|Shotover Country Park|
|Managed by:||Oxford City Council|
|OS grid reference:||SP 564 062|
|Nearest postcode||OX3 8TD|
|Usual work:||Heathland restoration, scrub clearance|
Shotover Country Park covers 117 Hectares of land between Shotover Plain and the Eastern Bypass. It was once part of the Royal Forest of Shotover, until deforestation during the Civil War led to the area being given over to open farmland and rough grazing. Shotover Country Park is known for the beautiful areas of rare heather habitat, small valleys with streams and ditches, woodland, grassland, wetlands, springs, a natural sandpit and stunning views over Oxford. Most of the park is a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), and it has been managed by the Oxford City Council since the late 1930s.
Flora and Fauna
Shotover Country Park contains areas of ancient oak woodland, evergreen woodland (including spruce and pines) and deciduous woodland. The wild service tree, one of Britainís rarest trees is also found here. Celandines, wood anemones and bluebells thrive on the floor of the ancient woodland, whilst heather and bracken are abundant within the heathland. Flora recorded within meadows and dry acidic grassland at the site includes the golden saxifrage, ox-eye daisy, common spotted orchid, knapweed, betony, early hair-grass, squirrel-tail fescue, birdís foot, knotted clover, slender trefoil, knawel, sheepís sorrel and heath bedstraw. Watermint is among the fauna that thrives in the wetland areas in and around the pools.
Twenty seven species of mammals have been recorded at Shotover Country Park, including muntjac deer, roe deer, voles, rabbits, foxes and badgers, along with indigenous reptiles such as fogs, toads, grass snakes and the common lizard. Newts, five species of bats (including the noctule bat) and over one hundred species of breeding and over-wintering birds from the song thrush, blackbird and wren to the green woodpecker and red kite inhabit the site. Summer visitors to the park include the black cap, willow warbler and garden warbler. Twenty eight species of butterflies, such as the orange-tip and white admiral, and almost two hundred different species of moths have been spotted at the site. Other insects that thrive at Shotover Country Park include beetles such as the bloody-nose beetle and chrysomela popuil in addition to rare species of flies and aculeates (bees, wasps and ants). The bare ground at the heath and grasslands in particular provides ideal habitat for numerous species of solitary bees and wasps to dig their burrows.
Shotover Country Park is managed for wildlife and for leisure by the Countryside Service of Oxford City Council. The park contains one of the few extensive examples of unimproved heath and acid grassland in Oxfordshire, and as such since 1999 considerable conservation effort has been made to maintain and reinstate areas of this important habitat. OCV have assisted on countless occasions at Shotover Country Park. Tasks here typically involve management of the rare heathland habitat by scrub clearance of invasive bracken, brambles, gorse and birch saplings to promote and encourage the heather and the insects that rely on this rare habitat. We have also repaired rabbit fencing and paths at the site.
Coppicing, a traditional way of managing woodland, is another important conservation management technique that OCV assist with at Shotover Country Park. Trees are cut off close to the ground and allowed to re-grow for around 2 to 30 years before being coppiced again. In addition to providing a reliable "crop" of timber, this practice lets sunlight reach the woodland floor allowing a more interesting selection of wild flowers to thrive, and in turn potentially providing more food for woodland inhabitants such as dormice. Coppicing also greatly extends the life of trees, allowing them to thrive for hundreds of years.
Other important tasks at the site include the creation and maintenance of walkways to allow public access, and fences to protect areas of the site from both humans and animals.
Shotover Country Park is to the East of Oxford, just outside the ring road. From the A420 (London Road) in Headington, turn down the B4495 (Windmill Road) and then turn left onto Old Road. Head down Old Road, over the ring road, and to the car park for Shotover Country Park.