Red Kite over Woodcote (Photo by Eric Grimes)
The Woodcote Conservation Group was founded in November 2000 as a result of that year’s Village Appraisal. This, like the previous two Appraisals, made it clear that the rural environment was one of the most important factors for local residents in their enjoyment of village life. We currently have just under 100 members. Similar conservation and environmental groups exist in many other communities all over the country, and all are, in their different ways, part of a global movement that seeks to promote the principle of ‘biodiversity’ to which governments pledged themselves at the Rio Earth Summit in 1992. In our case this means:
- Assessing what is special and/or in need of protection in our local natural and built environment
- Promoting understanding of, and respect for, the environment
- Undertaking activities in the field that further these aims
- Cooperating with likeminded local, regional, and national organisations and projects.
In practice, this currently means that our work is divided into four main areas:
- Surveys – These include surveys of local footpaths, hedgerows, plants, birds, moths, fungi, and pondlife.
- Public talks and events – Recent topics for talks have included modern gamekeeping, birds of prey, bees, wildlife gardening, the Woodcote common, and local geology, and we have organised visits to local nature reserves.
- Working parties and practical skills – The principal focus here has been the Greenmoor Ponds area, which the Conservation Group maintains on behalf of the Parish Council. The Group also looks after one of the village allotments, which it has planted with hazel whips: in due course these will be coppiced to provide a small wildlife habitat and bean poles for other allotment holders. Members of the Group have also been on hedgelaying courses, so that traditional environmentally-friendly hedge-maintenance techniques can be applied at publicly-accessible points around the village.
- Networking – We have links with kindred local groups in, for instance, Whitchurch, Goring and Henley, as well as with county-wide organisations such as the Oxfordshire Nature Conservation Forum (ONCF), and regional groupings like the Thames Valley Environmental Records Centre (TVERC) and the Berks, Bucks and Oxon Wildlife Trust (BBOWT). We are conducting surveys with TVERC as well as with the British Trust for Conservation Volunteers (BTCV) and the Ponds for People project. Members of the Group regularly attend events organised by these bodies, such as the annual ‘Oxfordshire Recorders and Conservation Days’.
Designed for us by local resident Graham Waite, the WCG logo is inspired by three distinctive features of Woodcote's natural environment: the Chiltern woodlands that adjoin the village, the ponds that provide an important local habitat, and the red kite that has, in recent years, become such a familiar and popular sight in the skies above the village.
The current (2012-13) Committee consists of the following ten members :
Liam Woolley (Chairman)
Mike Fulton (Vice-Chairman)
Isobel Green (Secretary)
Phil Roberts (Treasurer)