Nature Reserves

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Matthew Arnold Field
Managed by:Oxford Preservation Trust
OS grid reference:SP 484 023
Nearest postcodeOX1 5JF
Usual work:Path maintenance, bridge building

Matthew Arnold Field in Boars Hill is a woodland and grassland site. It is known for its fantastic views over Oxford and the surrounding countryside, particularly in the 19th century before the hill became wooded. The site is named after the poet, cultural critic and influential schools' inspector, Matthew Arnold, whose best-known poems, “The Scholar Gipsy” (1853) and “Thyrsis” (1867), are said to have been inspired by the site. “Thyrsis” is most famous for the line “And that sweet city with her dreaming spires”, which has come to be something of a tagline for Oxford. The area of Boars Hill became popular with other poets, such as Arthur Hugh Clough and the archaeologist Sir Arthur Evans, who had Jarn Mound built in 1933 to create a viewpoint over the surrounding countryside, including Matthew Arnold Field.

Geology

Boars Hill and Matthew Arnold Field sit on Corallian limestone, which contains evidence of ammonites. Kimmeridge clay is to be found on the Corallian rag further down the hill. The height of Boars Hill causes considerable hydraulic pressure to be applied to underground aquifers under the Corallian rag, causing springs to appear in the areas to the south.

Flora and Fauna

Boars Hill contains large areas of semi-ancient and secondary broad-leaved woodland, including ash, birch, and oak. The woodland areas enclose several small fields of semi-improved grassland, with scrub such as gorse that thrive on the acidic sandy soils. There are also numerous Scots pine and conifers visible from the site due to their presence in nearby gardens. The semi-improved grassland at and around Matthew Arnold Field includes species such as buttercups that provide a blanket of yellow in the summer. Butterflies sighted at Matthew Arnold Field include the holly blue, small coppers, and white admiral, whilst the rare silver-spotted skipper has been recorded in nearby woodland.

Conservation Management

Improvements to the boundaries of the site have been made while work is done to maintain the view over the site from Jarn Mound. Path maintenance and bridge building is also done to increase public access to the site.

Location

From the roundabout between the A34 and the A4074 on the southern part of the Oxford Ring road, take the exit marked Boars Hill. At the top of Hinksey Hill, turn right onto Foxcombe Road, again towards Boars Hill. After a mile turn right onto Berkeley Road, towards Old Boars Hill. Pass the Open University, and ignore the turning onto the Ridgeway. With Jarn Mound on your right, the reserve is straight ahead, down a no through road with a grit box at the junction.