|Louie Memorial Fields|
|Managed by:||North Hinksey Parish Council|
|OS grid reference:||SP 484 052|
|Nearest postcode:||OX2 9ED|
|Usual work:||Fen maintenance, tree removal|
Louie Memorial Fields in Botley, West Oxford, lies within the Midvale Ridge and combines a number of important habitats, including a relatively large area of fen and a recreational grassland. The fen lies along a stream located in a small valley to the west of the site. There are also large areas of scrub woodland and ash woodland, along with areas of tall herbs, bramble thicket, rough grassland and a pond.
Past OCV projects at this site include preparing for hydrology work, protecting the fen through scrub clearance and the removal of non-native garden plants. Ongoing work is focussed on protecting the valuable fen ecology by preventing scrub encroachment and regular cutting.
The Northern, flatter area of scrub and woodland, lies on Oxford clay. Much of the west field, along with the northern slopes of wood and scrub is underlain by corallian sandstone. The remaining southern half of the site, including the recreational grassland, lies upon corallian sandstone. Seepage between the boundary of the corallian limestone and sandstone has led to development of a fen habitat that is part of the Midvale Ridge. Due to the iron rich mineral, some of the seepages in the fen are orange in colour.
The fen habitat is rich with a diverse range of wetland species. Particularly abundant are hemp-agrimony (Eupatorium cannabinum), meadowsweet (Filipendula ulmaria) and great horsetail (Equisetum telmateia). Other species found within the fen include wavy bitter-cress (Cardamine flexuosa), branched bur-reed (Sparganium erectum), hairy sedge (Carex hirtifolia), reed canary-grass (Phalaris arundinacea) and water mint (Mentha aquatica). Willows (including Salix fragilis) follow the stream, and are joined by other native species of tree and shrub including hazel (Corylus avellana), wayfaring tree (Viburnum lantana), guelder-rose (Viburnum opulus) and dogwood (Cornus sanguinea). East of the stream, the wet fenland is also an ideal habitat for mosses and liverworts.
The woodland along the stream is thought to be older than at the rest of the site due to the presence of indicative species of wildflowers and grasses such as dog’s mercury (Mercurialis perennis), giant fescue (Festuca gigantea) and pendulous sedge (Carex pendula).
The woodland and scrub habitat found further away from the stream has developed through natural succession since the end of the Second World War, once the land stopped being farmed. This young woodland predominantly consists of ash (Fraxinus excelsior), with English oak (pedunculate oak), hazel (Corylus avellana), elder (Sambucus nigra), field maple (Acer campestre) and hawthorn (Crataegus monogyna) scrub. On the woodland floor, species including the grass wood brome (Brachypodium pinnatum), broad buckler-fern (Dryopteris dilatata), herb Robert (Geranium robertianum), hedge woundwort (Stachys sylvatica) and sweet violet (Viola odorata) are to be found.
The tall herb and grassland habitats are home to fauna such as the great willowherb (Epilobium hirsutum), red fescue (Festuca rubra), Yorkshire fog (Holcus lanatus), false oatgrass (Arrhenatherum elatius) and silverweed (Argentina anserine). Agrimony (Agrimonia eupatoria) is among the species found in the rough grassland and is typical of grasslands on calcareous soils.
The fen, tall herb area, grassland and deadwood within the woodland all provide ideal habitats for a range of invertebrates, including butterflies. Herb and grassland habitats also commonly support small mammals such as voles. The woodland, scrub and fen areas can provide shelter and nesting sites for birds including reed buntings and warblers.
The priority for conservation management at Louie Memorial Playing Fields is maintenance of the important fen habitat. OCV is helping to retain open areas of fen through pollarding and removal of collapsed and regenerating willow, which enables sunlight to reach the flora and fauna. It is also very important to ensure that nothing is done to the areas around the fen as that would affect the hydrology of the site.
Non-native species of garden plants, invasive trees and scrub are removed to help maintain the delicate balance of habitats. On the other hand, natural development of woodland and thick scrub is encouraged in order to improve habitats for birds and plants. Creation of paths protect the woodland floor and nesting birds, while planting of wild flowers and scrub suitable for calcareous soils may be undertaken to enrich the habitats.
Leave the A34 at the “Botley Interchange”. At the roundabout head towards Oxford. At the T-junction turn right, away from Oxford along the B4044 (West Way/Cumnor Hill). Turn left into Arnolds Way. Louie Memorial Fields is on your left, just before Cedar Road.