Mark Bradfield discovers the reserve once owned by a famous fantasy writer

After battling through the noise of Oxford’s traffic around the ring road, it’s wonderful to hear the superb birdsong in the woods at CS Lewis Nature Reserve in Risinghurst.

Several studies show that nature is good for you, both mentally and physically. Other studies show that people are spending less time outdoors, which could contribute to physical health problems in the future.

In my experience, community nature reserves such as CS Lewis Nature Reserve can be very good for our health. Just a short visit to a wild area puts us back in contact with nature and has been shown to reduce stress levels. BBOWT’s nature reserves are great places to enjoy listening to the birds and spotting the early signs of spring. And if you feel like getting fit, we’ve got plenty of scrub clearance to do.

As the new Community Wildlife Officer for Oxfordshire, it’s my job to meet local people and revive the Friends of CS Lewis volunteer group, which has done so much work in recent years to make this beautiful nature reserve accessible for all. Many local residents value the CS Lewis Nature Reserve because it is tranquil, and I’m keen to attract more people to enjoy this special place.

On a recent visit I was quickly buttonholed by a local resident who spotted my BBOWT fleece and began telling me how important he felt the reserve was. It’s this community spirit that I am keen to harness, and that will be so important in ensuring the CS Lewis Nature Reserve, and the nature that calls it home, continues to be cared for.

Bird boxes already installed are attracting woodland species such as the blue tits to set up home here. Woodland plants including bluebells are coming through the carpet of copper-coloured beech leaves. The annual toad migration to the pond will soon be happening. The large pond is a flooded clay pit from Victorian times when this was the site of brick kilns filled with the noise of heavy industry – a marked contrast to the gentle sounds of nature as the toads and frogs breed and lay their eggs.

Some parts of the site have been left wild and undisturbed to act as a refuge for the many animals that make it home. The old air raid shelter has been converted into a bat roost and so far five species have been recorded. I’ll be organising bat walks in the summer so that we can check how many are there now.

Amazingly, over 100 species of fungi have been recorded on the reserve, no doubt benefiting from the trees that have been felled and left on site. These fallen giants are important habitats for insects and small mammals. The nature reserve has benefited hugely from the work carried out by members of the volunteer group, the Friends of CS Lewis. Over the last few years they’ve helped to open up the reserve by building boardwalks and improving the surfaces of paths so that more people can visit. They also rebuilt the bench where CS Lewis would sit with his friends discussing philosophy.

Supporting and inspiring the volunteer group is an important part of my role. I will be recruiting new members, planning working parties and organising family events to attract new visitors. The first event will be on Friday, March 7, when we will clear litter from the nature reserve as part of the annual OxClean. This is a great opportunity to get to know the reserve, and help us keep it an attractive and rewarding place to visit. There will be regular work parties through the year with tasks such as coppicing sections of the woodland, improving paths and benches, and surveying animals and plants on the reserve. It’s not only the reserve that will benefit – it’s good for your health.

Contact Mark Bradfield on 01865 775476 ext 217 or to join the volunteer group or take part in the OxClean event on March 7.