24 Jun 2020 Eynsham's Nature Recovery Network working away during lock-down
You will have noticed a pause in Eynsham’s Nature Recovery Network news – the editor and other members of the NRN, including our parish councillors, have been working long hours on the village’s pilot wildflower areas project (between juggling Covid-related duties). Our efforts are rewarded today with a substantial grant from the Trust for Oxfordshire's Environment.
Other nodes of the NRN have also been beavering away in community nature recovery endeavours. Almost 40 families are now taking part in Eynsham’s Garden Wildlife Survey, which is going from strength to strength and will be extending to include reptiles soon. Safi Bailey of Hazeldene has done a wonderful job putting all the records on the Eynsham Garden Wildlife Survey Map. (It's not too late to join. It takes place once a week but there are no commitments - even once, or once a a year makes a difference!)
St Leonard’s Churchyard and the Peace Oak Association have started a slow worm and grass snake monitoring project, under the expert guidance of Neil Clennell of Queen Street – Eynsham’s own professional herpetologist and CEO of the Wychwood Project.
Neil says that slow worms can live for 50 years - old villages such as Eynsham, with their large gardens and 'not too tidy' open spaces, support slow worms and grass snakes well. He said that he would be very surprised to find any lizards now. Dave Russell of Station Road remembers lizards living in the dry stone walls when he was a child - he and his sister used to give them names. He knows a place where they can still be found!
Eynsham artist Laura Middleton of Newland Street is leading Eynsham’s NRN contribution to an exhibition of Climate Action in Oxfordshire at the Old Fire Station, planned for the autumn. This will be an important creative contribution from Eynsham, highlighting the urgent need to keep biodiversity in view in the climate debate. Eynsham’s nature-based solutions to climate change include protecting and restoring a mosaic of habitats – wetlands, woodland and wildflower meadows. All these habitats play a role in sequestering carbon and they are all are critical to restoring biodiversity. Please email to get involved if Eynsham’s nature-based lock-down has driven your creative spirit.
The Dickinson family of Old Witney Road has launched Eynsham’s NRN Freshwater Habitat Survey (to be taken up by the scouts and primary schools when life returns to normal). Survey equipment has been bought with a substantial grant generously allocated to the NRN by Cllr Charles Mathew from Oxfordshire County Councillors' Priority Fund. If you would like to get involved please email.
The Willow Group’s coppices are growing magnificently in Peace Oak and Leafield and they have secured a grant for more trees (report to follow).
The Siemens Factory has taken the lead among Eynsham businesses in asking Eynsham’s NRN to help it increase the biodiversity on its site. Catriona Bass of Long Mead Local Wildlife Site met Jeff Lynes and Rob Balfour for a walk around the site and has written a proposal of ways in which the site could be enhanced to benefit both wildlife and Siemens staff. Watch this space as other businesses follow their example.
It is extraordinary how much has been achieved for biodiversity gain in so short a time. But this is not all, Eynsham’s Nature Recovery Network has shown itself to be equally powerful in standing up to destruction. Last week, the County Council’s new tenant felled ten acres of willow in three days by Swinford Lock, at the height of the breeding season. The Wharf Stream area is known to have otters, kingfishers, barn owls (all UK protected species) as well as many other animals.
Focus on Wildflowers
Eynsham has showed, yet again, that restoring wildflowers to their traditional place in the verges and green spaces of our village has massive support. Wildflower planting had the largest vote on the Map in the Market Garden and at Eynsham’s Nature Recovery Network Launch. If anyone was in any doubt, the EPC’s two public consultations showed 98% of residents in favour of NRN’s wildflower area proposals - and the huge number of comments revealed that most people want even more.
Only two people voted for the status quo. We know that there has always been the danger of a squeaky wheel affecting green space management in the village. Hopefully, now, the deafening vote for more biodiversity has finally drowned it out.
Today was to be the Back Garden Wildflower Workshop on Long Mead, sadly cancelled, but all is not lost – if lock-down eases up and two metres becomes one, there may be a chance to do it in July before Long Mead’s beautiful wildflower meadow is cut. This will be in time for sowing seed in Eynsham’s gardens in September, following nature’s own pattern.
In the meantime, there is lots of work to prepare the public wildflower areas around the village. Firstly, baseline botanical surveys need to be done to ensure that we don’t make the classic mistake of destroying nature in the name of restoring it.
A notorious recent example of this is the Woodland Trust’s tree-planting fiasco in a rare wildflower meadow in Cumbria. Closer to home, Oxfordshire County Council’s newly felled Eynsham Lock coppice is another example. It was planted in 2005 on the rare burnet haymeadow, of which four square miles remain in the UK. If you look carefully in the grass near the weir you can still find a few specimens of these beautiful flowers, miraculously surviving in the permanent pasture. Long Mead Local Wildlife Site has been in discussion with the County Council since 2018 and has offered to support the OCC in restoring the meadow.
Please email if you would like to help with botanical surveys for the new wildflower areas. The surveys will be led by botanist Alison Muldal and Catriona Bass. They will take the form of a workshop. So, if you know your plants, you can help us lead and if you don’t you can learn new skills. (Covid rules current at the time will be followed).
If you would rather survey alone, we need to know the plants that currently exist in the verges of the village. Members of Eynsham’s NRN did basic surveys to determine which streets to include in the EPC’s reduced cutting regime and found some extraordinary relics of the ancient waysides. (Fine-tuning with the EPC is still needed to make sure that, within the pilot streets, the areas with the most beautiful plants are allowed to flower).
Please let us know if you're up for surveying the verges of your own street. There are a number of apps available to help you. Picture This is one of the more reliable. It also links the picture you take to google maps.
Volunteers are also needed to pot on the wildflower seeds that the scouts collected and sowed on Long Mead before lock-down. These will be planted out around the village next spring.