From the Superintendent's Desk

The Conservation Management Plan for the University Parks is published

We have recently published the Conservation Management Plan for the University Parks. The Plan gives a comprehensive survey of the site’s many valuable features, and explains how the University is looking after them.

The Parks are a Grade II listed Historic Park, with an important collection of trees and a number of significant historic buildings. The site contains archaeological features of exceptional interest. The archaeological remains were the main driver for the preparation of the Plan.

You will find more information about this together in our news story about the Plan, together with some interesting photographs and a link to the document itself.

Badger sett containment works

In July we carried out works to contain the badger sett in the Parks. The sett established was several years ago and was expanding. This undermined the path and was encroaching on both the rugby pitch and the cricket pavilion. 

To reduce risk arising from the unstable surface through which people could fall with the risk of breaking a leg, in 2022 we applied to Natural England for a licence to restrain expansion of the sett to the south and north using underground fencing but to continue to allow expansion to the east and west. We also applied to the City Council for Planning permission to undertake engineering works and an NE licence was granted on 28 June 2023, and permission given to commence work after 1 July.

blog 6 archaeology

Preliminary work, involving installation of one-way badger gates at entrances earmarked for closure, was undertaken by the ecologists on 5 July. The installation of the badger-proof fencing was done on Wednesday 26 July.

During works, archaeologists were on site to inspect trenches for finds and prevent damage to underground remains. They found Iron Age and medieval pottery, as well as animal bone and a redeposited human juvenile femur, in archaeological features within the trench. No deposits suitable for environmental sampling were encountered.

The sett has remained fenced off to allow time for the badgers to adjust undisturbed. We will arrange planting soon, following advice from consultant ecologists. We will be able to repair the path next summer.

blog 6 trenching for badger fencing

Support for residents during the Marston cycle path closure

In the middle of August, the Marston cycle path was closed for maintenance. Oxfordshire County Council operates the cycle path on land leased from the University to provide cyclists with a safe off-road route linking central Oxford to Marston and Headington. It needed to close the route this summer while repairs took place on two bridges (known as Fignon and Lemond) that it crosses, to ensure they remained safe.

During the closure, we worked with County and City Councils to make an alternative route available, with cyclists allowed to wheel their bikes through the University Parks and across the High Bridge along a marshalled route at designated times of day. The aim was to provide a safe off-road route for children going to and from school. On average, around 100 people used the alternative route each morning and afternoon.

The marshalling was done by volunteers, mainly members of Cyclox, the local cycling group, and councillors. They were unfailingly cheerful, and we are very appreciative of the hours of time they devoted to keeping the riverside path safe and pleasant for all users.

blog 6 marshals in celebration picture

Oxford Half Marathon

The popularity of this event just grows and grows.

The 2023 event, held on 15 October, attracted over 9,000 runners. More than 5,000 people also came to the Parks just to watch. The organisers have already sold 1,000 early bird tickets for 2024 – so it’s set to be another big year!

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