From the Superintendent's Desk

Spring is early!

The National Trust commented this week that flowers are appearing about four weeks early in their gardens this spring. 


We have noticed this in the University Parks, as well as around Oxford. In January, we had snowdrops, crocuses and daffodils simultaneously in flower. It is now early March, and the daffodils are well advanced. 

February 2024 was confirmed as both the warmest and wettest February on record. After the unusually mild winter, many trees are blossoming four weeks earlier than usual. If the weather remains mild, and severe frosts do not damage magnolias, cherries and other early blooms, it could mean that we have an extended spring flowering period.

New for 2024! We are chalking up seasonal highlights to encourage visitors to explore the Parks. Look out for the board at Keble Gate.

first parks chalk board

If you do come to enjoy the mild weather and beauty of spring in the Parks, please take time to notice the work we have done over the winter.

You should see evidence of hard pruning of shrubs in the borders along West Walk and North Walk. This is more of our renovation work to undo the effects of the pandemic, when there was minimal maintenance and plants were left to ramble. 

Two of the very old trees in the Parks have been propped to protect either individual limbs or the whole tree: a cedar near Keble Gate and a Scots pine between Thorn Walk and the tennis courts.

propped scots pine

We are planning soon to repair the potholes that have been scoured out of the paths by very wet weather softening the surface.

The mowing season has started

Parks staff mow some of the most iconic sites in Oxford. This is one area in which horticultural skills are most evident, and you may have seen on social media evidence of the increasingly ambitious designs our team are creating on University land all over the city. They have even bigger plans for 2024 – follow us on Instagram on @oxuniparks to see the results. 

Here is an example of work done around the Radcliffe Camera in the first week in March.

mowing at radcliffe camera

Supporting the University Parks

The University Parks are available free of charge for the enjoyment of members of the University, local residents and visitors to Oxford, open every day of the year except Christmas Eve. The site has been valued for centuries, and there is archival material in the form of poems and articles documenting the pleasure it has given to generations of academics, students and residents.

From time to time, we receive enquiries from visitors about contributing to maintain the trees or to the more general care of the Parks.

We have therefore set up a ‘support us’ page on our website, which makes donations to general improvements or to something specific so much easier.

There are many projects we would like to undertake around the Parks that will make them an even more beautiful and fascinating place for the whole community to enjoy, but which we don’t have the resources to proceed with as quickly as we would like. It is this kind of activity that your generosity can help support; even small contributions make a big difference, and are gratefully received.

For instance, there is a fine collection of veteran trees, as well as rare and interesting varieties like the seven-son flower tree Heptacodium miconioides and a champion Chinese weeping poplar Populus simonii. Climate change is likely to cause significant stress to many native trees, as well as exotic trees that have traditionally flourished in parkland locations. We are working on a tree replacement plan that seeks to ensure that the Parks will still be home to remarkable trees for centuries to come. All donations for trees will be ring-fenced and used to deliver the plan.

The Parks are managed both for horticultural variety and biodiversity enrichment, and we have other projects planned to enhance wildflower meadows, install bat boxes, protect the badger sett, plant trees, restore the pond, install signage and extend our facilities for propagating unusual plants. Each of these projects will improve the University Parks over the long term, so if you are able to support them, whether with a one-off gift or through regular contributions, we would value your help enormously. 

Contact us

+44 (0) 1865 2 82040