Give a little love to our woodland and world at the Science Oxford Centre

Tuesday 9th November 2021

On Science and Innovation Day at #COP26, climate change and our environment are at the forefront of our minds as we check in with our Outdoor Education and Ecology Manager, Dr Roger Baker, for news on our 15 acre woodland at the Science Oxford Centre in Headington. Read on to find out about National Tree Week, the amazing work of our woodland conservation volunteer groups, an update on our badger project with Oxford University’s WildCRU – and a surprise fund from the Waitrose and John Lewis Partnership community scheme, ‘Give a little love’, which will go towards improvements to our Forest School area for local school children!

COP26 and climate change
After nearly two years of headlines dominated by the phrase “COVID-19”, it is a relief for a new ‘C-word’ to be competing with news about the pandemic. COP26, or ‘the 26th UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties’, as it is also known, taking place in Glasgow at the moment. They are getting down to the vital task of addressing the state of the environment, how to go about undoing the mess we find ourselves in and safeguarding the planet’s future. Without getting too political, it is refreshing to see that the environment is once again high on the agenda and that significant value is being placed on our wild space and the vital services it provides. At the Science Oxford Centre, we’re constantly looking at ways to improve biodiversity in our woodland and include sustainable measures in our projects and programmes. We can all play our part.

National Tree Week
In our own small patch of urban woodland, despite the gradual reduction in green to be replaced with an autumnal orange and brown palette, a lot of the groundwork is done at this time of year in readiness for next spring. In November 2020, we were preparing to plant several native trees funded by a Branching Out Grant from the Tree Council as part of National Tree Week. Trees are best planted during their dormant winter phase to give them the best chance of survival, and the scots pine, whitebeam, alder, lime, and hornbeams that the Oxford Conservation Volunteers (OCV) helped us plant are now well established in our woodland. In total we have planted well over 200 trees across the site over the last three years to add diversity, varied age structure and, of course, educational interest to our woodlands. As well as building resilience and disease resistance, these will have an important role to play in sequestering carbon over the course of their lifetimes and hopefully contributing to keeping global warming to a minimum. National Tree Week runs 27 November – 5 December 2021, get involved!

Conservation projects
We have been very fortunate to be able to call upon the services of our volunteer workforce to help with large planting projects over the years. The OCV continue to be a huge help at our seasonal weekend conservation days. More recently, we have recruited our own posse of local volunteers who meet one weekday a month. On these volunteer days we target a few smaller scale tasks, including planting, raking, cutting and tidying, to keep the site in perfect condition for wildlife and our primary aged visitors. If you are interested in getting involved with our conservation volunteering efforts, please do get in touch for details and the next dates.

Badgers & WildCRU
Following on from our badger vaccination project in the spring, it was very rewarding to see the ‘Science in the Wild’* badger project that we were involved in during 2018-19 written up in the School Science Review* recently. This Royal Society Partnership Grant funded project was a collaboration between us, Oxford University’s WildCRU, and schools involved in the Abingdon Science Partnership with Dr Tanesha Allen. Together we set up trail cameras and collected valuable information about our elusive nocturnal inhabitants. Thanks also to many of my family and colleagues who helped provide the ‘human scents’ for this work – have a look at our news article here to find out more. *(Only accessible to members.)

Give A Little Love: Forest School community funding
We were very excited to learn that we have been given a £500 donation from the Give A Little Love community fund by Waitrose Partners, which will allow us to enhance our Forest School Site for local school children to enjoy outdoor learning. Waitrose & Partners new charity initiative allocates £3,000 per quarter to each branch for local charities –  in August to October 2021 the theme was the natural environment. In the winter months the site can get very muddy, so we intend to put this money to good use to weather-proof some of the paths and build some sorely needed steps and a bridge to help the children negotiate their way around the woodland. Don’t worry, we’ll still leave plenty of mud as we know they love that bit too! Thank you, Waitrose Headington!

Dr Roger Baker at the Science Oxford Centre

Our Digital Comms Officer Autumn Neagle visits Gaia, by Luke Jerram at Coventry Cathedral during COP26

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