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Red kites, cake and countryside

The first-ever week to celebrate national nature reserves begins tomorrow, 20 May, with people in Oxfordshire encouraged to get out and about and explore nature.

National nature reserves boast a unique tapestry of flora, fauna and geological wonders and are home to more than 17,000 species, spanning 106,000 hectares of protected habitat across every corner of England – approximately 0.7% of the country’s land surface…

… and there are 4 NNRs in Oxfordshire: Aston Rowant, near Watlington; Chimney Meadows at Bampton; Cothill, north of Abingdon; and Wychwood, west of Charlbury.

National Nature Reserves Week runs from 20-29 May with a series of events across England aimed at getting residents and visitors to appreciate nature more.

All sites are open to the public, with Aston Rowant hosting a free walk and talk around Beacon Hill on Thursday 25 May, from 10.15am to 1.30pm. You’ll learn how sheep keep the grassland in good condition, as the red kites swoop around overhead. Your guide will also explain how the reserve has addressed ash dieback, and why we love our yellow meadow ants.

Then it will be back to where you started at the NNR office for tea and cake. Don’t forget to book!

Allison Potts, Natural England area manager for the Thames Solent region, said:

We are thrilled to be hosting a unique set of events on these special sites. Everyone is welcome. You don’t need anything other than appropriate footwear and an appetite for fresh air!

For decades, national nature reserves have played a vital role in conserving various species of plants and animals, but also provided an outdoor space for research and education, and opportunities to access, enjoy and engage with our natural heritage.

The reserves are waiting for you, whether you have never been before, or visit regularly – come and explore these fantastic places during this week of celebration!

It is hoped that it will inspire a new generation of nature champions and comes as Natural England celebrates the coronation with a new ‘King’s Series’ of 25 NNR declarations over the next five years, to support nature recovery and meet the ambitions of the Government’s Environmental Improvement Plan.

The announcement follows Natural England marking 70 years since the first NNRs were declared last year. Since then, England’s national nature reserves have continued to play a crucial role in protecting nature and are now at the heart of a growing nature recovery network – providing homes for different species of animals, birds, and plants to thrive.

Research has shown that NNRs managed by Natural England offer huge value for money, with a wide range of economic, environmental and societal benefits totalling £36 million.

A full list of national nature reserves in Oxfordshire and the wider South East can be found at:

Notes to editors:

Cake and Countryside! A walk with site staff at Aston Rowant National Nature Reserve by Natural England
A walk led by reserve staff around Beacon Hill, learning about some of the special species found at Aston Rowant NNR.
The walk will start at the main nature reserve office, which is located near the bottom of Aston Hill/A40. This circular walk will encompass Beacon Hill on the north side of the reserve
Thursday 25th May 10:15am to 1:30pm
Free, but booking required:

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