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Wild Oxford project links people with local wildlife on three of the city's nature reserves

Monday 16th December 2013

Wild Oxford RivermeadRivermead Nature Park at Rose Hill. Pic: Wendy Tobitt

Wild Oxford, a new two-year project on three wildlife sites in the city, will bring together communities and people taking action for their local nature.

The Berks, Bucks & Oxon Wildlife Trust (BBOWT) is leading the Wild Oxford project in partnership with Oxford City Council, which owns the three very special wildlife sites: Lye Valley in Headington, Rivermead Nature Park in Rose Hill and Chilswell Valley in South Hinksey.

People can learn traditional conservation skills including coppicing, hedgelaying and scything.

The Wild Oxford project is funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) through a grant of £54,800, and a grant of £7,100 from TOE2 the Trust for Oxfordshire’s Environment with funds from Grundon Waste Management.

Neil Clennell, head of conservation & education for Oxfordshire welcomed the new project: “This is a fascinating opportunity to bring the people of Oxford closer to the unique and historic biodiversity of our city.

"I am delighted that the Wildlife Trust will be working with Oxford City Council and other partners, such as residents’ groups and the Natural History Museum, to make this exciting project come alive.”

Andy Gunn, the Wild Oxford project manager, said: “During the next two years we will be running events across the city to inspire people of all ages to explore and discover the wild green spaces in Oxford.

"We will be running workshops for people of all abilities so that people can learn traditional conservation skills including coppicing, hedgelaying and scything."

Councillor Mark Lygo, Oxford City Council Board Member for Sport, Parks and Events, says: "This is an exciting project and I hope that our communities get involved."

The three sites chosen for the Wild Oxford project are all important for their rare fenland habitats.

Lye Valley, a 4.5 ha site tucked away behind the Churchill Hospital is one of the best recorded examples of limestone fen in southern England because botanists from Oxford have studied site since the 1600s. Parts of the Valley are within a Site of Special Scientific Interest, noted for more than 300 plant species including 20 that are on the Rare Plants of Oxfordshire register. Friends of the Lye Valley will be working with BBOWT on the Wild Oxford project.

Rivermead Nature Park is a 3 ha site that lies within the busy housing estates at Rose Hill, with wet woodland that drops down to the River Thames. The local community places great value on the green spaces at Rivermead, but the woodland and ponds have become overgrown. The Wild Oxford project will work with local people to revive the Friends of Rivermead Nature Park group to take forward practical conservation work and celebrate the wildlife of this area.

Chilswell Valley in South Hinksey has been known as ‘Happy Valley’ for at least 100 years because of its popularity as a place for people to enjoy their natural heritage; Good Friday was traditionally the Happy Valley picnic day early in the 20th century. Many local people in Kennington and South Hinksey are still passionate about this hidden gem and care deeply about its wildlife. Scrub will be cleared, interpretation signs put up more than 20 years ago will be replaced and boardwalks renewed, so that more people can access this fenland valley and discover the unusual wildlife that lives here.

More information about Wild Oxford.