The Nature of Panshanger Park

February 27, 2024

Panshanger Park is 1,000 acres of countryside situated between Welwyn Garden City and Hertford. Herts and Middlesex Wildlife Trust is working with the park’s owners, Tarmac, to manage the park for both people and wildlife. 

Held on 25 January at The Sele School, ‘The Nature of Panshanger Park’ involved an evening of expert delivered talks highlighting the wildlife and habitats of Panshanger Park.

There was a great turnout to the event, with around 90 people attending – from those who have been involved with Panshanger Park since it opened in 2014, to others who had just visited for the first time. The evening talks started with Jo Whitaker (Herts and Middlesex Wildlife Trust) recapping what happened over the past year, including conservation efforts by the volunteers, educational activities with local young people and the events held, from guided walks to the launch of the dragonfly hotspot. 

This was followed by a series of presentations, with each expert discussing their work in the park. Ellie Smith (Herts and Middlesex Wildlife Trust) revealed that Panshanger Park is the most recorded site in Hertfordshire, with nearly 3,000 known species and 464 with protected status. She explained how these records help inform the management of the park and how we can all get involved. If you’d like to take part, the Herts Natural History Society (HNHS) website is a good place to start. 

Next up was Rob Mungovan (Wild Trout Trust) who spoke about his work on the River Mimram and how protecting trout also benefits the rest of the river’s eco-system, including the resident water voles. He also talked about the important role fallen trees play in creating diverse habitats for all inhabitants, which may appear in the river this year.  

Steve Brooks (British Dragonfly Society) discussed the lifecycle of both damselflies and dragonflies, and what different species to look out for during the year. These insects take to the air between April and November, with early morning being the best time to spot them on the new dragonfly trail. There are information boards along the trail to help identify any you see. 

From dragonflies to beetles, Adrian Dutton (EMEC Ecology) spoke about his work recording the population of saproxylic beetles in the park – beetles that need dead and decaying wood to survive. Some of these species can’t fly very far, so can only live in substantial areas of woodland that have been around for centuries. Panshanger Park, with its veteran trees, is very important for the conservation of these beetles.  

Finally, Michael Charlton (Tarmac) advised of the new parkland management plans for this year. They include making the woodland more varied by planting new trees, whilst other areas will be thinned out to create scrubland. Additionally, work will continue on hedge laying, caring for the veteran trees and diversifying river habitats.

A big thank you to Michelle Galloway (pictured above), dedicated Panshanger Park volunteer, who wrote this article.

Main picture – The speakers at ‘The Nature of Panshanger Park’ event. Left to right – Jo Whitaker, Adrian Dutton, Ellie Smith, Rob Mungovan, Michael Charlton and Tim Hill (compere).