Taking action for the environment | Oxfordshire County Council

Taking action for the environment

Information on nature conservation and how to improve wildlife and habitats in the county.

Bluebell wood

In your community

Wildlife needs protecting and habitats need managing all over Oxfordshire. Communities can provide vital help by appreciating, protecting and enhancing biodiversity in their local area.

Download a copy of our Community and Parish Guide to Biodiversity (pdf format, 12Mb)  to help give you ideas about what you can do in your community.

Where to find wildlife in Oxfordshire

There are more than 150 wildlife sites throughout Oxfordshire that are open to the public:

Nature reserves

National nature reserves (NNR) represent the finest wildlife and geological sites in the country, looking after some of our most pristine habitats, our rarest species and our most significant geology. Oxfordshire has three publicly accessible NNRs,  Aston Rowant, Chimney Meadow  and Cothill.

With more than 25 nature reserves across Oxfordshire, take a look and find your nearest Berkshire, Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire Wildlife Trust (BBWOT) reserve.

Otmoor is an RSPB reserve north of Oxford of wet meadows and reedbeds, a haven for wildfowl, breeding wading birds, and a spectacular starling roost during the winter months. Alternatively, visit the Lower Windrush Valley Project for details of reserves near Witney.

Oxfordshire Nature Conservation Forum has produced a map of the county’s nature reserves.

Visit our woodlands

VisitWoods has mapped information on woodland sites near you. Oxfordshire highlights include the ancient hunting Forests of Wychwood and Bernwood, the internationally important beech woodlands of the Chilterns, Shotover Country Park, and not to forget numerous community woodlands and local woodlands.

Getting out and about – walking, cycling and riding

There is always plenty to see when you are out and about in the countryside - try our Countryside access pages for ideas for walks and rides.

Volunteering opportunities

There are more than 100 local wildlife groups in Oxfordshire, so there are often opportunities to get involved in your local area.

Wild Oxfordshire

Visit Wild Oxfordshire to find out more - you can also sign up to the weekly bulletin which often includes local volunteering opportunities.

The Natural Environment Team

The Natural Environment Team is able to offer occasional internships for short periods of time, to work on specific projects.

The Chestnut Fund

The Chestnut Fund is an independent charity working closely with The Conservation Volunteers (TCV) to support groups which have little money when they are first set up, whose principle purpose is conservation volunteering and to enable them to begin practical work. Groups would need to be members of TCV’s Community Network.

Oxford Conservation Volunteers (OCV)

The Oxford Conservation Volunteers organise regular conservation volunteering activity in Oxford and around the county. Visit www.ocv.org.uk for further information.

Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB)

The three Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty within Oxfordshire - the Cotswolds, the Chilterns and the North Wessex Downs also offer opportunities for countryside volunteering in many different roles. Further details are available from the individual AONB offices.

Please note that Oxfordshire County Council is not responsible for the volunteering activities provided by other organisations.


There are various grant schemes that offer support, to help match fundraising activities undertaken in your own community.

Oxfordshire funding

The Trust for Oxfordshire’s Environment provide grants for the improved biodiversity of local habitats, to increase access to the countryside and green spaces, and to encourage and develop the sustainable use of renewable resources in local communities.

Sustainable Development Grant schemes may be available for projects within Oxfordshire’s three Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB):

Grants may also be available from your district council.

Community Greenspaces

Communities and Local Government (CLG) have produced a document which sets out potential funding available to community and voluntary organisations.


The Forestry Commission provide grants for landowners wanting to create new woodland and carry out sustainable woodland management.


Oxfordshire is fortunate in having a great diversity of organisations with an interest in, and responsibility for, the conservation of nature and the countryside. 

Ecology and planning

Our county ecology officer provides advice on how to improve the natural environment and conserve wildlife and habitats within Oxfordshire, advises on biodiversity and landscape impacts, mitigation and enhancements for:

  • minerals and waste planning applications, restoration schemes and conditions
  • county planning policy documents (Minerals and Waste Local Development Framework)
  • district planning policy documents (Local Development Frameworks)
  • county council planning applications (Reg 3 applications e.g. schools and roads)
  • district planning applications of strategic importance.

If you are submitting a planning application to Oxfordshire County Council, further information and guidance on biodiversity and planning is available on the Biodiversity and Planning page.

Working in partnership

We support and are closely involved with a range of projects and initiatives to help conserve wildlife and the natural environment.

Designated landscapes – areas of outstanding natural beauty (AONBs)

Areas of outstanding natural beauty (AONBs) are nationally important for landscape and scenic beauty.

Three different AONBs extend into Oxfordshire:

These landscapes are protected through national and local planning policies, and legislation. We also support the three AONB partnerships.

Road verge nature reserves (RVNRs)

What are road verge nature reserves?

Road verge nature reserves (RVNRs) are the most biodiverse parts of the green network of verges running alongside roads in the countryside.

They connect up the countryside and allow wildlife to move through what can be an inhospitable landscape.

There are approximately 35 RVNRs in Oxfordshire which are managed by our Highways and Transport team.

RVNRs are usually wide road verges with long grass to enhance biodiversity by providing habitat for flowers and insects.

RVNRs may also contain other valuable habitats such as wet ditches, drier grassland at the edge of the road and species-rich hedgerows.

What makes RVNRs so special

The underlying geology and low-nutrient soils of these areas results in the growth of unusual and specialised grasses and flowers. The long grass allows insects (such as bees and butterflies) and reptiles (such as grass snakes and slow worms) to breed in the spring and hibernate in the winter. The flowers produce nectar and pollen to feed butterflies and bees which then attract birds and bats.

You can find out more about the location of Oxfordshire’s RVNRs and descriptions of their biodiversity interest by contacting Thames Valley Environmental Records Centre (TVERC).

The locations of current road verge nature reserves are also available from www.data.gov.uk

How they are managed

RVNRs are marked with posts so that contractors know to only cut the grass at the end of the summer (September/October). This allows the plants to flower and drop their seeds onto the ground so they can grow into new flowers the following year. RVNRs are cut every year to prevent hedgerow species (such as hawthorn) growing on the verge and shading out the grasses and flowers.

Last reviewed
31 January 2018
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