If you go down to the woods today …

foxholesmap…  you could get a big surprise.  While the Wild Garden is well known in the community, the Foxholes Reserve at Bruern is off the beaten track but just as attractive.  Both venues have been immensely appreciated, especially during the lockdown when everyone was encouraged to stay near to home.

The Wild Garden is so well known as to present few surprises.  Casual visitors from our communities treat it as their own ‘bolt hole’.  It is beautifully maintained but never manicured.  Dog walkers, families, runners and others make regular use of its paths, its lakes and its woodland.  During the lockdown, the Garden’s popularity rose appreciably, resulting in a few problems, particularly with parking nearby.  While the locals may have been dismayed by the extra usage, they surely acknowledge the widespread benefits of the Garden to many from further afield.

Enjoyment comes in many forms.  As well as walking, children played on fallen logs, picnics were enjoyed around the lakes,  the ducks, moorhens and their broods were the centre of attention and families were even seen playing Pooh Sticks either side of the outflow from the round pond.  Another lovely picture that stays in the mind was of two very young children lying full length on the edge of the pond, heads over the water, pointing out to each other the hidden sights in the depths.  It is something of a family wonderland.

The Foxholes Reserve is very different.  It is further from the villages, more remote and harder to access but hugely rewarding to visit.  Sited just above the level crossing at Bruern, cars are unable to get too close so there’s a roughly half mile walk before the Reserve can be reached.  The sketch map shows the three main access paths, each of which is clear to follow on the ground.  The most attractive way into the Reserve is along the Oxfordshire Way, into the woods.

Once the walker has arrived, what is so different to the Wild Garden?  In a word, it is ‘untamed.’  There is a myriad of pathways through the woods, the vast majority just narrow tracks that wind between the trees, some well-trodden, others resembling single deer tracks across the ground.  And deer are frequently seen.  A jogger recently rounded a sharp corner in the track, his silent approach undetected by a deer that stood just ten metres in front of him; needless to say, the deer departed much more rapidly than the jogger.

Wildlife is not restricted to deer.  There are squirrels aplenty and in springtime, the call of the cuckoo and the hammering of the woodpecker can be heard at intervals.  And, of course, the Reserve is famous for its extensive display of bluebells in May, an annual showcase that never disappoints.

One smaller woodland should not be forgotten.  Diggers Wood in Shipton was a millennium project on land just beyond the Wild Garden.  It is a showcase for trees of multiple varieties.   And it contains a bench with a memorable tribute to the deceased: ‘Husband, father and cantankerous old git’!

So members of our communities are spoiled for choice when it comes to woodland walks.  The Wild Garden is a wonderful facility, close at hand, while the Reserve is a haven of tranquillity and wildlife; count your blessings.

Note: Both these woodlands would benefit from your support as they encourage us out of doors.  Membership of the Wild Garden costs £30p.a. (details on their website: www.wychwoodwildgarden.org.uk) while Foxholes can be contacted on www.bbowt.org.uk if you would be willing to support their work.

August – September 2020