Land and Nature Team


The Land and Nature working group supports the Town Council with advice and practical action on nature recovery and the climate emergency. It is a mix of councillors and volunteers. 

The group has three areas of activity:

1. Supporting nature recovery on Council-managed land

2. Encouraging nature recovery in and around the town

3. Joining up nature recovery with surrounding parishes 

1. Supporting nature recovery on Council-managed land

The Town Council has direct responsibility for the land it owns, providing an opportunity for combining nature restoration with public access, for example:

  • Mill Field meadow restoration project: restoration of the original flood-plain meadow in the Mill Field, using seed collected from Southill Solar and from an ancient meadow at Lower Swell in Gloucestershire (see below for more details)
  • Wildflower verges: working with contractors and the District Council to alter the timing of grass cutting on verges and some green spaces, allowing wildflowers and insects to reproduce in the early summer (see below for more details)
  • Ticknell Piece playground: creating a new wildflower area.
  • Nature friendly growing: we have introduced clauses discouraging the use of peat-based compost and pesticides into the allotment tenancy agreement.
  • Cemetery: continued the nature-friendly management of the cemetery, including wildflower areas.

2. Encouraging nature recovery in and around the town

Through our projects and communications, we seek to inform residents of why nature recovery is important and encourage residents and local organisations to get involved. Initiatives include:

  • Earth Day 2023 at Wigwell Nature Reserve: talks and family friendly activities, including learning about the work to restore wetland habitats on site, with the Wychwood Forest Trust and Evenlode Catchment Partnership (ECP).
  • Exhibition on nature recovery in the River Tent at the Riverside Festival in collaboration with ECP.
  • Raising awareness about hedgehogs and their need for access into and out of private gardens (13cm holes in walls and fences!).
  • Creating wildlife areas in the Bowls Club car park: following requests and a meeting with residents, we are working with the Bowls Club, residents and volunteers to create wildlife areas and plant trees and wildflowers in the car park over 2023-4. Also in the car park, we have supported the creation of a pollinator patch of flowering plants by Wild Oxfordshire with funding from TOE and the Garden Society.
  • Supporting wildflower areas and a reptile survey in St Mary’s churchyard
  • Hedgerow planting and other conservation activities at the primary school

3. Joining up nature recovery with neighbouring parishes (Nature Recovery Plan)

We know that the UK is one of the most nature-depleted countries in the world and that restoring our nature and wildlife needs to take place urgently and at a landscape scale. National and regional nature recovery strategies are now being developed – but these need to be translated into specific local actions.

Charlbury Town Council is therefore working with the neighbouring parishes of Finstock and Fawler and has developed a local Nature Recovery Plan (NRP).  Based on local knowledge, data and engagement with landowners, land managers and residents, the goal of the NRP is to expand, improve and connect wildlife-rich habitats. We are being supported in this project by Community Action Group (CAG) Oxfordshire.

Steps taking place so far include:

  • Baseline mapping: we have created a multi-layered map of current habitats to identify opportunities for habitat restoration and expansion. Joining up habitats (such as woodlands, hedgerows or along rivers) as a blue/green corridors is an important principle.
  • Citizen science: we are helping train local volunteers to participate in surveys that will add to the evidence base for the NRP.  These include surveys of hedgerow plants and animals, butterflies and other wildlife populations, along with monitoring river health through water quality testing and river invertebrate sampling.

We are now undertaking engagement with the community on the draft NRP. The draft document was launched at Nature Day in June and we are asking the public to complete a questionnaire on this.

Click here for the draft Nature Recovery Plan

Click here for a one page summary of the Nature Recovery Plan

Click here for the questionnaire.

It is a big project and we are seeking funding for a part time worker to help with developing the framework and putting it into action.

Restoring floodplain meadow on The Mill Field

The Land and Nature Working Group is leading a two-year project to recreate a landscape rich in flowers, insects and birds on Charlbury’s main public amenity space: the Mill Field.   A half-acre part of the site is being turned back into floodplain meadow.  The project is restoring an area of ecologically valuable and highly threatened habitat, using traditional land management practices.  It is also providing Charlbury residents and visitors with opportunities to learn about and actively participate in nature recovery.

For centuries, what is now The Mill Field was part of a line of low-lying riverside meadows running along the Evenlode.  The land produced high quality hay crops in summer that were useful for feeding animals through the winter as well as protection against flooding.  The site would have been rich in diverse meadow plants until it was reseeded with rye grass about 70 years ago. This change was part of a wider break with past practices that has seen 97 percent of once species-rich meadows disappear across Britain, largely due to more intensive farming.

The meadow restoration project is about retrieving some of what has been lost, while enhancing the Mill Field’s modern role as a place for walkers, picnics and the Riverside festival.  If successful, a larger area of meadow could perhaps be restored in future.  In autumn 2023, the ground was prepared by mowing, harrowing and reseeding with yellow rattle, sourced locally from Southill Solar farm.   Yellow rattle is a wildflower that is used to create space for diverse other plant species by restraining the growth of otherwise dominant grasses. 

Mill field

An enthusiastic band of local volunteers did most of the hard work for the first stage.  They will be needed again for the next phase in summer 2024 when the half-acre site is due to be seeded with a much wider range of meadow plants, using seed from a rare surviving meadow at Fir Firm in Lower Swell, Gloucester.   Importantly, the mowing pattern of the area will be changed to allow plants to flower and set seed in early summer before cutting the hay.  If all goes to plan, the full effects of the transformation will start to be seen in a couple of year’s time.  Sustainable Charlbury has provided funding for the project which is expected to cost around £5,500 in total.

Creating wildlife areas in the Bowls Club Car Park

In 2023, residents of Ticknell Piece approached the Town Council asking for improvements to the management of the Bowls Club Car Park. The car park is owned by Oxfordshire County Council but leased to the Town Council which in turn leases it to the Bowls Club for use as spillover parking. A meeting with residents and councillors and a representative of the Bowls Club, held at the car park in June 2023, came up with ideas which would improve the appearance of the car park at low cost, while enhancing its value for wildlife and retaining space for 20 cars.

In particular, residents were keen to see more trees planted, following the removal of some trees in recent years, as well as repair or removal of the sand store (owned by the County Council) and sowing of more wildflowers. It was agreed to retain the large bramble patch and some areas of nettles as important for wildlife, but to trim back bramble suckers in late Autumn/Winter to prevent them from spreading further. Residents with gardens near to the car park were encouraged to create 13cm holes at the bottom of their fences, as ‘hedgehog highways’.

bowls club planting

A volunteer working party in November 2023 set to work clearing brambles and nettles, creating log piles as ‘bug hotels’, picking up litter, demarcating the parking areas with ash poles from Centenary Wood, and planting a ‘Flower of Kent’ apple tree (donated by Christine Elliott). Further working parties are planned to plant more trees and sow wildflower seeds in the cleared areas, and residents have offered to water the new saplings in dry weather.

Also in 2023, the Town Council was approached by Katherine Holmes, a local ecologist who, together with Wild Oxfordshire, was looking for a site to create a Community Pollinator Patch: an area of nectar-rich plants providing a food source and shelter for bees and butterflies throughout the year. A site was chosen in the car park, on a patch of bare soil near the entrance to the actual Bowls Club. Katherine designed the planting scheme and secured grant funding from Trust for Oxfordshire’s Environment (TOE) and the Charlbury Garden Society. With a little help from councillors and volunteers in the chilly Autumn rain, the ground was prepared and shrubs were planted, including Hebe, Geranium, Rosemary and Sedum.

We look forward to seeing the impact of all this work next Summer and in the coming years!

Wildflower Verges

Roadside verges can be like mini-nature reserves, providing much needed refuges for wildflowers, insects, birds, and other plants and wildlife.   For this reason, the Land and Nature Working Group has been working with the Town Council to introduce environmentally sensitive management regimes for roadsides and small green spaces around Charlbury. 

We’ve found that many of our verges still have wild-flowering plants growing naturally on them, perhaps a legacy of earlier times when these soils were in meadows.   So, our preferred approach is to modify mowing patterns in ways that enable these plants to thrive rather than reseeding with new wildflowers.

managed for pollinators

Another priority is encouraging as much plant diversity as possible, and at different times of year, to avoid hunger gaps and ensure varied food sources for wildlife.  The new regime has various elements, including mowing less frequently, removing cut vegetation and/or delaying mowing of some areas until summer or autumn.  This gives later developing plants – like orchids and yellow rattle – more time to seed and spread but it also presents challenges: verges can look untidy in July before the later cut.    

Changes are made through a combination of working with our own contractor to alter mowing patterns in places managed by the Town Council and liaising with the County and District authorities where they are in charge.   Residents are asked to encourage wildflowers to grow on any verges they manage.  

Residents also have a strong say on policy.  For example, a new grass cutting plan for Ticknell Piece was the result of consultations that led to a compromise, amid opposing views among people living nearby.  The area set aside for meadow grass is smaller than first trialled.

Land and Nature Working Group Terms of Reference
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