Bonfires, brambles and bulbs – A 5th November to Remember at Stansfeld Park Conservation day
Monday 13th November 2017
The Eades Family enjoy woodland clearing and bluebell planting – helped along with marshmallows and hot chocolate – at our family conservation day at Stansfeld Park. Blog by Jude Eades.
There is nothing like getting back to nature to clear away the cobwebs after a late night celebrating the demise of Guy Fawkes. And that’s just what we did this weekend as the Eades clan headed to the Science Oxford / Oxford Conservation Volunteers (OCV) Family Conservation Day at Stansfeld Park, the site of our planned new centre in Headington, Oxford.
The project to rejuvenate the park’s 15 acres of woodland, ponds and grassland is a major undertaking and certainly not for the ‘light weeding’ kind of conservationist. Before The Oxford Trust purchased the site (back in February 2016) to develop our new innovation centre and science education centre, the site had been completely neglected. Brambles covered the pathways, areas of grassland were overgrown and the once ecology-rich ponds were no more than murky puddles with equally murky aquatic residents.
The Trust wanted to put things right and bring this unique urban wildspace back to life. It has so much potential. There are badgers, foxes and deer in plain sight; rare butterflies, Mallard ducks, green woodpeckers, bullfinches, Tawny owls – the list goes on and on. But to attract, manage and maintain these species requires commitment and hard work – the habitats in which they live must be looked after – and that’s why the Trust sought out OCV to help.
OCV is a voluntary organisation that has been carrying out practical work conserving the wildlife and traditional landscape of the Oxford area since 1977. The group organises work parties every Sunday and undertakes a wide variety of nature conservation work, from hedge laying to fence building; from tree planting to conserving chalk grassland habitats by scrub clearance. They are an amazing group of people and we really appreciate the support that OCV is giving to improving the Stansfeld woodland.
The family day was a wonderful opportunity to introduce my ten-year-old to some wildlife conservation work. Chris, who heads up the OCV team, and Science Oxford’s ecology expert Dr Roger Baker, welcomed us all with a quick safety talk and some guidance on the jobs at hand – path clearing, fence mending and bluebell planting.
There were gardening gloves and planting trowels for the children and plenty of ‘chopping down, chopping back’ utensils for the grown-ups. Before you could say “Tracy Beaker”, my daughter had grabbed a pair of loppers and was off to carve out her own corner of the pathway in the Stansfeld woods – cutting away dead branches, untangling the brambles and then dragging it all to the bonfire.
In a sheltered glade in the centre of the woods, we planted bluebell bulbs. The heavy clay soil did not make this easy and a fair bit of heavy-handed digging from Roger was required to break up the ground sufficiently. The bulbs have to be buried at least 10cm down to prevent the wildlife or winter frosts from finding them. It was hard work but the children loved doing this and it also gave them a chance to ask Roger questions about the woods and wildlife at Stansfeld.
A hundred Bluebell bulbs later and we were back to the OCV ‘base camp’ for hot chocolate and toasted marshmallows – a welcome reward for everyone involved. The children were buzzing and it was brilliant to watch and listen to them enjoying their time in the great outdoors.
After the shenanigans of Bonfire Night, a trip to Stansfeld was just the tonic and a refreshingly different way to spend November 5th. Fresh air, sunshine, a beautiful woodland setting, enthusiastic children, bags of marshmallows and happy parents. And thanks to OCV and all the families who came along to help out, we’re one step closer to bring the woodland back to life. Keep your fingers crossed the bluebells make it too!
You can find out more about OCV here www.ocv.org.uk
Our next Stansfeld Park conservation day will be in February 2018 – details announced soon.
Blog by Jude Eades, Director of Communications