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What makes the Wychwood special to you? 

Do you have a favourite place, soundscape, view, or path in the Wychwood area? We would love to know what it is, and what makes it special to you. In collaboration with our Artists in Residence, Nimmi Naidoo and Flora Gregory, we are launching an artistic project to understand what makes the Wychwood special to the people who live there. We would like to invite anyone living in the Wychwood area to share photosvideospoems or artworks reflecting the places they love in the Wychwood Forest, to support an innovative virtual artwork that explores how we see the environment around us.
 
Flora and Nimmi, known as the Mappists, create participatory art events that offer people different ways of connecting with nature. Recent events include 'Come into the Woods: Topples Wood' an opportunity for forest bathing and to connect to the woods through audio works, and 'The Map Room: Make your Mark!' where people mark the route of their Wychwood Forest walks on a map and talk about what they love about being in the forest. Flora and Nimmi both gained an MA in Social Sculpture at Oxford Brookes University. Social Sculpture is an art form that employs social processes, and puts forward the idea that we are all artists in that every aspect of life can be seen as creative.
 
In this project, the artists will gather together contributions that celebrate what locals find special about the Wychwood around us. They hope to create a new map, and possibly a map app, of the Wychwood area that collects and displays personal responses to places. As contributions come in, they will also share them on their website—and we will share contributions on our Instagram channel—to help us all discover new and meaningful places in the space around us. 
 
So if a favourite place, tree, or anything else springs to mind, please do get in touch. We welcome contributions of photos, poems, recordings, drawings, or anything else representing your favourite places in the Wychwood, along with a couple of lines explaining what makes it special to you. We hope you enjoy the project, and that it helps us all find fresh perspectives on the natural world around us, for lockdown and beyond.  
 

 

Update from our hedgelayers: Breach Wood hedge

In order to protect nesting birds, the hedgelaying season runs from October to March. In 2020 our hedgelaying group finished their work at Foxburrow and moved on to Breach Wood, Hailey where they are laying a significant hedge that runs from the Community Wood down to Whitings Lane along a popular walking route. In contrast to the hedges at Foxburrow, which were recently planted with thin stems less than 50mm in diameter, the Breach Wood hedge is much more mature, with bigger stems (150–200mm in diameter). An additional complication that it has been laid once before around 12 years ago, meaning that the hedge-layers have to clear out old material and lay more challenging regrown stems.

Photo: David Musson

To address this challenge, the hedgelayers have adopted a new tool: the chainsaw. Two of the group are formally qualified in the safe operation of chainsaws, which are potentially very dangerous in unskilled hands.

 

By the end of the 2020 season, a good section of the Breach Wood hedge had been completed—but sadly the looming Covid crisis cut the season short. Luckily, the hedgelaying team had reached a nice tidy finishing point. In winter 2020, between lockdowns, they managed to make a good start to continuing the work, though some of the team were unable to help out due to illness. They were happy to see significant regrowth from the previous season's work, and to receive positive comments from passing walkers. The team continues to build their skills and experience with a focus delivering a tidy hedge that conforms to the Midland style of hedgelaying.

 

There are many regional styles of hedgelaying around the country, developed over the years to meet each region's specific farming needs and landscape. Midland is the style of hedge that would have been seen in Oxfordshire. It is characterised by its asymmetric style, with a smooth “face” which is on the road side of the hedge and brush facing out into the field. Midland style hedges are typically topped with an attractive twisted top made of binders, which the group has harvested from Breach Wood's Hazel Coppice along with stakes to support the hedge as it grows. Coppicing is another traditional rural craft, which takes a natural rotation of Hazel and allows it to regrow.

 

Alas after a couple of sessions, our hedgelayers were back to lockdown, and following brief restart found themselves unable to progress again in 2021. They are hoping to be able to get back onto the hedge before the end of the season and get the current section completed. Until then, they are stuck sharpening their tools.

 

Hedgelaying is physically demanding and provides a great outdoor gym for a full body workout. The team would welcome new members who would like to learn a new skill, so get in touch with toby@wychwoodproject.org.uk if it sounds like a craft for you! No experience is necessary although manual dexterity is an advantage.

 

Photo: Stuart Bridger

 

Wychwood Project plants trees with local schools for National Tree Week

 

To celebrate this year's National Tree Week (28th November to 6th December), we decided to partner with local schools to deliver educational tree-planting events. With teams of enthusiastic Primary School children from Charlbury CE Primary, Woodstock CE Primary, and St Mary's CE Primary in Chipping Norton, we planted young whips and two-year-old heritage fruit trees on the school grounds, while delivering fun sessions teaching them about biodiversity, nature, and the roles trees play in ecosystems. We also gave tree-planting advice to Wychwood Primary and Tower Hill Primary, to help them establish what, where, and how best to plant trees on their school grounds. 
Thanks to The Conservation Volunteers' I Dig Trees (sponsored by OVO Energy), we were able to source many of the trees we planted for free. We were determined to avoid using plastic tree guards, so Toby masterminded some creative alternative tree-guards made from metal wire and wood.

Inevitably, a couple of our planned planting events had to be delayed as schools grappled with changing advice and local lockdowns. We're looking forward to visiting Great Rollright Primary School, Kingham Primary School, and Hailey Primary School after Christmas. 

Though tree-planting can play a good role in habitat restoration, we believe firmly in the refrain “right tree in the right place for the right reason”. In line with this philosophy, we ran detailed site visits before the sessions, and took care to only plant appropriate quantities and species of trees in the schools.