MERTON College stand accused of ‘environmental vandalism’ after 'destroying' a hedgerow.

The Oxford University college owns the area in Begbroke known as Rowel Brook, which had a mature hedgerow containing wild hops, brambles, dog roses, the common yarrow, musk mallow and many other species 'that provided a haven for butterflies, bees and other insects', according to local district councillor Ian Middleton and Yarnton parish councillor Fiona Mawson - who are partners.

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The pair say 'destroying; the hedgerow and has removed important habitat and 'potentially killed many species'.

Ms Mawson said: “This is an area that we are led to believe will be maintained as a green space after the university concretes over much of the surrounding green belt.

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"If this is an example of how they will curate such important green capital I dread to think what sort of a mess they will make of the rest of the area. This is nothing less that eco-vandalism.”

Mr Middleton added: “It’s absolutely heart-breaking to see the wanton devastation. It’s an area I run and walk through several times a week and it’s always a great place to see numerous species of insect and other wildlife attracted by the abundant local flora.

"It’s a very popular area for bramblers picking blackberries and last year we had a bumper crop before a large area was chopped down. This year there’s nothing left at all for humans or wildlife alike.”

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John Gloag, Merton's Estates Bursar, responded: “Land around Rowel Brook is owned by Merton and leased to a local farmer, who manages the land to the highest environmental standards.

"Work has been done to maintain both the public right of way, and the field boundary, in line with agricultural best practice and countryside management. This has been supported by residents living in local villages who make use of the public rights of way.

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“Protecting the environment remains a priority and across the farm important work is being done to encourage and protect wildlife. This includes sowing wild bird seed and restoring ponds and waterways to support local species.”