The Wychwood Flora Group

Meadow SaffronFor many years a small group of keen botanists and conservationists have been monitoring seven nationally rare wild flower species that occur at 20 sites in West Oxfordshire; the Purple Milk-vetch (Astragalus danicus), Yellow Star of Bethlehem (Gagea lutea), Red Hemp-nettle (Galeopsis angustifolia), Grape Hyacinth (Muscari neglectum), Meadow Clary (Salvia paratensis) Cotswold Pennycress (thalaspi perfoliatum) and Downy Woundwort (Stachys germanica).

These plants grow in these locations as they are lime-loving and survive (but only just in some cases) due to the underlying limestone. The survey records have been fed into BBOWT, the local wildlife trust, Thames Valley Environmental Records Centre (TVERC), Plantlife International and the land owners.

The group has also helped with surveys for TVERC for the continuation of recording other rare plants that survive in West Oxfordshire, mainly in the Wychwood Forest area. These records have then been used to help create the Oxfordshire County Flora books and add to the large set of data held by TVERC.

These records are used to inform decisions on potential development and/or grants for landowners wishing to help protect these very rare plants and also for identifying where these plants occur when scientists wish to carry out research.

This recording group has operated under the name of the Cotswolds Rare Plants Group (CRPG), covering the West Oxfordshire Cotswolds limestone area, and co-ordinates it activities with the Ashmolean Rare Plant Group in Oxford to give a greater cover.

Recently the CRPG has struggled to find members to help run the group, currently a very frequent scenario for voluntary groups where members are ageing and new recruits are scarce. After several discussions on how to go forward, the CRPG has made an interesting decision to come under the umbrella of the Wychwood Project and become another group that has a specific area of operation. This new group is now known as the Wychwood Flora Group.

Ken Betteridge will be the Co-ordinator, a role he has held for several years, and his wife Brenda will act as Secretary. Brenda is a botany graduate.

The group has set out its objectives for the future and these are:

  • Continue with Rare Plant Recording and distribution of results.   
  • Help with management of rare plant habitats.
  • Encourage Wychwood Project members to join the surveys, even if they have little botanical knowledge, There will also be opportunities to visit areas where the public are not normally permitted.
  • With the increase in land now owned or managed by the Wychwood Project, the WFG can offer its expertise in carrying out surveys, recommend changes to management regimes and monitor the changes.
  • The group is also considering finding ways to help Oxfordshire County Council’s Highways Department in their management of existing roadside Nature Reserves verges which are in the Wychwood Project area.

One other benefit to members will be occasional ‘Nature Walks’. These will be led by Ken and will be a walk with interpretation of natural and local history content.

The walks, surveys and management tasks where volunteers can help will be advertised through the Wychwood Project.  For more information about these or any other aspect of the Flora group please call Ken Betteridge on 01993 878615 or email kenbetteridge@phonecoop.coop.