Ducks and dinosaurs

2020 was shaping up to be a very special year – ten years since we acquired the Wild Garden. A year to celebrate the achievements in restoring the Garden, a year to thank our supporters and a year to introduce new visitors to the beauties of the Garden. We were in the advanced stages of planning a party for July to celebrate, give thanks and entertain. But somewhere along the line we had incurred the wrath of the gods.

First the FLOODS arrived in January: Dog Kennel Lane went underwater despite the drainage we had installed; the canal dams overflowed and water ran down the canal paths; the bottom sluice blocked and washed away the support for the sleeper walkway. The volunteers responded by opening up the field ditch to help clear Dog Kennel Lane, removing the mass of debris in the ponds and canals, and stabilising the walkway down by the canal sluice.

Then the PLAGUE arrived. Lockdown meant no maintenance work could be carried out in the Garden until we could work out how to operate safely and within the guidelines. The Garden went quiet, the squirrels and ducks wondered where all the food had gone and some muntjac returned to the woodland areas.

But it didn’t last. The LOCUSTS arrived. They came by the car load and, allegedly, even a coach dropping off a party in Dog Kennel Lane.

We should have heeded the warning signs. Visits to our website looking for information went up fivefold, independent reviewers starting posting on various family day-out websites and blogs and even a Radio Oxford presenter mentioned the Wild Garden as a place to go to. Other locations have reported on the unacceptable behaviour of a number of visitors and we were no exception; from inconsiderate parking in the High Street, children and dogs out of control to unacceptable levels of litter and worse.

But all was not lost. In all the mayhem, two SILVER LININGS stand out for me. A boy and his mum were hunting for fungi to photograph and we were able to point them towards some marvellous specimens hidden in the undergrowth. Then the young family out dinosaur hunting; the five-year-old had just sighted a triceratops along the western field path and I was able to point them in the direction of the diplodocus drinking from the Upper Pond. Off they went on another hunt, quietly stalking along the path.

We would like to thank all our members and neighbours for their forbearance and tolerance during this year to remember. Hopefully 2021 will bring some general relief to us all.

Mike Watson

April-May 2021