of events held throughout the year with opportunities to learn more about the nature and wildlife at Panshanger Park. For more information please go to: panshangerpark.co.uk/events