Duke of Edinburgh Volunteers

I am a year 9 student at Woodgreen School. Myself and another volunteer are helping at Wild Witney for the volunteering section of our Duke of Edinburgh bronze award.

Over the course of 3 months we will be doing jobs for Wild Witney. This may include: fund raising, data collection, researching, planting and activisism.

The first thing we have done is a litterpick of the gerneral area where the Wild Witney piece of land is. We found a lot of litter for the size of the area. Three bin bags full of mainly beer bottles and cans. There were also a few plastic bags and a shoe…? It wasn’t the nicest experience as some of the beer bottles weren’t empty and smelt like rotten watermelon but anything we can do we will do. Within reason.


Oxford Real Farming Conference 2022

Over the last three days I attended an amazing conference ORFC, which this year was online. At the closing speech I was in tears- I didnt want it to be over! I set out to learn about a wide array of subject areas related to land that I and the people of this group are interested in but learnt so much more in the form of a wide network of contacts, organisations and funding bodies related to land. Above all though, I met, albeit virtually, some amazing like-minded people. One talk that stood out for me was one which had two land based artists as its speakers. Two artists, Charlotte Still and Claire Whistler, working in Sussex have put together a project based on people they met on walks along rivers. There is a fantastic video that is part of Waterweek 2021. I will post further details about this later.


Letters to landowners

It was a long shot but I sent the following letter to the owner of some of the land along the river near to the Flogas site in Witney. Needless to say they haven’t replied! I’ll now write similar letters to the two organisations that own the rest.


I am interested in buying, leasing or managing land within the marked area on the map (attached) preferably closest to the river,  in order to set up a community owned, or run area to enhance wildlife. 

I feel very strongly that the UK needs to allow wildlife to flourish since it has one of the very lowest biodiversity levels in the world. Improving our natural areas and soils will not only boost wildlife but will in turn benefit farmland (as farmers, I’m sure you already know this having much more experience and knowledge of the land than me!.) I hope to set up a system of natural flood management on riverside land. Reconnecting the Windrush River to its floodplains would have huge and far reaching benefits for the town through providing a sink for flood water and a valuable wildlife wetland area, such as has been achieved at Chimney Meadows.

There are quite a lot of rewilding projects going on around the UK. Many farmers are becoming involved due to the positive effects on growing and animal rearing. The Knepp Estate in Surrey is a rewilding project that has been in place for the last 25 years or so and, having been opposed at first, many farmers in the surrounding land have seen the benefits both in terms of the health of the land and of economic gain and in recent years have also rewilded large areas of private farmland. The Knepp estate is now a very successful eco tourist destination running safaris and also selling wild meat and other products.. Having been a struggling large scale working farm making a loss over many years, the owners are now at the forefront of a movement which is literally taking off. Wild Ken Farm in Norfolk is another example of a successful business combining rewilding with regenerative agriculture and eco tourism. 

I have set up a group called Wild Witney and we are in the process of getting access to a parcel of council land to manage. This is fantastic as it is in a central riverside area and will help flood management, however I am also very eager to have access to the land by the river and including the river between the Crawley road and Flo Gas. I have already started crowdfunding and with a large community effort, helped by Rewilding Britain, Heal and other funding organisations that I have sourced, could buy land. This has been done on a large scale in Scotland recently. Of course we would need time to get the funds together but other than this we would be the same as any other prospective buyer. The government recently also encouraged land owners that are selling, to allow community projects time to raise funds for rewilding projects on green field sites in order to increase biodiversity and help mitigate against climate change. I’m hoping they will soon also provide monetary help.

Please contact me at the email above, or by post or phone or in person about this if it appeals to you. I’d really be keen to talk to you about it and would be willing to meet and explain if it would help. You have a parcel of land that could have untold benefits for nature and the community for many years to come- what a fantastic legacy this could be.

Group meeting

Wild Witney Group

I started learning about rewilding when I read David Attenborough’s book ‘A Life on Our Planet’ during lockdown. I then became obsessed with reading lots of books relating to Rewilding, the best of which is Isabella Tree ‘Wilding’. Massively recommend reading this. Rewilding made me realise what I’ve been missing in my life and in my work as well as what is missing in the British countryside; Wildness. 

The Uk has one of the lowest levels of biodiversity in the world. Many species are reaching the point of extinction. Isabella Tree wrote Wilding based on the experience herself and her husband have had on their large estate and farm in Surrey. Having been making a loss for a considerable amount of years, they made the decision to sell all their farm animals and machinery and stop. Tree describes this process as one in which they ‘took their hands off the steering wheel and let nature lead’. After some initial work removing fences, taking away the steep banks of the river and such like, they watched wildlife return at a rate that they didn’t think was possible. Having let nature find its own way for 5 years, they then started to introduce grazing animals such as Deer, Longhorn Cattle, Tamworth Pigs and Exmoor Ponies. I think they now also have Beavers. These keystone species engineer the environment to provide habitats in a much quicker way than we can engineer it. There is now a thriving wildland and successful ecotourism business at Knepp. I’ve visited myself and the feeling there is unlike any other. You can hear birds singing, insects buzzing and see animals rootling around. All of these things seem to be vanishing around Oxfordshire and Britain as a whole as I’m sure you have all noticed.

The objectives for this community group could be: to Rewild Council land. Raise money to buy land. Save land from development through bidding for land and through campaigning. Rewilding land will boost biodiversity levels by restoring wildlife habits, mitigate against flooding and also act as a carbon sink. These objectives are however for us all to agree on.