Did you know that Oxford is a vibrant hub of Biodiversity? Close to the city centre, there are several protected areas. These include 1 European site of nature conservation, 3 local nature reserves, 12 sites of special scientific interest, 14 county local wildlife sites, and 50 sites of local importance for nature conservation. Visit www.wildoxfordshire.org.uk to find the site closest to where you live!
Likewise, there are a number of fantastic conservation sites you can visit for free if you are a member of the university. Some examples are the following:
Oxford Botanic Garden and Arboretum
Located just across the road from Magdalen College, the Botanic Gardens are a great place to escape the hustle and bustle of the city centre. Entrance is free of charge with a university card, and the gardens change throughout the year so it is always a good idea to visit on a regular basis.The Arboretum is located just outside the city centre and has been part of the university since 1947. As its 130 acres contain the best collection of trees in Oxfordshire, the arboretum is definitely worth a visit! More information about the gardens and the arboretum can be found here: https://www.obga.ox.ac.uk/home
Image credit: Tejvan Pettinger, 2010.Wytham Woods
Wytham woods are an excellent place to discover the outdoors right on Oxford’s doorstep, and are one of the most studied areas of woodland in the world. There are over 32 kilometres of footpaths to explore, and also regular guided walks throughout the year if you want to find out more about the flora and fauna present in the woodland. Citizen science projects regularly run throughout the year as well, so your walk could help current researchers with their work too! Everyone is free to visit the woods throughout the year, but you need to obtain a walking permit first. To order a permit and to find out more information about the woods, visit https://www.wytham.ox.ac.uk/permit
Image credit: Paul Trafford, 2017
Located just off the Abingdon Road, the Iffley Meadows Nature reserve is only a short walk from the city centre and is also one of the best places to explore Oxford’s biodiversity. The meadows support a wide variety of insects and plants and are of crucial importance as this habitat has been much reduced at a national level due to drainage and farming. Although the meadows can be enjoyed at any time of year, the best time to visit is April when thousands of purple and white chequered snake’s-head fritillary flowers bloom. These rare flowers are considered to be Oxfordshire’s iconic flower.
To find out more about the nature reserve, visit http://www.bbowt.org.uk/reserves/iffley-meadows.
Image Credit: astralweekes, 2014
Oxford Swift CityWhilst wandering through the entire city, you might also catch a glimpse of some swifts! Although an iconic bird, numbers have been declining in the UK in recent years and as such the RSPB and its partners have gained funding to protect the species in Oxford, creating a ‘Swift City’. This project will help to maintain current nesting sites, add 300 further sites, and help to provide research that is desperately needed to protect the species across the country. To find out more information about the project and to get involved, visit this website: https://ww2.rspb.org.uk/our-work/rspb-news/news/details.aspx?id=425109 Image Credits: Tejvan Pettinger. (2010). Oxford Botanic Gardens [Image]. Retrieved from: https://tinyurl.com/ybaw2xcw Paul Trafford. (2017). Wytham woods in late autumn [Image]. Retrieved from https://tinyurl.com/y7h96pv4 astralweekes. (2014). Some Snakeshead Fritillaries in Iffley Meadow [Image]. Retrieved from https://tinyurl.com/y74lpz5j