Milton Country Park
Milton Country Park is located just a few miles north of the city of Cambridge. Created from old gravel pits the park offers a varied natural habitat with woodland, lakes, and attractive pathways suitable for bicycles and wheelchairs. Dogs are welcome and can be walked off-lead anywhere north of the 13th public drain. There is also a visitors' centre, café, two children's playgrounds, and a varied activity and events programme. You can hire the facilities for a meeting or party and even hold a wedding in the park!
The country park is managed by Cambridge Sport Lakes Trust, a registered charity established for the creation and operation of a multi-sports lake & park in Cambridgeshire. At the park the trust works closely with community, business, schools and charity groups to create better access to outdoor sport, leisure and education.
The park has a combination of woodland, water and grassy meadow habitats which are carefully managed to support and enhance diversity and the natural environment. Throughout the year there is an abundance of wildlife to see and enjoy.
What to look out for in...
- March sees the first significant blossom in the park on its many hawthorn and blackthorn trees. By the end of April the apple blossom in the orchard is in full bloom creating beautiful canopies of flowers to walk through.
- You can spot a kingfisher in the park at any time of year but it's spring when they look their best and will be displaying in order to find a mate. Look out for a flash of bright turquoise as it darts over the water or sits on the low branches of trees at the edges of the lakes where they watch for fish.
- The mating dance of the Greater Crested Grebe is always fun to watch as they show off their ornate plummage by rising out of the water and shaking their heads at each other.
- Dragonflies and damselflies skim the lakes and bask on the bridges nearby.
- Smooth newts and common lizards can be seen if you're lucky, try looking on the sandy paths near Hall's Pool.
- Grass snakes bask in the sun on paths and open grass in a variety of places around the park. They are very shy and often only spotted as they slither into bushes, having been disturbed by approaching footsteps.
- Wild flowers attract butterflies and bees and are more abundant at the northern end of the park, where occasionally you might even find orchids such as the stunning bee orchid.
- Blackberry picking is a popular activity from mid-August. There is fruit to be found across the park but the blackberries north of Deep Pool are particularly good!
- Seasonal colours are in abundance, particularly at Remembrance Meadow where the Canadian Maple and the English and American oak, planted to commemerate the allied forces which took part in the D-Day landings during the second world war, give a stunning autumnal display.
- Hedgerows and trees are now stocked with fruits, nuts and berries. The park has many varieties to look out for including apples, damsons, mirabelle plums, sloes, crab apples, elderberries and walnuts.
- Listen for the barking of a roe deer or muntjac, most likely at dawn and dusk. Roe deer favour the fields on the east fringes of the park where barn owls can also be spotted hunting.
- Migratory birds increase as they take up residence for winter, particularly on Dickerson's Pit lake. Look out for cormorants, tufted ducks, gadwall, widgeon and the noisy call of greylag geese as they swoop onto the water in flocks.
- Occasionally rarer visitors are spotted with some recent species including a bittern, a turtle dove and garganey. In September 2014 an osprey spent several days fishing on the lakes, stopping on its journey back to West Africa.
- Morning mists, frosts and ice on the lake can transform the short days and bare surroundings into something really special, especially in the low pink light of sunrise and sunset.
- Snowdrops blossom on the woodland floor during January and are a particularly pretty sight in the sensory garden where they grow in dense clusters.
Formerly arable and pasture farmland, Milton Country Park owes much of its present appearance to the extraction of sand and gravel for the building of roads and houses from about 1930 to 1960. However, the first material taken from the site was clay, in much smaller quantities, by Romano British potters about 1800 years previously.
When sand and gravel extraction ceased the site became overgrown with thick hawthorn and willow scrub and entered a period of neglect which lasted several decades.
In 1990 work started on transforming the site into a country park and on May 26th 1993 Cllr Roberta Cannon officially opened the site by unveiling the plaque you can see on the wall of the Visitor Centre.
Milton Country Park was managed by South Cambridgeshire District Council for fifteen years. When funding was capped in 2005 the council had to look at ways to cut the cost of running the park and eventually a decision was made to outsource its management. Following a competitive market testing process Cambridge Sport Lakes Trust was selected to take over the management of the park and a lease was signed in April 2008.
Cambridge Sport Lakes Trust have managed the park since this time, building on the activities and events programme while sensitively managing habitats so that everyone can enjoy this valuable green space. As the trust is a charity with no regular external funding the park remains open because of the ongoing support and relationships with its visitors and partnerships. Please see the 'support the park' page to find out how you can help contribute towards ensuring the future of Milton Country Park.