Wild Oxford

Wild Oxford

Lye Valley by Andy Gunn

Discover and explore Oxford's green spaces with the Wild Oxford project
Andy Gunn
Wild Oxford project officer
Wild Oxford

BBOWT is working in partnership with Oxford City Council and local community groups to create a more resilient network of wildlife habitats across the city which will benefit Oxford’s natural heritage and improve people’s access to nature.

We want to inspire people of all ages to discover the wild green spaces in Oxford. Find out what’s going on in Oxford's parks and green spaces, get involved with the Wild Oxford Project by volunteering, or just get out there and enjoy the wild places in the city! 


  • running events for families throughout the city,
  • organising interesting walks and talks,
  • running workshops on traditional conservation skills including coppicing, hedgelaying and scything,
  • providing support to volunteer groups in the city.

We'd love to hear about your visits to these sites and any unusual wildlife sightings around Oxford. Tweet about them including @BBOWT and #WildOxford.

Discover Oxford's hidden gems

Learn more about the sites and the wildlife found within them.

Boundary Brook Nature Park

Boundary Brook Nature Park

Boundary Brook Nature Park, Boundary Brook Road, OX4 4AN

Thirty years ago a group of community wildlife enthusiasts took over abandoned allotments in east Oxford with a vision to transform a scrap of urban wasteland into a nature reserve.  In the years that followed the Oxford Urban Wildlife Group succeeded in creating this vibrant wildlife haven and community space here at Boundary Brook Nature Park.

This 3-acre urban wilderness offers a diverse range of habitats where nature has flourished.  The park provides a valuable home to the rare brown hairstreak butterfly, a family of foxes have set up home in the wildlife garden, the ponds are home to frogs, dragonflies & newts, and the mixed woodland provides food & shelter for a variety of bird species. 

Please visit Oxford Urban Wildlife Group’s website for further details.


Chilswell Valley


Chilswell Valley by Judy Webb

Chilswell Path, South Hinksey, OX1 5AP

Take a short walk from South Hinksey, or a slightly longer walk from Abingdon Road, and you will stumble upon this wonderful gem of a reserve, known locally as Happy Valley!

Chilswell Valley may have got its name from "Child’s Well". It was believed that the spring which feeds the fen here had healing qualities for sick children, and also helped cure infertility.

A boardwalk takes you through a reedbed and fen and into a steep sided wet woodland with ancient gnarly oak and ash. From here you can follow the stream and walk back along the limestone grassland.

In the summer you will see a wonderful array of orchids, intriguing wild liquorice and other beautiful wild flowers.

You have every chance of catching sight of a sparrowhawk, or buzzard hunting around the reserve.

Find Chilswell Valley on GoogleMaps.

CS Lewis Nature Reserve

This tranquil woodland and large pond used to belong to celebrated Oxford author CS Lewis. It was said he enjoyed wandering here while writing his children's book series which includes The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. With the A40 nearby and surrounded by houses, it is a surprise that the reserve has kept its sense of stillness.

Iffley Meadows

Snake's-head fritillaries

Iffley Meadows by Michael Brown

These wet meadows crossed by old river channels with willow-lined ditches have a rich diversity of wildlife typical of old, unspoilt meadow land. They were once a widespread feature of our river systems, but many have been lost to drainage and farming.

The sight of thousands of purple and white chequered snake's-head fritillaries in flower at these ancient wet meadows each spring will take your breath away. 

As a result of BBOWT's careful management of the site and controlled grazing, numbers of fritillaries have shot up from 500 to over 89,000 - a huge success story.

Lye Valley


Lye Valley by Andy Gunn

169 The Slade, Headington, OX3 7HP

In Headington, surrounded by roads, hospitals and housing, is a truly remarkable piece of Oxford’s natural history – the Lye Valley! Take a walk down from the busy streets off The Slade and you will discover a land that time forgot.

This place was studied by Tudor botanists. Some of their plant samples can still be found at the Oxford University Herbarium today.

Parts of Lye Valley (most notably the fens) are designated as Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), and it's easy to see why! 

The reserve has one of the best examples of a calcareous valley fen. It's noted for more than 300 plant species, including 20 that are on the Rare Plants of Oxfordshire register.

Take a walk around the reserve this summer and you will see orchids, the delicately striped flowers of Grass-of-Parnassus, lizards, slow-worms and a huge variety of birds.

To find out more - visit the Friends of Lye Valley web page.

Find Lye Valley on GoogleMaps.

Raleigh Park


Volunteer group at Raleigh Park by Andy Gunn

Westminster Way Entrance: OX1 5AA

Just off the busy ring road between Botley and North Hinksey climb up to the top of the hill for spectacular views of Oxford.

A series of springs here once helped supply Oxford with Water and the remains of “ye olde conduit” can still be seen today.

Limestone grassland, calcareous fen and scrub make the site ideal for spotting wildflowers and a huge variety of birds. A stream and series of ponds make Raleigh park an ideal place to explore wetlands.

Please visit The Friends of Raleigh Park's website for further details.

Find Raleigh Park on GoogleMaps.

Rivermead Nature Park

pond dipping

Pond dipping at Rivermead Nature Park by Kasia Bus

Rivermead Road, Rosehill, OX4 4UP

You might not expect to find this place in the middle of Rose Hill housing estate, blocked on two sides by the Southern Bypass, and with the River Thames on its other boundary. But sure enough this wonderful little piece of wilderness exists in the middle of an urban setting.

The pond here is notable for its vast of array of freshwater invertebrates. It’s also famous for the toads which make their way back here each year to spawn.

A tiny spring opens into a flush, which has formed a tiny fenland. The fen then disappears into the dense woodland while the water makes it way down to the Thames.

The hedge on the reserve boundary, which has recently been laid by local volunteers, offers a view of the reserve from the street. Why not venture down and see what’s over the hedge?

Find Rivermead Nature Park on GoogleMaps.

Sydlings Copse


The diversity of this small nature reserve near Barton is quite staggering. Boasting ancient broadleaved woodland, limestone grasslands, reedbed, fen, a stream and rare Oxfordshire heathland, the reserve supports over 400 plant species.

The site is also teeming with birds and insect life; butterflies include the purple hairstreak, brown hairstreak, common blue and marbled white.

Find out more about the Wild Oxford project's work at Rivermead Nature Park

Get involved with the Wild Oxford Project

Help us to manage The Wild Oxford sites as a volunteer for the project - we are currently looking for people to help us run work parties, events and be the point of contact for their local nature reserve.

We have lots of exciting volunteer roles available and If you think you might be able to help please contact us at : volunteering@bbowt.org.uk

Boundary Brook Nature Park volunteer dates

Volunteers at Boundary Brook by Ed Munday

Volunteers at Boundary Brook by Ed Munday

Please visit Oxford Urban Wildlife Group's website for details on volunteer opportunities.

Chilswell Valley volunteer dates


The groups meets on a Monday from 10am to 1pm

Please contact volunteering@bbowt.org.uk for more details.


Lye Valley volunteer dates


Weekly work parties
Run from 9-11am on Wednesdays.

Please contact The Friends of Lye Valley for more details

Friends of Lye Valley


Raleigh Park volunteer dates


Volunteer group at Raleigh Park by Andy Gunn

Currently looking for new volunteer leaders, if you think this could be you please contact volunteering@bbowt.org.uk 



Rivermead Nature Park volunteer dates


Currently looking for new volunteer leaders, if you think this could be you please contact volunteering@bbowt.org.uk

Sydlings Copse volunteer dates


Group meets on a Friday.

Please contact volunteering@bbowt.org.uk for more details.

Thanks to a grant from Thames Water, we're able to do more for wildlife and people at Rivermead Nature Park

Read the Wild Oxford project reports

Dr Judy Webb's most recent reports for Chilswell Valley, Lye Valley, Raleigh Park and Rivermead Nature Park are available to download below.

Wild Oxford project partners

The Wild Oxford project is run by BBOWT in partnership with Friends of Lye Valley, Friends of Raleigh ParkOxford City CouncilOxford Conservation Volunteers, Oxford Urban Wildlife Group and Oxford Preservation Trust.

We would like to thank the following organisations for their financial support:

Oxford City Council logo Grundon logo

Heritage Lottery Fund logo TOE2 logo

Wild Banbury

Restoring wildlife-rich habitats

Find out more

River Cherwell at Spiceball Park by Judith Verdon

Living Landscapes

Working beyond nature reserves

Find out more
Support us

Join the Berks, Bucks and Oxon Wildlife Trust

Joining your local Wildlife Trust is the best thing you can do to help wildlife in your area. We rely on the support of people like you to help us protect the wildlife and wild places of our three counties.

Join today