NATURE lovers have called for Oxford’s 'hidden valley' to be protected against new housing developments, concrete gardens and climate change.

The Lye Valley fen in Headington has one third of the rarest plants in the county and is very sensitive to levels of rainfall.

Rain throughout the year slowly soaks into the ground and through the limestone surrounding the nature reserve, creating its unique water chemistry in which very rare plants flourish.

However, climate change presents a challenge to the valley and its volunteer guardians.

The Friends of Lye Valley help to maintain the nature reserve and Site of Special Scientific Interest in Headington.

Oxford Mail:

The group's chairman Dr Judy Webb explained: "The Lye Valley depends on reasonable levels of rainfall which cause water to make what is often a six month journey through limestone underground down to feed wetland springs in the valley.

"But the rainfall on this part of Headington is changing in the climate emergency.

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"We have more and heavier rainfall in the winter and protracted periods of drought in other parts of the year.

"Light rain falling in the summer may evaporate on surfaces and never permeate the soil. The constant loss of front gardens to concrete and tarmac does not help.”

Now, Dr Webb is proposing a solution to these problems.

She went on: “Every day of the year, local people walk through the valley and enjoy its quiet and extraordinary environment for themselves, often with their children or dogs.

"I cannot contemplate this special place turning into a hotter, drier location of no environmental value and of less value to the public.

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"We need the city council as the planning authority to block developments which reduce the amount of water feeding the valley springs.

"We need it to encourage the removal of concrete and tarmac frontages to gardens, so rainwater can run into the earth.

"It can, and should, do more about the climate emergency too – but improving its planning would be a start to protecting Oxford’s hidden valley.”

Dr Webb previously fought housing plans close the the Lye Valley in 2016.

The Lye Valley is an internationally rare alkaline spring fen which has survived in Oxford since the last Ice Age, 8,000 years ago.

The valley supports more than 20 species of plants which are otherwise rare in Oxfordshire. The reserve is also home to 27 species of nationally scarce invertebrates as well as reptiles and amphibians.