Watch red kites soar as Oxfordshire marks 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 per cent of the country’s land surface.

There are four national nature reserves 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.

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All sites are open to the public, with Aston Rowant hosting a free walk and talk around Beacon Hill on Thursday May 25, from 10.15am to 1.30pm.

Participants will learn how sheep keep the grassland in good condition, as the red kites swoop around overhead.

The guide will also explain how the reserve has addressed ash dieback, and why we should love its yellow meadow ants.

The walk will finish back at the NNR office for tea and cake.

To book the Aston Rowant walk go to https://www.chilternsaonb.org/whats-on/walkingfest/0701/

A full list of national nature reserves in Oxfordshire and the wider South East can be found at: https://www.gov.uk/government/collections/national-nature-reserves-in-england#london-and-the-south-east-nnrs

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 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.

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The announcement follows Natural England marking 70 years since the first NNRs were declared last year.

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 £36million.

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