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 on four of their nature reserves: Chilswell Valley, Lye Valley, Raleigh Park and Rivermead Nature Park.

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! 

BBOWT is

  • 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.

Chilswell Valley

scything

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

orchid

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

bonfire

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

Bluebells

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.

Get involved with the Wild Oxford Project

Become a 'Bog Star' and join our group of volunteers who carry out practical habitat management and conservation work at our Wild Oxford sites.

Sessions run from 10am to 3pm (unless stated). Please bring lunch, outdoor clothing and sturdy boots. All tools supplied. Tea and biscuits also supplied!

If you would like to be added to the Wild Oxford mailing list to find out more about volunteering sessions, please contact Andy Gunn: andygunn@bbowt.org.uk

Chilswell Valley volunteer dates

volunteers

Saturday 15 September, 10am to 3pm

Saturday 17 November, 10am to 3pm

Lye Valley volunteer dates

volunteers

Saturday 3 November, 10am to 3pm

 

Raleigh Park volunteer dates

bonfire

Volunteer group at Raleigh Park by Andy Gunn

Saturday 6 October, 10am to 3pm

Saturday 1 December, 10am to 3pm

Rivermead Nature Park volunteer dates

volunteers

Friday 12th October, 10am -3pm

Saturday 20 October, 10am to 3pm

Saturday 15 December, 10am to 3pm Christmas social (hot food supplied)

Sydlings Copse volunteer dates

volunteers

Friday 26th October, 10am – 3pm

Friday 23rd November, 10am -3pm

Wild Oxford project partners

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

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

Oxford City Council logoGrundon logo

Heritage Lottery Fund logoTOE2 logo

Wild Banbury

Restoring wildlife-rich habitats

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River Cherwell at Spiceball Park by Judith Verdon

Living Landscapes

Working beyond nature reserves

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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