Walton Lake

A lake with a substantial reed bed which is best known for its bird life.

Water Rail walking on a frozen Walton Lake

© Tony Wood

The site is situated roughly half-way along the Ouzel Valley linear park. It consists of the lake with a stretch of the river Ouzel, flood-plain grassland and an important reed bed which is a relatively rare habitat in Milton Keynes, dominated by Common Reed where specialist birds can feed and nest. This area, together with the rest of Ouzel Valley Park, is owned and managed by The Parks Trust. It is bordered to the east by the Open University campus.

Site history

Walton Lake is a balancing lake, i.e. one designed to take excess drainage water from a built-up area and release it later (in this case, into the river Ouzel). It was the first of several which now exist within Milton Keynes and, like some of the others, incorporates features specifically to attract wildlife.

What to look for

Birds

Walton Lake is probably best known for its birdlife. Its substantial reed bed provides breeding habitat for many pairs of Reed Warbler and Reed Bunting, a few Cetti’s Warblers and a thriving population of Water Rails. The latter are regularly heard but most often seen in winter when they come out on to the ice. In recent winters, a Bittern has over-wintered in the reed bed and in the winter of 2010/2011 four Bearded Tits resided. Little Egrets are becoming more frequent visitors to the area. Birds of prey such as KestrelSparrowhawk and Hobby regularly hunt over the reed bed.

Given the size of the reed bed, it is surprising that the site does not attract a sizeable Starling roost but it is surely only a matter of time before it does. The open water on the northern side of the lake attracts the commoner wildfowl species such as Coot and Moorhen. The Alders around the lake regularly hold Siskins in winter. Although it is a quiet site, it is always worth a visit, with PeregrineTawny Owl and Waxwing are among the other species which may be seen here at various seasons of the year.

Kingfishers and Grey Wagtails are frequently seen along the river Ouzel.

Mammals

OtterMink and Harvest Mice are among the mammal species recorded.

Reptiles and amphibia

Walton Lake is one of the best sites in Milton Keynes for Grass Snakes which prey on the large population of frogs and toads living here. Snakes can sometimes be seen basking on the woodchip paths or even on the boardwalk.

Insects and plants

The hay meadow between the lake and river is at its best in June. Burnet Moths and Chimney Sweeper Moths abound. Numerous species of dragonfly/damselfly can be seen along the river here, notably the White-legged Damselfly.

There are some fine Black Poplars along this stretch.

Walton Lake species glossary

The scientific names of all the species mentioned for Walton Lake can be found in order of appearance in this species glossary.

Places of interest nearby

The whole of the Ouzel Valley Park has good public access with footpaths suitable for prams and wheelchairs. Willen Lake to the north, with its two basins and to the south, Caldecotte lake, again with two basins, are very popular. These are larger than Walton lake and have sporting facilities.

How to get there

There is a small car park which is accessed via Newport Road, Woughton Park, (SP 879370 – see OS Explorer map 192 or OS Landranger map 152 or MK City Map, ref. 14J). From here, surfaced paths lead you around the lake and along the river. There is a wooden boardwalk giving access to part of the lake and the reed bed. A small bird hide overlooks the northern half of the lake. There are several seats and benches around the park. The site is generally flat and accessible but prone to winter flooding, at which times it is best viewed from the path parallel to Standing Way (H8).

The nearest public transport

Bus number 3 (half-hourly during the week; hourly on Sunday) to The Open University. From there a westward walk through the campus leads over the river Ouzel to the site.