ONE of Oxford's hidden gems is offering people the chance to enjoy the great outdoors in an environmentally-friendly way.

Hogacre Common is only about a mile south of the city centre, but its location – tucked away beyond Whitehouse Road and over the railway footbridge – means it remains unknown to many.

The 14-acre eco-park has been a community space for a decade and hosts a range of activities and events, but director Deborah Glass-Woodin believes it still has plenty of untapped potential.

She said: "It's part of what's so special about it – you can't happen upon it by accident.

"It's definitely one of Oxford's best-kept secrets."

Ms Glass-Woodin is one of six directors at the common, which was previously a sports ground for Corpus Christi College, part of Oxford University.

It was established in 2010 when West Oxford Community Renewables leased the site – all for the cost of one jar of honey per year.

A number of eco-friendly projects take place across Hogacre's vast expanse, teaming up with multiple partners including Low Carbon Oxford and OxGrow.

The latter has turned the former lawn tennis courts into a thriving allotment and hosts work parties tending to the space every other Sunday.

Meanwhile, the vegetarian Hogacre Cafe opens on Sunday afternoons and boasts a menu of dishes created from local produce and food surplus.

It is run by an army of committed volunteers and Ms Glass-Woodin revealed there is a real affection for the site.

She said: "We all have jobs and families away from this.

"We have to find a balance between letting nature run its course and not over-managing it, while also looking after it."

While Hogacre seems perfect for social distancing and did not close when lockdown hit in March, it has not been unaffected by the coronavirus pandemic.

The site can normally count on the income from private events in its pavilion, but these dried up completely during the early part of the summer.

Hogacre was eligible for a small business grant from Oxford City Council to make up some of the shortfall and is now looking in a much healthier position.

Over the August Bank Holiday weekend, Oxford's youth theatre group DIY put on a socially-distanced performance of William Shakespeare's Twelfth Night in the park.

Ms Glass-Woodin said: "One of the big things we had missed out on is private hire.

"It's not an events venue, but a major part of our income is through hiring out the pavilion.

"But bookings are really picking up now.

"We've got this great outdoor space, so if you're willing to take a chance on the weather it really pays off."