Case study:Assessing the habitats outcomes of Floodplain Forest restoration: the case study of the floodplain forest at the Ouse Valley Park

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Location: 52° 4' 17", -0° 49' 53"
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Project overview

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Status Complete
Project web site
Themes Environmental flows and water resources, Habitat and biodiversity, Hydromorphology, Monitoring, Water quality
Country England
Main contact forename Natalia
Main contact surname Perez-Linde
Main contact user ID User:NataliaLinde
Contact organisation Cranfield University
Contact organisation web site
Partner organisations The Parks Trust, Environment Agency, EPSRC (Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council), Hanson Cement
Parent multi-site project
This is a parent project
encompassing the following
Project picture

Project summary

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The Manor Farm Floodplain Forest and its associated PhD research project is a best practice example of bringing together industry (Hanson), a charitable body (The Parks Trust), non-departmental public body (Environment Agency) and academia (Cranfield University). The Parks Trust (land owner) joined forces with Hanson (quarry operator) with the vision of creating this new floodplain forest landscape along of a 1 km reach of the River Great Ouse. It was the first project of its kind in United Kingdom where planning permission was obtained specifically for the creation of a floodplain forest habitat. The Parks Trust owns over 2000 hectares of parkland around Milton Keynes and continually seeks to improve their parks by providing new facilities, increasing biodiversity and enhancing habitats. The Trust joined with Cranfield University to establish a PhD research project to develop a hypothesis-driven adaptive monitoring framework for assessing the environmental outcomes of the Floodplain Forest, as a case study with application to ecological management. Outputs of this research have enhanced understanding of the aspects to consider when assessing floodplain forest re-creation/restoration and have been used to develop guidelines for land managers based on a long-term monitoring approach. These management guidelines will be applicable to other similar restoration projects.

Community Involvement - bird-watching areas and information boards provided to encourage local interest in the area.

Monitoring surveys and results

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The Parks Trust engaged Cranfield University to help establish a monitoring and evaluation strategy for the floodplain forest. As well as monitoring environmental variables the Trust will instigate market research and community engagement programmes to assess the effect of the developing habitat on how local people and visitors from further afield use and perceive the site.

Cranfield University aimed to assess the habitat outcomes in the floodplain forest after quarry works finished. We have designed an adaptive monitoring framework in order to assess key variables (i.e. creating a baseline for further comparisons over time after restoration works finished). The key variables selected for restoration appraisal are soil, water table, vegetation, water quality and topography. We complement the AMF with a hypothesis (The ratio between vegetation associated with wet and dry soils within the floodplain forest and its associated river is determined by the site topography and the water table level) and study the water table level interaction with tree species in a glasshouse experiment. Results gathered in the experiment will be extrapolated to the field to assess the suitable habitats planting according to water table availability and topography in the floodplain forest.

Lessons learnt

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The project has increased the capacity and flood retention capacity of the floodplain by removing a volume of around 700,000 tonnes of mineral reserves. Some of this volume has been replaced by standing water but under non-flood conditions the standing water lies at lower level that the former ground.

The project has also created better connection between the River Great Ouse and the pre-existing and new channels that have been created in the site. As the river level rises, water can flow into the site (i.e. floodplain) via these channels, thereby receiving floodwater that would previously have put pressure on more developed/built-up areas further down the Ouse Valley, such as Newport Pagnell which has a number of known flood risk areas near the River Ouse.

The complex of channel sand low-lying landforms within the site, including gravel banks, sand bars and small islands provides a varied floodplain habitat that will mature into a diverse ecosystem supporting a wide range of plants and insects, amphibians, birds, fish and mammals such as otter and water vole. The habitats within the site will also contribute to improving water quality by taking-up waterborne nutrients as water passes onto and through the site.

The Parks Trust will operate and maintain the site as a nature reserve open to the general public. This will enable the local community and visitors from further afield to experience the diverse floodplain forest habitat and the wildlife it attracts.

A further benefit of the project is that under the Trust’s charitable remit, the income it received from the gravel sales form the site have been reinvested back into the establishment and care of this environmental project.

With the involvement of Cranfield University, the floodplain forest will be more widely promoted as a case study in habitat creation and restoration techniques and as an on-going subject for scientific monitoring and research. In summary there are a range of ecosystem services provided by the floodplain forest: cultural, regulating and other services.

Image gallery

Floodplain Forest 1.jpg

Catchment and subcatchment


River basin district Anglian
River basin Cam and Ely Ouse (including South Level)


River name Great Ouse (Upper)
Area category 10 - 100 km²
Area (km2)
Maximum altitude category Less than 100 m
Maximum altitude (m) 35
35 m
0.035 km
3,500 cm
Dominant geology Calcareous
Ecoregion Great Britain
Dominant land cover Arable and Horticulture
Waterbody ID GB105033043360


Name Floodplain Forest
WFD water body codes GB105033037920
WFD (national) typology
WFD water body name
Pre-project morphology
Reference morphology
Desired post project morphology
Heavily modified water body No
National/international site designation
Local/regional site designations
Protected species present No
Invasive species present No
Species of interest
Dominant hydrology
Dominant substrate
River corridor land use
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Average bankfull channel width (m)
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Average bankfull channel depth (m)
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Average channel gradient category
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Average unit stream power (W/m2)

Project background

Reach length directly affected (m)
Project started 2007/01/01
Works started
Works completed
Project completed 2014/01/01
Total cost category
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Benefit to cost ratio
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Cost for project phases

Phase cost category cost exact (k€) Lead organisation Contact forename Contact surname
Investigation and design
Stakeholder engagement and communication
Works and works supervision
Post-project management and maintenance

Reasons for river restoration

Mitigation of a pressure
Hydromorphology Encourage natural functioning of the floodplain during flood conditions
Biology Long term vision to increase biodiversity in Milton Keynes
Other reasons for the project Integrate wildlife and society


Structural measures
Bank/bed modifications
Floodplain / River corridor Removal of sand from beneath agricultural fields and restoring marsh lands has increased floodplain capacity and improved floodwater management
Planform / Channel pattern
Non-structural measures
Management interventions
Social measures (incl. engagement) Improved public access, Bird watching area
Other Information board erected


Hydromorphological quality elements

Element When monitored Type of monitoring Control site used Result
Before measures After measures Qualitative Quantitative

Biological quality elements

Element When monitored Type of monitoring Control site used Result
Before measures After measures Qualitative Quantitative

Physico-chemical quality elements

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Any other monitoring, e.g. social, economic

Element When monitored Type of monitoring Control site used Result
Before measures After measures Qualitative Quantitative

Monitoring documents

Additional documents and videos

Additional links and references

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Supplementary Information

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