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Discover our Natural Environment

Halton Parish Halton Parish

Halton is known as a strip parish and as such contains a variety of wildlife habitats, from the arable and pasture land in the north to the chalk grasslands on the slopes of the Chiltern Hills in the south, which merge into beech and yew woodland. Mature boundary hedges and field ditches surround the farmland and dotted throughout the grasslands are small copses. Parkland and ornamental ponds associated with Halton House are present and the majority of the housing features mature gardens.

Running through the centre of the village from west to east is the Wendover Arm of the Grand Union Canal. The source of the water for the canal is Heron Stream in Wendover, which flows off the Chiltern Hills from a series of springs. The water in the canal is thus crystal clear and flowing. This clarity is maintained throughout its passage through Halton Parish, an essential quality to enable species like Kingfishers and Little Grebes to hunt their prey in the water. The lack of motorised boat traffic on this stretch of the canal, helps keep the water clear.

Data from Bucks and Milton Keynes Environmental Records Centre evidences the richness of the flora and fauna throughout Halton Parish. This has been recognised by the various nature conservation classifications that have been assigned to many of the sites. Several meadows have been given Local Wildlife Site (LWS) status, certain stretches of the canal, together with areas of chalk grassland and spinneys have been granted Biological Notification Site (BNS) status. The south of the Parish falls under the Chilterns Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) and part of the Weston Turville Reservoir Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) lies in the north-west of the parish. There are several Tree Preservation Orders (TPO) throughout the parish which include rare native Black Poplars and a substantial part of the parish is designated green belt land.

A wide variety of birds inhabit the grasslands and boundary hedges, including many that are on the RSPB’s red and amber list including skylark, fieldfare, redwing, lapwing, yellowhammer, meadow pipit, stock dove, cuckoo, hawfinch, mistle and song thrush. These are attracted to the area by the rich flora and insect life.

Growing in the permanent pasture is yellow rattle (rhinanthus minor) a semi-parasitic grassland annual that feeds off vigorous grasses, allowing more delicate species like birds foot trefoil, meadow vetchling, common knapweed, devil’s bit scabious and cowslip to take hold. A thriving population of hares can be found living here. On the shallow soils of the chalk grassland birds nest, fly, and great butterfly orchid can be found as well as white helleborine. The purple emperor butterfly has been recorded here.

The extensive woodland atop the Chilterns together with the copses and spinneys in the vale are home to tawny and barn owls, Halton Airfield is also home to little owls nesting in burrows. The parish is also rich in raptors including red kites, buzzards, kestrels, hobbies, and the occasional peregrine falcon, goshawk and osprey. Foxes, badgers, weasels, stoats, hedgehogs and hazel dormice inhabit the woods, which also support roe deer, muntjac and Chinese water deer.

Throughout the various wooded areas Box (Buxussempervirens) can be found growing. Native box is extremely rare in the UK with only two recognised sites; Box Hill in Surrey and Grangelands Nature Reserve a few miles southwest of Halton. The fairly extensive cover of Box in Halton Parish has led some to consider this population to be a third site.

Rothschild Bridge Rothschild Bridge

The canal provides a valuable habitat to enable both plant and animal species to disperse to other areas and to migrate into Halton Parish. Several of the water birds divide their time between nearby reservoirs and the canal such as teal, gadwall, little egret and great egret, while others stay all year round like the mallard, heron, little grebe and kingfisher. Five species of bat have been recorded in the canal environs: daubenton’s, noctule, brown long-eared, common pipistrelle and soprano pipistrelle. Bat numbers have greatly decreased in recent years due to the massive reduction in insect numbers. The canal provides a vital source of food in the form of insect life emerging from the water. Another important animal group that relies on the canal is the Amphibia. Toads, frogs and newt populations have been declining drastically world-wide due to the presence of a chytrid fungus. A survey carried out in Halton Parish a few years ago found no evidence of its presence locally. It is thus vitally important to maintain this healthy population of amphibians by looking after both aquatic and terrestrial habitats where they live.

The LWSs and the BNSs together with the AONB, the SSSI, private gardens and the open green spaces, much of which is designated Green Belt, collectively play a critical role in the conservation of Halton Parish’s natural heritage. They provide essential wildlife refuges in their own right and as corridors and buffer zones to link other wildlife sites and open spaces outside the parish. The Government’s 25 Year Environment Plan (2018), recognises that access to nature is important to both physical and mental health. Halton’s natural environment is not only important for its wildlife but, with its many footpaths through meadows, woodland and along the canal, has an important role in enhancing the well-being of all people who visit. The wide-open vistas over the Vale of Aylesbury and the views looking towards Coombe Hill in the west that can be seen from various parts of the Parish add greatly to the pleasure of being in Halton’s natural environment and these aspects should be protected vigorously.

The canal is a highly valued asset and a location for wildlife, and there is strong community support for improving the towpath for walkers (as it currently floods in places). There is little support for restoring it for the use of motorised boats. This is due to the damage that would be inflicted on its current bio - diversity, which depends on the purity of the water fed by the chalk streams in Wendover. The canal is maintained by the Canal and River Trust.