Nature Reserves

Gallery pictureGallery pictureGallery pictureGallery pictureGallery picture

Trap Grounds, OxfordWebsiteStreet MapGoogle MapPhotos

Trap Grounds
Town Green
Managed by:Friends of the Trap Grounds
OS grid reference:SP 502 081
Nearest postcode:OX2 6XW
Usual work:Scrub clearance, rubbish removal

The Trap Grounds is one of the last remaining wild spaces along the Oxford Canal, between the city centre and the northern suburbs. The rich mosaic of wildlife habitats at the site consists of three acres of rare reed bed, which was once a common wetland habitat around Oxford, and four acres of scrubland. The site is managed for wildlife and recreation by The Friends of the Trap Grounds, with support of the Oxford City Council and OCV.

Flora and Fauna

The reed beds are rich with wetland fauna, while native deciduous trees at the site include alder, willow, hazel and buckthorn. Wild flora found at the Trap Grounds include pyramidal orchid, bee orchid, twayblade orchid, raged robin, yellow loosestrife. Native flora introduced to the site includes snowdrops, bluebells and primroses.

At least 35 species of birds are known to breed at the Trap Grounds, including cuckoos, seven types of warbler, including reed warblers, swans and the rare water rail. Linnet, song thrush, skylark, snipe, nightingale, spotted flycatcher, jack snipe, green woodpecker, dunnock, marsh tit, willow tit, fieldfare and kingfisher are all species that have been recorded at the site. Viviparous lizards, slow worms and glow worms are known to breed in the grassy areas around the scrub, whilst grass snakes, common toads and water voles live in damp areas around the Trap Grounds. Noctule and pipistrelle bats are also present at the site, as are badger, water shrews and weasels. Over sixty invertebrate species of county or regional importance have been recorded at the Trap Grounds. Nationally or locally rare species of insects found at the Trap Grounds include the demoiselle damselfly, soldier fly, ruddy darter dragonfly, alongside moths such as the button snout, red-green carpet and black neck.


The environmental significance of the Trap Grounds has been known since at least the 1930s when environmentalists started to ring birds here in order to study their behaviour and numbers. The scrubland and reed bed have also been studied intensively over the years. By the mid-1990s, however, the reed bed had been invaded by scrub willows and was in danger of drying out, while the scrubland was being used as an unofficial rubbish dump. Oxford City Council, which owns the site, lacked the resources to maintain it.

OCV first worked in this site in 1996, training local volunteers from a newly constituted group called The Friends of the Trap Grounds to start clearing the invasive willows from the fen, in order to bring light and air to the reed bed and to allow nature to reclaim the site.

In 2004 the Friends of the Trap Grounds fought an epic legal battle to stop development on the site, ending eventually in the House of Lords. They argued that the site was a Town Green under the Commons Registration Act, which affirms the right of local people to the continued use of unfenced land for recreation when it has been used that way for at least 20 years. This action was successful and the scrubland is now a Town Green, available for the recreation of the residents of St Margaret's Parish, and is being managed by the Friends of the Trap Grounds with the help of OCV. The magnificent three-acre reedbed is Local Wildlife Site 50E17. The group now hopes to establish the area as a Local Nature Reserve, making it eligible for additional funding.

Conservation Management

The Friends of the Trap Grounds, sometimes assisted by OCV, have cleared invasive willows from the rare reed habitat in order to allow native species to thrive and to prevent the important wetland habitat from drying out. A large amount of rubbish has been removed from the site in order to allow better conditions for the native wildlife to reclaim the site. Paths and boardwalks around the site have been created and maintained in order to allow the public to enjoy the site without disturbing the delicate balance. Clearance of invasive scrub such as brambles is also important at the Trap Grounds in order to allow delicate wild flora such as orchids to both germinate and thrive.


Travelling North out of Oxford on the Woodstock Road, turn left into Frenchay Road and continue straight on over a humpback bridge over the canal. Immediately after the bridge, the road veers right, but continue on foot down a steep bank with the canal on your left and the Trap Grounds are straight ahead.


Friends of the Trap Grounds