Connect with nature

We are encouraging people to connect with nature throughout the year. Every month will have a different theme and we will be promoting resources and activities on this page as well as publicising related projects and events.

Please join in and let us know what you’ve been doing to connect with nature and help wildlife.

October's theme - Nature and Wellbeing

Top tip

Squirrels going nuts and hungry hogs – check out the local wildlife trust’s top 10 wildlife sightings for October and use the autumn wildlife spotter sheet when you’re out and about.

Five Ways to Wild Wellbeing

Building these five actions into your everyday life can improve your mental and physical health :

Take Notice

Take notice of the everyday wildness on your doorstep (see Nature’s Calendar tab)

Connect

Connect with the people around you and share your wildlife experiences (see Community Gardens tab)

Learn

Try something new outside (see Wildlife activity sheets tab)

Be Active

Go outside for a walk or explore your local wild places. You can download the Go Jauntly walking app. Visit our webpage for more information.

Give

Turn your garden or community space into a haven for wildlife (see Taking action for wildlife at home tab)

Apple Day 2022

Celebrate ‘Apple Day’ on 21 October with your friends or family by simply using local apples to cook a fruit pie, crumble or make delicious apple chips.

Apple chips are a healthy snack – thinly sliced fruit that are lightly sprinkled with cinnamon, then baked until pleasantly crisp.

In 1990, dismayed by the loss of so many traditional orchards and amazed at the 3,000 or so varieties of apples that have been grown over time in the UK, an organisation called Common Ground set out to create a new celebration of our most versatile fruit and the beautiful orchards they come from. It would simply be called ‘Apple Day’ and, since then, Common Ground have worked to extend, support and promote Apple Day events countrywide.

Apple Day is all about living better with nature – it shows how we can have our trees, bees, bats, butterflies, birds and badgers whilst growing good fruit to eat and drink.

If you want to get involved in helping pollinators and growing food, contact your local community garden or orchard (see Community Gardens tab)


September's theme - Autumn wildlife

September is a month of great change for wildlife. As summer begins to make way for autumn the nature around us adapts to its changing surroundings.

For many plants, insects and some mammals, autumn is a time of slowing down, of shutting down. It’s all about changing where and how they live in preparation for the great annual emergency - winter.

For many birds it’s about arrivals and departures, some flying south in pursuit of food and warmth, while others arrive from the Arctic for a mellower winter.

Find out more about bird migration on the RSPB website.

As autumn turns to winter, many of us pack up our gardening tools and head indoors, paying little attention to our outdoor space again until spring. However, even in the depths of winter, our gardens should be bustling with life. Throughout winter, gardens across the country continue to provide a lifeline for many of our native species, especially if we make a few easy adjustments that will make all the difference to the wildlife on our doorstep during the colder months

Visit the Gardener's World website to discover 10 simple things you can do to help garden wildlife in autumn.

And find out more about autumn wildlife gardening on the Discover Wildlife website.


Nature's Calendar

During autumn the days are rapidly getting shorter and the sun is becoming lower in the sky.

The autumn equinox, when day and night are of equal length, is on 23 September. There are often spectacular sunsets in autumn, the stars can seem brighter at night, and on some mornings mist hangs over fields and parks.

This is a time of nature's plenty, with a wonderful hedgerow harvest of blackberries, rose hips, crab apples, hazelnuts and seeds. Many of our much loved creatures take advantage of this wild harvest to build up reserves of fat for migration or for hibernation.

Can you take a note of the signs of autumn, from ripe berries, acorns and conkers to leaves changing colour? Noticing nature is great for health and wellbeing and recording your seasonal sightings will help you enjoy being outdoors in your local greenspace as well as help scientists track the effects of weather and climate change on wildlife.

Take part in Nature’s Calendar this autumn and become a nature detective. From leaf buds bursting to blackberries ripening, note down what’s happening near you and help scientists discover answers to their wildlife questions.


Taking action for wildlife at home

Imagine a wilder world on your doorstep, with more nature everywhere in urban and rural areas. There are plenty of ways to take action for wildlife at home. Whether you are an individual, part of a group, a business or a school, by taking just one action for nature, no matter how small, you can make an impact and invite more wildlife back into our lives. 

BBOWT, the Woodland Trust and the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) are sharing lots of great resources to help keep individuals and families active and engaged with nature.

The Berks, Bucks and Oxfordshire Wildlife Trust (BBOWT)

BBOWT tells you how to help wildlife in your garden including how to:

  • Build a nesting box for birds
  • Plant flowers for bees and pollinators
  • Build a hedgehog home and create a hedgehog hole.
  • Just add water as a simple birdbath can be a lifesaver for garden wildlife.

BBOWT has a bold vision and are inviting people to be part of Team Wilder.

Visit BBOWT


RSPB

The RSPB gives you ideas for activities and will help you to plan simple tasks ‘perfect for your patch’ whether it is a window box, outdoor space or garden. 

Visit RSPB


Woodland Trust

The Woodland Trust has gathered some ideas to help you and your family enjoy a summer visit to a wood near you. Woodland Trust woods in Cherwell include:

  • Stratfield Brake in Kidlington
  • Stoke Wood (Stoke Lyne) near Bicester
  • Daeda’s Wood near Deddington.

Thames Valley Environmental Records Centre

You can also share your wildlife sightings with staff at the Thames Valley Environmental Records Centre (TVERC) who will add them to their database and make sure your records are used in local-decision making.

Oxfordshire Mammal Group

Find out about a variety of mammals in the County including the hedgehog. In Oxfordshire, hedgehogs (listed as European hedgehog) are widespread but declining and known records can be seen on this County map

Kirtlington Hedgehog Street

Kirtlington Hedgehog Street is connecting gardens in the village to give hedgehogs enough space to breed and to help keep them off the roads. Why don’t you create a hedgehog street in your local area?

More about hedgehogs

More information about hedgehogs is available from the British Hedgehog Preservation Society.


Community Gardens

Throughout the year people come together to grow food in community gardens, on allotments and in their gardens or green space, as well as growing plants to provide food, shelter and homes for wildlife. Please join in and let us know what you’ve been doing to grow your own food and help wildlife.

10 easy steps to growing your own food

Nothing beats the taste of fresh fruit, vegetables and herbs grown in your own window box, green patch or garden - or the satisfaction and enjoyment you can get from doing it.

Not sure what to grow or where to start? Here are 10 easy steps to growing your own food.

Grow a wildlife friendly vegetable patch

Can you imagine a garden or greenspace without the busy buzz of bees? Or a summer without ladybirds, butterflies and baby birds? Our wild visitors are what make our gardens such special places. Not only that, these places are a vital refuge from the pressures wildlife faces elsewhere. Find out how to grow a wildlife friendly vegetable patch.

Bridge Street Community Garden

Banbury Community Action Group’s Bridge Street Community Garden is situated in the heart of the town. All those involved in caring for the garden are volunteers. From first-time sowers to seasoned growers, everyone is welcome to join in the regular events which are held in the garden space. It’s also a wellbeing space with comfy benches and a hexagonal shelter where people can just come at any time, sit in peace and enjoy nature.

Forthcoming free events: please check their social media channels, Instagram and Facebook  for updates, potential additional events, unlikely unforeseen changes or cancellations. 

Sign up for updates from Bridge Street Community Garden or get in touch via email banburycag@gmail.com.

Bicester Community Garden

Bicester Community Garden is a magical oasis for people, gardening and wildlife located in the centre of the town at the old St. Edburg’s School. Please get in touch either to volunteer some time or just to visit the garden to chill and listen to the birdsong.

Contact Bicester Community Garden

Langford Community Orchard, Bicester

This is a great place to wander round in the autumn with trees, grass and fruit. Enjoy the breeze, birdsong and buzzing insects. Why not get your hands dirty and help to maintain this beautiful green space. New volunteers are always welcome to join in the activities. Meetings happen once a month on the third Sunday for two-hour sessions, either 10.30-12.30 or 2-4pm.

Contact Langford Community Orchard

Other Green Spaces in Bicester

The Health Routes, funded by NHS England, are part of the Bicester Healthy New Town Programme. A key aim of the programme is to increase physical activity amongst residents.

Green spaces in Kidlington

Community garden projects are being developed in two of Kidlington’s green spaces by Harvest @ Home. 

If you are interested in getting involved in growing food in Ron Groves Park or Parkhill Recreation Ground, then we want to hear from you, please email harvestathome@gmail.com

Find a community garden

To find out if there is a community garden in your village or nearby, contact your Parish Clerk.

Find a community orchard

Visit the Orchard Network to find out more about community orchards and if there is one near you.

If you are interested in support and funding to help establish a community orchard, please email the Council’s Community Nature Officer sue.marchand@cherwell-dc.gov.uk


Wildlife activity sheets

For lots of ideas, activities and resources to help you connect with and learn about nature, check out these wildlife spotting and activity sheets:

Nature scavenger hunts are a great way to add fun to family walks and explore local greenspaces. Head to the park and look out for brightly coloured flowers, spotty ladybirds or nibbled leaves.

Look out for different colours in nature or count the number of sounds you can hear. Or be ‘crafty’ and use fallen leaves, petals, sticks and pebbles to build towers or make patterns.

Learn more about scavenger hunts


Swift conservation

Our swifts come back from Africa in late May and quite possibly there will be some nesting near where you live. You may see them when out walking, flying low over roof-tops or making screaming calls as they go. No other British bird behaves like this. It’s an indication there are nest sites nearby. You might even be lucky enough to spot one returning to its nest hole under the eaves of a building.

How can you help?

The population of Swifts is nearly 60 per cent lower than it was 25 years ago.  In 2021 it was moved onto the Red list of birds of greatest conservation concern (along with house martins and green finches) because of this decline. So Swifts need all the help we can provide or they will vanish from the UK. In colder wet weather they feed over local ponds, lakes and reservoirs but on fine days they will be high overhead, feasting on flying insects.

Noting down when and where you see swifts can help the Cherwell swifts conservation project by increasing knowledge of local populations, enabling the protection of nest sites and asking for new ones in buildings through the planning process. Swift bricks can be included in the fabric of new buildings, including home extensions, and nest boxes can be fitted to existing buildings.

Please send any records of birds going into nests, screaming parties and low-flying swifts to Chris Mason, the co-ordinator of the Cherwell swifts conservation project. If you are interested in putting up a nest box, or including Swift bricks in a new build project, Chris is able to advise on what, where and how.

Email: mason@cando.eclipse.co.uk

Visit the Wild About Gardens website to learn more about these amazing birds - as well as swallows and sand/house martins, why they matter and how you can help them.

Nesting swifts

You can see nesting swifts on the Sibfords Swifts nestbox webcams.  Visit the swift-conservation website for more information.


Wild Projects

“Nature needs to be part of everybody’s everyday lives and restoring nature can be the greatest generator of hope and happiness” says Ed Munday, BBOWT’s Wild Banbury/Bicester project manager.

Wild Bicester/Wild Banbury

Wild Bicester is based on a similar model developed in Banbury (Wild Banbury) by the Berkshire, Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire Wildlife Trust (BBOWT), encouraging residents to take part in projects to help the wildlife in their local area as well as improve their health and wellbeing.

Wild Banbury/Bicester are working in partnership with key environmental groups in the towns using their experience and expertise to build the programme of volunteer, wildlife conservation and training activities and opportunities in the town.

Wild Banbury/Bicester have produced some attractive resources to help people connect with nature and wildlife to thrive.

Three postcards; Five Ways to Wild Wellbeing, Help Wildlife Where You Live and the Top Ingredients of a Successful Wildlife Garden give clear information about how nature can improve your mental and physical health, what actions you can easily take to support the wildlife on your doorstep and top tips on making your window box, outside space or garden wildlife-friendly. The cards have been designed to emphasise key messages, signpost you to a range of resources and ideas to help you enjoy the great outdoors and then be displayed on your noticeboard or used as a colourful bookmark.

If you would like hard copies of the cards, email the Wild Banbury/Bicester Project Officer.

Wild Kidlington

This project is more recent and the project officer, Rhiannon Evetts, has been working in Kidlington since April 2022. Similar to the other Wild Projects, she is working in partnership with key environmental groups in the village and has also produced some attractive resources.

Here is Rhiannon’s latest update.

“The last few weeks have certainly been wild in Kidlington! After a successful Gala day in collaboration with Kidlington Eco Group (KEG) where the residents helpfully added their recent hedgehog sightings to our map, signed up to our upcoming walks, and found out more about how to garden for wildlife in mind, we ploughed on and into a full hedgehog themed family activity day partnered with Harvest at Home. 

This was a great success; Seven families pledged to put in hedgehog holes in their garden fences for the start of Kidlington’s Hedgehog Highway. They were able to take home their own hand-crafted pine cone hedgehog families as well as a welcome sign to put above their new and existing hog-friendly garden gaps. The signs were such a hit that the volunteers were desperate to have a go once the kids had left.

Hazel Walk allotment has also been busy making sure there’s a home for their much loved toad and slow-worm residents, with help and guidance from the Wild Kidlington project officer. The enthusiasm was contagious – the volunteers valiantly pick-axed the baked earth, working in the hot sun to make a five-star hibernaculum. This is now ready for the amphibians and reptiles to hibernate in over autumn and winter but it also provides an immediate safe home and cool den for the creatures to take refuge in. And the effort didn’t stop there - what with the ludicrously hot summer, the volunteers also made sure to add a wildlife pond complete with a hedgehog-safe drinking platform - just in time for the hosepipe ban. 
And last but not least, Andy’s bat walks are in full flight, with three successful walks completed. St Mary’s Fields volunteer, Andy Pedley, has been taking the public out on explorations of the ‘wilds’ of Kidlington for these wonderful creatures. So far both species of Pipistrelle have been sighted along with the Noctule and even the exciting river-user that is the Daubenton's bat. Some residents, young and old, were discovering bats for the first time on these walks which is hugely exciting for the project”.

If you would like more information on Wild Kidlington please email Rhiannon.      


Wild Parishes

Do you want to take positive steps for wildlife in your parish?

BBOWT are collaborating with a number of partners to support parish councillors, clerks and volunteers to discover how they can improve the local area for wildlife and residents.

Wild Oxfordshire's webinar series showcases Oxfordshire’s grassroots nature recovery projects and aims to inspire others to take action in their community.


Community nature leaflet

You can download our community nature leaflet here as an overview of how you can get started connecting with nature.