Park for all seasons

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With 10 miles of footpaths through woodland, heath and open space, Black Park Country Park near Slough really does have something to suit everyone.

It’s the perfect escape for families needing some fresh air, with a big adventure play area for youngsters wanting to let off steam and an extensive network of surfaced tracks to walk, cycle or run.

The surfacing is subtle and non-intrusive, so it still feels as if you are at one with nature, but it does make the park a little less muddy in winter than most footpaths.

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And since the park is spread over 530 acres, it allows older teenagers and more ambitious walkers to lose themselves for a little on the less well-trodden paths.

Although the 14-acre lake and popular San Remo cafe tend to be packed with families and dog walkers at weekends, it’s still possible to get away from the crowds – especially during the week or early in the morning, when many of the pathways through the towering trees can be virtually deserted.

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As part of the historic Langley Estate, Black Park was first mentioned in 1202 and has been in the ownership of Henry VIII and Elizabeth I, although it is now one of three country parks in the area managed by Buckinghamshire County Council.

While the lake is a haven for waterfowl – ranging from grebes, coots and moorhens to the pretty mandarin ducks – under the water bream, pike, roach and perch swim. The other habitats provide a home for an intriguing cross-section of wildlife, from grass snakes to lizards, although you may have to be sharp-eyed to spot them.

A number of information boards provide a “habitat trail” with information about some of the less familiar flora and fauna which visitors can look out for.

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A year-round attraction with accessible toilets and baby-changing facilities, the park hosts a range of special events and activities from night walks to Easter Egg hunts.

There’s seasonal fishing on the lake, off-road cycling and Go Ape adventures for more ambitious souls wanting to take to the treetops.

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One-off events are publicised on the park’s website and Facebook page, with April highlights including a den-building day and outdoor activities for toddlers. Picnics are encouraged but fires and barbecues are not permitted.

The park is open daily from 8am and closing times are seasonal and displayed in the car parks and on the main website.

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For more information use the links above or call 01753 511060.

Springwatch fans shocked

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SPRINGWATCH fans have reacted with shock and anger to the news that presenter Martin Hughes-Games is to leave the popular BBC series.

More than 1,300 followers of the programme’s Facebook page were quick to voice their horror at his departure – with many attacking the BBC for “political correctness” and airing their concerns that he might be replaced by newcomer Gillian Burke.

The wildlife presenter announced he was quitting on Twitter – prompting an outpouring of support and sympathy from his 50,000 followers.

Hughes-Games has presented on the programme for 12 years and said in his resignation tweet: “It’s good to go when the show is looking strong. Massive thank you for your support.”

The BBC said in response: “Martin has been a vital part of the success of the Watches– both on and off screen– for the past 12 years, so we’re very sad to see him go. We wish him every success in his new ventures. We’re excited to be bringing Springwatch back to BBC2 in May.”

It brings to an end an uncomfortable last 18 months for the presenter who appeared on the show alongside Chris Packham, Michaela Strachan and new girl Gillian Burke.

In September 2016 he announced, again on Twitter, that he was being axed by the BBC in order, he felt, that diversity targets could be met.

That claim was denied by the corporation – but many of the show’s Facebook fans said they believed he was being marginalised for reasons of political correctness and hit out at Gillian Burke’s presenting style.

Hedgehog numbers ‘halved’

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Hedgehogs are continuing to decline in the UK, according to a new report.

Surveys by citizen scientists show hedgehog numbers have fallen by about 50% since the turn of the century.

Conservation groups say they are particularly concerned about the plight of the prickly creatures in rural areas.

Figures suggest the animals are disappearing more rapidly in the countryside, as hedgerows and field margins are lost to intensive farming.

But there are signs that populations in urban areas may be recovering.

David Wembridge, surveys officer for the conservation charity, People’s Trust for Endangered Species (PTES), said two surveys of the number of hedgehogs in gardens and one of numbers killed on roads show an overall decline.

But he said there is “a glimmer of hope” that measures to create habitat for hedgehogs in urban areas are paying off.

“Numbers haven’t recovered yet but in urban areas at least there’s an indication that numbers appear to have levelled in the last four years,” he said.

In rural areas, the number of hedgehogs killed on roads has fallen by between a third and a half across Great Britain, The State of Britain’s Hedgehogs 2018 report found.

Emily Wilson, Hedgehog Officer for the campaign group, Hedgehog Street, said the apparent decline in the rural population of hedgehogs was “really concerning”

British Wildlife Centre

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THE British Wildlife Centre was started in 1997 by David Mills. Before then, on the site of what is now the wildlife centre, David farmed a herd of award-winning Venn pedigree Jersey cows which, in its day, became one of the leading Jersey herds in the country.

In 1994 David ceased farming and reluctantly sold his beloved herd to realise his dream – to create his own zoo. He decided to specialise in British wildlife as he felt that there was need to educate the public about native species and the challenges they face living in the wild in Britain today.

The Centre finally opened for pre-booked tours in 1998, with David doing everything himself; looking after the animals and giving guided tours, with a friend helping out with the admin. The Centre opened fully in 2000 and has been growing slowly but steadily since, with over 20 staff now employed.