VOLUNTEERS from an Oxford conservation organisation had a lucky escape after picking up what is believed to have been a Second World War grenade.

Police and an army bomb disposal team were quickly on the scene at Aston’s Eyot nature reserve on Sunday, before a controlled explosion averted any danger.

One volunteer said it ‘could have ended a lot worse’ after initially believing the object to be a toy or replica.

Around 15 volunteers from Oxford Conservation Volunteers (OCV) and Friends of Aston’s Eyot were working in the area when the suspicious device was discovered, at around 2pm.

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OCV volunteer Simon Collins dug a rounded metal object - covered in mud out from a ditch but it was only when colleague Chris Skepper was bagging up the rubbish that he noticed its 'distinctive grenade shape’.

Mr Skepper, 37, said: “We were trying to clear some scrub around the ditch. We dug out some rubbish in the morning and it was in a pile.

“I thought it could be a lump of rock - my first thought was that it was a toy but it did seem to be metal and quite heavy.

“I carefully put it down again and we discussed what to do. We weren't sure it was dangerous, as it looked like it had been there a long time, but the police responded very quickly and took it seriously.

“It could have ended a lot worse I suppose.”

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The Oxford resident praised the police and army response and said he thought the cordon was about 50 metres, as it was close to a path where people were walking.

He continued: “After an hour or two the army bomb disposal team were on scene we heard them destroy it with a controlled explosion. Officers said it could have been a Second World War grenade, as the area was apparently used for training in the 1940s.”

The group, which works to improve wildlife habitat and conserve traditional landscapes across sites in Oxfordshire every Sunday, says it has never come across such an object before.

A police spokeswoman said: “Thames Valley Police was called to a report that a suspicious object, believed to be historical ordinance (a grenade), had been located.

“A cordon was put in place to ensure the safety of the public. Explosive Ordnance Disposal attended and carried out a controlled explosion. The cordon was lifted at around 4.10pm.

"We would advise the public not to touch or move any suspicious items they find and to call us on 101 (999 in an emergency situation).”

An Army spokesperson added: “We can confirm that an EOD (bomb disposal) team were called by Thames Valley Police to assist with a possible Second World War grenade found within a metal salvage yard in Oxford. The item was destroyed in situ and the site cleared by 1600 hours. At no point was there any danger posed to the public.”

Meanwhile, police in southern Oxfordshire say they have removed a 76mm German First World War Mine N Werfer shell and a 6lb semi-armour piercing from West Challow, but did not provide further details.

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Pic. TVP