Lift from Bury Field: a thousand years of history

Portrait of John Bunyan by Robert White; frontispiece to the first edition of The Holy War, published in 1682
Detail from John Bunyan's book The Holy War. Was this based on Newport Pagnell?

In this extract from Bury Field: a thousand years of history, Sammy Jones asks:

…for all those who yearn every now and then to throw off the shackles and pressures of modern life, is there anywhere better to commune with nature than Bury Field?

The historic Common is a true haven for wildlife – a treat of spectacular flora and fauna across 180 acres where it is possible to enjoy the wonderful valley of the Great Ouse and all its gifts.

Set on limestone and clay with more recent glacial sand, gravel and river deposits, the large expanse of grassland is at odds with much of the farmland nearby. It changes with the seasons, in appearance, and by those that visit too… especially in winter when gulls, ducks, swans and skeins of geese can often be seen in flight.

The birdlife is a joy. Water-filled depressions in the old quarry and along the course of the railway attract many waterbirds, and sometimes snipe, a small wader. In summertime, skylarks and swallows, swifts and house-martins can be glanced swooping on the host of insects that live close to the wetter areas.

Magnificent hunting herons and their smaller white relative, the little egret, are frequent visitors to the Ouse and while still too occasional for many, a blue flash of the kingfisher can still be seen.

Little owls and buzzards are commonplace, and while mentioning predators, the Daubenton’s bat, or water bat, so-called because of where it feasts, makes the Common a home, one of several species of bat that have moved in to patrol the area and feed on its insect population.

Among the flora – the wetter areas are usually filled with rushes, sedges and reeds, along with the white flowers of water crowfoot and water plantain.

But the drier grassland impresses too, with its yellow-flowered Lady’s Bedstraw and the lush purple blooms of the rare Great Burnet. The rose family member with its bulbous crimson-red head atop a long green stalk is always a treat and shows itself between June and September.

While the Common itself is largely free of trees and shrubs, hawthorn bushes grow along the course of the railway line, and the bordering hedgerows are largely hawthorn and blackthorn, with wild dog roses, ash and pollard willow trees also present.

Some of the ash boughs have woodpecker holes drilled into them.

In recent years Bury Field has again proved a splendid host for activities including scrambling, a parachute drop, Civil War re-enactment battles, walking festivals, dog shows and even games of American Baseball.

Through it all, the Common remains a beautiful, tranquil space; a living history rich in form and substance, just as it always has been for the past 1000 years.

It has been touched by conflict, visited in peace, used as a place of celebration, enchanted courting couples, hosted fun and laughter….   If ever you need a break from the humdrum, Bury Field will be waiting and welcoming….

Element

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