OCV have completed a large variety of nature conservation projects, and continue to receive specialist training in many of the more skilled conservation management tasks including, but not limited to, hedgelaying, coppicing, fencing, watercourse/pond management, dry stone walling and boardwalk construction. To discuss your individual requirements please contact .
OCV can undertake a range of nature conservation projects, including the following:
Hedgelaying and Planting
Stansfeld, 15 Nov 2009
- Project Description - Hedgelaying is a traditional method of managing hedgerows to create a thick barrier for livestock and to increase biodiversity. The base of the trees and shrubs are cut to enable them to be laid down, whilst retaining a section of bark to conduct nutrients to the top of the hedge. The cut stems, or pleachers, are tucked tightly together, staked vertically and bound with hazel. The increased light to the hedge encourages thick re-growth. Planting can also be done in gaps in hedges or to create new hedges.
- Environmental Benefits - Hedgelaying converts a row of small trees into a thick, bushy hedge that provides a vital wildlife haven, including shelter and nesting sites for birds, ground free from trampling for delicate flora and invertebrates. This technique also encourages the shrubs and trees to regenerate and remain healthy thereby greatly increasing the lifespan of the hedge. By in-filling hedges with new plants the protected corridors can be extended and thickened benefiting wildlife, whilst also negating the need for other types of barriers to livestock or the public.
- Seasonal Considerations - Hedgelaying is a seasonal task limited to Autumn through to early Spring in order to ensure that nesting birds are not disturbed.
- Past Projects - Past OCV hedgelaying tasks have been at sites such as Stansfeld Outdoor Education Centre, Little Wittenham, and Deddington Parish.
Woodland Management including Coppicing, Felling, Planting
Foxholes, 29 Nov 2008
- Project Description - Woodland management covers a wide range of tasks that increase woodland biodiversity. Coppicing of trees such as hazel, ash, hornbeam, beach and oak involves felling trees and using the brash from the top of the trees to protect the stools from hungry woodland animals until the re-growth is sufficiently strong to survive their attention. Felling of non-native trees such as conifers can also be achieved, and is often combined with planting of native trees. Woodland management also includes planting of native species of trees to create new areas of woodland. OCV only use hand-tools for these tasks.
- Environmental Benefits - Coppicing lets sunlight reach the woodland floor thereby prompting woodland flora to flower and spread. This woodland flora then forms the basis of food chains supporting insects, birds and mammals. The presence of coppiced wood at various stages of re-growth within woodland provides a variety of light levels and therefore supports a diversity of ecosystems. Many native species have evolved to become specialised to the conditions within coppiced woodland and would be unable to survive if the coppicing was ceased. Regular coppicing is also known to increase the longevity of trees by ensuring vigorous re-growth and removal of top-heavy branches. Hazel from coppiced woods can be used within hedgelaying tasks, while woodpiles can be created from tree trunks thereby providing ideal habitat for a diverse range of invertebrates. Felling of non-native trees provides many of the same benefits as coppicing, particularly when combined with planting of native trees in order to increase the biodiversity of a woodland and its suitability to native species of flora, fauna, invertebrates, birds and mammals.
- Seasonal Considerations - Woodland Management is a seasonal task limited to Autumn through to early Spring in order to ensure that nesting birds are not disturbed.
- Past Projects - Past OCV woodland management tasks have been at sites such as Foxholes, Millennium Wood, Aston Rowant NNR and Boundary Brook.
Bird Hide Construction
Trap Grounds, 21 Jan 2012
- Project Description - The first task is to design the bird hide so that it is applicable to the location and requirements of the site. This includes where the panels and observations slots should be in order to allow people to reach then observe the bird hide unseen. The eye levels of the intended users, hence observation slots, needs to be determined as does the location of posts and struts in order to create a strong wind-proof structure. Holes are dug and vertical struts securely added in the same way as straining posts in fencing, and struts added to provide additional strength, especially against the wind. Batons are then nailed to the posts and the screening material added, with batons secured to the opposite side in order to sandwich the screening in place. Although bird hides can be made from materials harvested on site, ready made brushwood screening provides a useful labour saving alternative. It is important, however, to ensure that a sufficient opaqueness is provided so that the birds will not be disturbed by being able to see people at the bird hide.
- Environmental Benefits - Provision of bird hides allows birds to be viewed without being disturbed and so allows them to carry in a natural way rather than being scared away by people trying to watch them with insufficient cover. Bird hides also provide a good location for people to go to see the birds and also greatly reduced the amount of potential damage from people trying to find their own bird watching locations around a site. Providing good facilities at a site can also help obtain publicity and funding to further conservation work carried out there.
- Seasonal Considerations -. This work should be done outside of nesting season so that nesting birds are not disturbed, and is undertaken in Autumn and Winter.
- Past Projects - Past OCV bird hide construction tasks have been at sites such as Trap Grounds.
Post and Rail Fencing
Jubilee Fields, 27 Apr 2008
- Project Description - Post and rail fences are a picturesque method of providing a boundary for grazing livestock. Vertical posts are placed firmly in the ground at regular intervals, and three rows of horizontal rails strongly attached to the uprights.
- Environmental Benefits - Grazing of chalk grassland by sheep and cattle is an important conservation management technique that prevents scrub from invading important habitats of rare flora and fauna. The construction of fences enables control over where livestock are able to graze so that the delicate balance of habitats can be maintained.
- Seasonal Considerations - Fencing can be carried out all year, but is optimal from Spring to Summer when the ground in which the post holes will be dug is not frozen.
- Past Projects - Past OCV post and rail fencing tasks have been at sites such as Jubilee Fields and Long Meadow, Exmoor National Park and Deddington Parish.
Post and Wire Fencing
Crecy Hill CWS, 1 Jun 2008
- Project Description - Post and wire fences provide a strong boundary for grazing livestock. Large vertical straining posts with struts are positioned firmly in the ground within line-of-sight of the next straining post. In between the straining posts, smaller posts are securely placed at regular intervals. Wire is tightly attached to the top and bottom of the straining posts, and then attached to the intermediates. A strong wire mesh is then attached along the length of the fence.
- Environmental Benefits - Post and wire fences provide the same ecological benefits as post and rail fencing.
- Seasonal Considerations - Fencing can be carried out all year, but is optimal from Spring to Summer when the ground in which the post holes will be dug is not frozen.
- Past Projects - Past OCV post and rail fencing tasks have been at sites such as Aston Rowant NNR, Crecy Hill CWS and Wells Farm..
Step and Revetment Construction
Chinnor Hill, 8 Jun 2008
- Project Description - Typical revetment work involves building up a raised path that slopes slightly downhill to allow natural run-off of surface water directly off the path. Erosion of path surface (such as soil or scalpings) is minimised by the addition of wooden boards, held securely in place with wooden stakes, along the downhill edge of the path to add strength and stability to the path. The path or steps are in-filled to the height of the boards.
- Environmental Benefits - An important aspect of conservation management is that of minimising the impact of public access on a site due to erosion and trampling of delicate flora and fauna. Step building improves public access and safety to a reserve and helps to curtail the erosion of slops and therefore minimises damage done to the landscape by encouraging visitors to stick to well-maintained paths. Construction of revetments alongside steps and paths helps to keep the paths dry and reduces erosion of soil and scalpings from the paths thereby reducing the amount of future maintenance required. Revetments also work by reducing erosion of the ground around the paths or steps by supporting the soil and indicating the designated paths.
- Seasonal Considerations - Steps and Revetments can be constructed when the ground is not waterlogged or frozen, which is typically during Spring to Summer.
- Past Projects - Past OCV step and revetment tasks have been at sites such as Chinnor Hill, Deddington Parish,Aston Rowant NNR and Stansfeld Outdoor Education Centre.
Raised Walkway Construction
Matthew Arnold Field, 26 Apr 2009
- Project Description - Raised walkway, such as boardwalks, provide a picturesque solution to muddy or flooded sections of paths. Strong vertical posts are firmly placed in the ground to gradually lift the path and take it across the problem section. The pairs of supporting posts are reinforced with struts before horizontal posts are securely attached along the length of the path. Onto this foundation, wooden planks are attached and covered with wire netting to provide added grip for anyone using the paths in wet weather. Gaps between the planks allow water to flow directly off the path.
- Environmental Benefits - Raised walkways provide a means of safe access across seasonally boggy or flooded sections of paths, thereby removing a desire for users to seek dryer routes around the problem area(s) that could lead to habitat destruction and/or erosion. This also reduces future maintenance requirements.
- Seasonal Considerations - Walkways, such as boardwalks, can be constructed when the ground is not waterlogged or frozen, which is typically during Spring to Summer.
- Past Projects - Past OCV walkway tasks have been at sites such as Matthew Arnold Field.
Gate and Stile Construction
Jubilee Fields, 27 Apr 2008
- Project Description - The techniques involved in constructing gates and stiles are similar to those used in post and rail fencing, where the sturdiest posts are those holding the gate/stile. The techniques use to construct gates/stiles and the materials used depend on the requirements of the task and the surrounding countryside.
- Environmental Benefits - Gates and stiles allow public access to a site and also provide a means to control the areas in which livestock are able to graze. Light grazing prevents scrub from invading important habitats such as chalk grassland, thereby allowing a variety of flora and fauna to thrive. Along with fences, gates and stiles can also deter mammals or dog walkers from areas where the presence of grazing/predatory mammals or dogs could damage the ecosystem, such as areas where waterfowl breed of where young plants require protection from grazing or trampling.
- Seasonal Considerations - Gates and stiles can be constructed any time of year, but is optimal from Spring to Summer when the ground in which the post holes will be dug is not frozen.
- Past Projects - Past OCV woodland management tasks have been at sites such as Jubilee Fields and Long Meadow, Boundary Brook.
Stone-Pitched Culverts and Ditches
Brecon Beacons, 12 Apr 2009
- Project Description - Ditches are dug alongside sloped paths and, occasionally, cutting across paths in order to direct the flow of water down hills and mountains. The ditches are lined with large stones in order to prevent the watercourse from being widened due to erosion. On the side closest to the path vertical stones are sunk into the ground to ensure they are strong enough to suppose the weight of anyone who may stand on them. The banks of the sloped hill are supported by large stones to prevent the banks from falling in to the drains and culverts and to minimise erosion. The bases of the watercourses are lined with stones at a gradual slope to allow water to quickly drain away. Addition of grass around the stones helps to stabilise the ground and make them blend into the surroundings. An important part of this work is the regular clearing of debris from culverts and ditches in order to ensure free-flow of water within the watercourse and to prevent flooding.
- Environmental Benefits - One of the more significant environmental problems on slopes is that of erosion from water and from public access. The construction and maintenance of stone-pitched culverts and drains quickly directs water away from the slopes thus reducing the amount of erosion caused by the flow of the water over open ground. An added benefit of this work is that paths are often made more desirable for use thereby reducing the number of people who walk off paths that could otherwise become waterlogged and thus further minimising erosion.
- Seasonal Considerations - Construction of stone-pitched culverts and ditches can be carried out at any time of year, but is best suited to late Spring through to Summer when the ground is not waterlogged or frozen.
- Past Projects - OCV have constructed and maintained stone-pitched culverts and ditches at sites such as the Brecon Beacons National Park.
Lye Valley 14 Oct 2007
- Project Description - Fen and wetland conservation covers a range of tasks from removing selected fallen or overhanging trees to controlling dominant species such as grasses, sedges and reeds. Cut or dead vegetation is raked up to ensure that the wetland is not in-filled with degrading vegetation and to keep the nutrient levels of the soil sufficiently low as to promote survival of the wild flora and fauna. Due to the delicacy of wetlands and the importance of retaining the hydrology of the site, maintenance work is generally carried out on the guidance of ecologists who have surveyed the site. It is of particular importance that this work is carried out by hand, rather than using machines, to minimise inadvertent damage when carrying out this vital work.
- Environmental Benefits - Wetland maintenance ensures that degrading vegetation and fallen trees do not upset the delicate balance of water levels or enrich the soil in order to ensure and promote survival of the flora and fauna at wetland habitats. Ensuring a variety of light conditions at a wetland sites encourages diversity of plant life, as well as species higher up the food chain such as invertebrates. Wood retrieved from fallen trees in the fen can be used as habitat piles on the edge of the wetland to further increase biodiversity at a site. Due to the particular scarcity and decline of these vital habitats, and the species that thrive in them, conservation of these sites is of national importance.
- Seasonal Considerations - Wetland management season depends on the work that is to be done and the ecology of the site. This work is typically carried out in late Spring to Autumn, outside of nesting season and when the ground is generally a bit dryer, thus minimising potential damage to the habitat caused by gaining access to a site.
- Past Projects - OCV have performed a range of wetland management at sites such as Lye Valley and Louie Memorial Fields.
Aston Rowant, 15 Feb 2009
- Project Description - Various tasks need to be undertaken in order to care for sheep that are used to graze grassland sites. Due to the lack of stony ground at many Oxfordshire sites the sheep need their hooves to be trimmed to ensure their health and mobility. Another essential task is dagging of the sheep, which involves removal of a small amount of wool from the rear of the animals using shears so that droppings do not adhere to the animals. This removes a potential breeding ground for flies that would adversely affect the health of the flock.
- Environmental Benefits - Grazing by sheep provides a natural means to conserve grassland sites, thereby preserving the traditional countryside and also the large array of wild flora and fauna that have evolved to thrive on grazed grassland. In order to ensure the health and well-being of the sheep, and therefore the grassland, tasks such clipping and dagging are essential.
- Seasonal Considerations - Care of grazing sheep needs to be carried out regularly all year round.
- Past Projects - Past OCV sheep maintenance tasks have been at sites such as Aston Rowant NNR.
Dry-Stone Wall Construction
Durlston CP, 23 Aug 2008
- Project Description - The construction technique of dry-stones walls varies depending on the local stone used and the traditional style of an area. Before construction can begin any current wall may need to be carefully dismantled, ensuring that no rare wildlife is disturbed. A study footing is created by digging a trench whose base fits the shape of the foundation stones to minimise settling and to increase the strength of the finished wall. Fillings, or hearting, are placed between the foundation stones, and the outside edges of the trench backfilled and tampered. The wall is then built up, gradually decreasing the width of the wall, filling the gap between the outside edges with hearting (small pieces of stone) and adding throughstones at regular intervals to increase the strength of the wall. The wall is finished with topstones, or capping, that protects the face stones and hearting, whilst adding extra weight to strengthen the wall.
- Environmental Benefits - In areas where there is little or no natural rock exposures dry-stone walls provide considerable habitat value for species such as xerophytes, lichens, mosses, ferns and a variety of flora and fauna that depends on the location and stone type. Dry-stone walls also provide important habitats for a range of species from spiders and glow-worms to reptiles and some species of birds. Dry-stone walls, particularly those bordered by strips of un-mown grass, also provide a protected corridor for species to shelter and move between areas of favourable habitat.
- Seasonal Considerations - Dry-stone walling can be carried out all year round, but is safest when it is not too wet so that the stones are not likely to be wet and slippery to hold.
- Past Projects - Past OCV dry-stone wall tasks have been at sites such as the Durlston CP.
Lime Mortar Wall Repair/Construction
Holywell Cemetery, 6 May 2012
- Project Description - Scrub either side of the wall is removed to allow access and to remove anything, such as ivy, that was damaging the wall. Any original loose wall needs to be dismantled and any loose materials swept away to ensure the mortar will stick. The stones are sorted and the old mortar chipped off before the lime mortar is mixed and the new stones carefully added. It is important to add overlapping stones and avoid any running joints that would compromise the strength of the wall, and to taper the wall slightly to be thinner at the top thereby making it stronger. Since lime mortar takes a long time to dry and also should not be allowed to set too fast if maximum strength is to be obtained, it is sprinkled some extra water and covered with polythene until the mortar has completely set. It is important to repair any wall that was initially lime mortar using the same technique not only to match any original remaining wall but also as the original stone may be quite soft and not suitable for use with the more commonly used cement mortar, as the stone would be more likely to crack as a result of temperature and humidity changes than if the less brittle lime mortar is used. Lime Mortar is also chemically closer to limestone and therefore will not contaminate land in the way modern cement can.
- Environmental Benefits - Grazing of chalk grassland by sheep and cattle is an important conservation management technique that prevents scrub from invading important habitats of rare flora and fauna. The construction of walls enables control over where livestock are able to graze so that the delicate balance of habitats can be maintained. Walls can also limit human access in order to protect areas of a site from damaging through-traffic. In areas where there is little or no natural rock exposures lime mortar walls can provide habitat value for species such as xerophytes, lichens, mosses, ferns and a variety of flora and fauna that depends on the location and stone type. Stone walls, particularly those bordered by strips of un-mown grass, also provide a protected corridor for species to shelter and move between areas of favourable habitat.
- Seasonal Considerations - It is best to avoid carrying out this task in Winter in case any invertebrates are hibernating in the remains of the wall or the stones, since they may not have sufficient energy to find a new shelter before perishing from the cold.
- Past Projects - Past OCV lime mortar tasks have been at sites such as Holywell Cemetery
Public Rights of Way Management
Hanborough 10 June 2007
- Project Description - Management of public rights of way covers a wide range of activities, including construction of stone-pitched culverts, ditches, raised walkways, bridges, steps, revetments, gates and styles, as described in individual sections above. Other important methods of managing public rights of way include clearing rides and removing overhanging vegetation so that paths do not become overgrown, filling potholes and surfacing paths. Paths can be surfaced with a number of different materials, such as woodchips or scalpings, depending on the requirements of the site. Before a path is surfaced it is prepared by smoothing the surface, filling in potholes, removing large stones that would protrude, and firmly tamping the surface down to increase the longevity of the path. Seeding of grass can also be done to increase the stability of an eroded path by allowing grass roots to help hold the soil together and resist erosion.
- Environmental Benefits - One of the main environmental benefits of correctly managing public rights of way is that the public are encouraged to walk on well-maintained paths rather than choosing their own route through a reserve. This reduces erosion and minimises any inadvertent damage done to the delicate balance of flora, fauna and invertebrates at a reserve by anyone avoiding an overgrown or impassable right of way. Where erosion is a particular concern, surfacing paths can be of great benefit because it makes the path tougher and more resistant to erosion caused by public use and the flow of water. Ensuring that paths do not become overgrown by grasses, invasive scrub or overhanging vegetation greatly benefits a wide variety of wild flora and fauna because it provides a protected corridor where sunlight is able to reach the ground and delicate flora are not smothered by invasive species. This allows a greater diversity of life to thrive at a site than may otherwise be possible, particularly in shaded areas such as woodland.
- Seasonal Considerations - Management of public rights of way can be done at various times of the year, depending on the type of work required. Any work that could affect nesting birds due to clearance of scrub is limited to Autumn through to early Spring, while it is also advantageous to keep clearance of rides outside flowering season of the wild flora typical for a site. Hard landscaping path management, such as filling potholes and surfacing with woodchips or scalpings can be carried out all year round.
- Past Projects - Past OCV public rights of way management tasks have been at sites such as the Brecon Beacons National Park, SS Mary and John Churchyard, Deddington Parish, and Watlington Hill.
Iffley Island, 5 Oct 2008
- Project Description - This work involves removing a range of invasive or non-native species using hand tools such as slashers, loppers, bowsaws and mattocks. Typical species of scrub that are tackled at scrub clearance tasks include brambles, sedges, dogwood and hawthorn. The scrub is either cut close to the roots or the full plant dug out of the ground, depending on the requirements of the site. Often the scrub has to be removed from the site in order to prevent enrichment of the soil and therefore promote the survival of native species. The removal of ragwort from root to tip is also an essential scrub clearance task on land anywhere near livestock due to its poisonous nature and the resulting legal requirements of landowners.
- Environmental Benefits - Scrub clearance can be undertaken for a number of environmental reasons. Examples include returning land covered by natural succession of scrub and brambles due to recent neglect back to open grassland. At other sites particular species such as brambles, sedge or bracken have smothered all other species, preventing less dominant species such as orchids, fritillaries or heather from receiving the light and space they require to flourish. This work can therefore greatly increase the variety of habitat types and species or flora, fauna, invertebrates and wildfowl able to thrive at a site.
- Archaeological Benefits - Scrub clearance can also be an important aspect of preserving historical earthworks and monuments that would otherwise be destroyed by the roots of wood scrub and trees.
- Seasonal Considerations - This work must be done outside of nesting season so that nesting birds are not disturbed. Typically scrub clearance is undertaken in Autumn and Winter.
- Past Projects - Past OCV scrub clearance tasks have been at sites such as Trap Grounds, Holywell Cemetery, Simon's Land, Seacourt Nature Park, and Grim's Ditch.
Lye Valley, 28 Jun 2009
- Project Description - Pond maintenance covers a wide range of tasks due to the diverse requirements of this habitat, and the size, geology, hydrology and ecology of these still water bodies. Creation or extension of a pond at a site with suitable geology, hydrology and ecological status is performed through manual digging of a pond basin to a range of depths suitable to the hydrology of the site. To enhance the diversity and density of suitable habitats, variations in the depth and shape of a pond are important, therefore bays, islands, shallows and deep areas are beneficial to include. If a liner is required, once fitted the pond is back-filled with 10-30 cm of nutrient poor material to enhance the wildlife habitat and to help protect the liner. Monitoring of ponds helps to inform future pond management at a site. Removal of any plant material must be done in stages to retain the variety of species within the pond as a whole and at all depths and pond habitats. Almost any plant cover can be good, even of invasive species, so it is important to ensure that no open areas are created. It is important that a site (and the surrounding area if possible) has been assessed before pond maintenance is carried out in order to ensure that appropriate, good management decisions are made.
- Environmental Benefits - Pond maintenance provides a variety of ecological benefits if carried out correctly. The benefits vary depending on the site and work done, but can enable the creation or enhancement of the diversity of habitats at a site. In an area where there are numerous ponds, for example, creation of a mixture of habitats can be beneficial in order to support a wider number of species and to allow species to migrate as the ponds enter different stages of succession at different times.
- Seasonal Considerations - Pond maintenance consists of a diversity of seasonal task, that each must be undertaken at the correct time of year, which is dependent on the specific pond and the species it supports. If any plant material is to be removed, for example, it is important that this is carried out in Summer to allow them to recover. The season for pond creation/extension, if deemed ecologically beneficial, depends greatly on the site but is typically carried out in Summer.
- Past Projects - Past OCV pond maintenance tasks have been at sites such as Lye Valley and Tackley Heath.
Habitat Construction (Otter Holts, Bird Boxes, Bat Boxes etc)
Kennington Pools, 5 Aug 2012
- Project Description - An important element of OCVs work is the creation of shelter for a variety of creatures. Sometimes this is as simple as creating a habitat pile from cut trees, but it also includes the more precise work of construction purpose-built homes for a variety of creatures including otters, birds, bats and snakes largely from wood. An otter holt is constructed from wooden logs/posts driven into the ground with other logs/posts laid between the uprights in order to create walls of both inner and outer areas. Finally logs/posts are laid on top to create a roof. Finally a thick layer of scrub is added over the entire structure in order to hide it and allow it to blend into the surrounding environment. Bird and bat boxes are made by cutting wood and attaching them together with nails/screws to create boxes for specific species or birds or bats at a site. It is important to get the size of the box and entrance correct for the expected species, and to install the boxes at the correct height and aspect.
- Environmental Benefits - Providing man-made habitats for species is of great importance in order to both encourage species to move into a protected wildlife area and to support current inhabitants of a site. The provision of shelter for species allows them to find suitable sites in which to shelter and also raise young in a safe location more easily and supports growth in their numbers.
- Seasonal Considerations - Bird and bat boxes should not be installed around nesting season as it may disrupt already-nesting species. Otter holts should also be constructed outside Spring in order to ensure that no species are disturbed. Note that since scrub is required to cover the holt it must also be carried out outside nesting season so is typically undertaken in Autumn and Winter.
- Past Projects - Otter holts have been constructed by OCV at sites including Kennington Pools. Bird and bat boxes have been constructed and installed at sties such as Deddington Parish.
These are examples of the work that we can do, but we will consider many other possible conservation management projects. To discuss your individual requirements please contact .