Connect with nature

Spending quality time with nature can reduce stress, balance your mood and help you feel more positive. Take a moment to notice nature in your daily life. You might be surprised by what you see on your daily walk or in your garden. 

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.

January's theme - Big Garden Birdwatch

Big Garden Birdwatch, organised by the RSPB (Royal Society for the Protection of Birds), is for everyone, whether you're a complete beginner or a birding expert. Simply count the birds you see in your garden, from your balcony or in your local park for one hour between 28 and 30 January 2022.

In 2021, more than one million people took part in Big Garden Birdwatch, all coming together to look out for birds. Why not join in, make a difference and be one in a million for 2022!

Taking part is easy

  1. Sign up to the Big Garden Birdwatch
  2. Watch the birds around you for one hour
  3. Count how many of each species of bird lands on your patch
  4. Go online and tell us what you saw

A handy guide is available as well as ways of identifying birds from their songs. So make sure that you sign up so you can report your results, increase what we know about birds and help them and nature to thrive.

Download guide

Bird song identifier

Here's some handy tips on attracting birds into your garden.

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. Swift Awareness week is celebrated every year in July.

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

Nesting swifts

You can see nesting swifts on the Sibfords Swifts nestbox webcams.

Community Gardens

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.

Get in touch

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

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

Email Harvest @ Home

Find a community garden

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

Contact Parish Clerk

Find a community orchard

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

View the Orchard Network

If you are interested in support and funding to help establish a community orchard, please contact the Council’s Community Nature Officer.

Contact us

Community nature leaflet

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


Wild Bicester

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, the Wild Bicester project officer.

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 Bicester is working in partnership with key environmental groups in the town, including Langford Community Orchard (langfordcommunityorchard@yahoo.co.uk), Bicester Green Gym (https://www.bicestergreengym.org/) and Grassroots Bicester (grassrootsbicestercag@gmail.com) using their experience and expertise to build the programme of volunteer, wildlife conservation and training activities and opportunities in the town.

Wild Bicester has produced some attractive resources to help people connect with nature and wildlife to thrive. Three postcards highlight ‘Five ways to wild wellbeing’, how to ‘Help wildlife where you live’ and the ‘Top ingredients of a successful wildlife garden’. They 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, contact the Wild Bicester Project Officer -  community@bbowt.org.uk


Taking action for wildlife at home

There are plenty of ways to take action for wildlife at home. The Berks, Bucks and Oxfordshire Wildlife Trust (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.

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.

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.

View Woodland Trust


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.

Visit TVERC


Nature scavenger hunts

Nature scavenger hunts are a great way to add fun to family walks and explore local greenspaces. Head to the park on a summer’s day 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


Wildlife spotting and activity sheets

Check out these wildlife spotting and activity sheets. 

Spot it sheets

Wildlife Watch activities


Hedgehogs

Make your garden hedgehog friendly and watch out for visitors. Why not talk to your neighbours about creating a hedgehog hole in your garden fence or build a hedgehog home?

Build a hedgehog home

Hedgehog video

The Council’s lead member for health and wellbeing, Cllr McHugh, has successfully filmed these prickly creatures in his garden.

Watch video

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.

Visit British Hedgehog Preservation Society

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.

View webinars


Community Nature Plan 2020-22

Our Community Nature Plan sets out how we will contribute towards looking after the natural environment for wildlife and people. It includes aims, actions and targets relating to health and wellbeing, planning and sustainable development, climate action and land and buildings management.

We provide support for projects which help to protect and enhance the District's habitats and species as well as provide opportunities for community involvement. We work in partnership with others to focus attention and resources on green spaces and the natural environment.