Learn new skills while restoring an east Oxford nature park

Berkshire, Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire Wildlife Trust (BBOWT) is encouraging nature lovers to help give an east Oxford nature park a new lease of life.

Boundary Brook Nature Park was created thirty years ago when a group of community wildlife enthusiasts took over abandoned allotments with a vision to transform this scrap of urban wasteland into a nature reserve. In the years that followed Oxford Urban Wildlife Group (OUWG) succeeded in creating a vibrant wildlife haven and community space at Boundary Brook. As it evolved it strained the capacity of the volunteer members to maintain the site, threatening the delicate mosaic of habitats as it became increasingly overgrown.

BBOWT’s Wild Oxford project has been working successfully with local authorities and communities to protect and restore wild spaces across the city for over five years, and the opportunity to partner with OUWG and Oxford City Council (OCC) on the Boundary Brook Nature Park project, which is funded by Grundon, offers a hugely exciting prospect to continue to create a more resilient network of wildlife habitats in the city which will benefit Oxford’s natural heritage and improve people’s access to nature.

Local children clearing land in summer, 1991

Local children clearing land at Boundary Brook, summer 1991. By OUWG

“Throughout this winter we will be offering a programme of community events, training courses and practical conservation volunteer opportunities where people will be able to help restore the wildlife garden and ponds, plant trees, hedges and wildflowers, and build homes for wildlife,” says Community Wildlife Officer, Ed Munday.

“As well as being a great way to meet people, learn new skills and have fun, volunteering will give you the satisfaction of knowing that you’re helping to protect and enhance your local environment to benefit wildlife and connect people with nature.”

This vital urban wilderness offered a wide range of habitats where nature flourished, including rare butterflies, slow-worms, and even a visiting bittern! At a time when urban butterfly abundance fell by 69%, the park provided a valuable home to the rare brown hairstreak butterfly, a family of foxes set up home in the wildlife garden, the ponds became home to frogs, dragonflies and newts, and the native trees and shrubs planted by the group provided food and shelter for many bird species. 

The group also helped local people learn more about the park and the resident wildlife by providing opportunities for practical conservation work, an inspiring educational space for schools, and open days for the local community to discover the city’s wildlife. 

Boundary Brook Nature Park Hedgelaying

“Boundary Brook is a natural fit with our Wild Oxford Project,” says BBOWT’s Head of People Engagement, Liz Shearer.

“The wealth of the site to wildlife is huge and is so valuable in creating a Nature Recovery Network across the city where wildlife can thrive alongside people.”

Perhaps surprisingly, despite the many challenges posed by the urban environment such as sprawling development, traffic and pollution, our urban areas provide a diverse array of vital habitats for wildlife which are potentially becoming more important due to the loss of suitable habitat elsewhere. With 80% of the country’s population living in towns and cities they are the places most people are likely to come into contact with nature in their daily lives.

"Since we teamed up with Wild Oxford and BBOWT we've gone from strength to strength, and are already seeing exciting developments like the return of slow worms, foxes and badgers,” says Phil Dines of Oxford Urban Wildlife Group.

“There's a full programme of events and training courses to keep improving the site over the winter, so it's a great time to get involved."

Boundary Brook Nature Park

Councillor Louise Upton, Cabinet Member for Healthy Oxford said: “It is wonderful to see the rich variety of species that has appeared in this green haven in the middle of our city. Boundary Brook Nature Park is a hidden treasure amongst Oxford’s portfolio of green spaces, and we are very grateful to the local volunteers who have made it such a success.  We really support initiatives that involve and educate our local communities, and help them discover nature so close to home.” 

Grundon’s Anthony Foxlee-Brown said: “With many important habitats being threatened across the UK, the work that Berkshire, Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire Wildlife Trust, Oxford Urban Wildlife Group, and Oxford City Council is undertaking at Boundary Brook is vital. Grundon are proud to be funding this important project to transform this space into a haven for wildlife and the local community.”

We will be celebrating the launch of the project with a bonfire on Saturday, November 9 and a Volunteer Taster Day on Saturday, November 16 so come along to find out how you can contribute to the next chapter in the story of this wonderful wildlife haven and community space in the heart of the city.

For more information contact: www.bbowt.org.uk/wildoxford   /  www.ouwg.org.uk/contact