RESIDENTS in part of Oxfordshire are being urged to transform their gardens and community green spaces into friendly environments for wildlife to thrive.

The 18-month-long Wild Bicester project which has just launched aims to bring people and nature together to create a ‘greener, healthier and wilder Bicester’.

The scheme is being delivered by Berkshire, Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire Wildlife Trust (BBOWT), Bicester Garden Town, Cherwell District Council, Healthy Bicester and the town council.

It will encourage and enable people of all ages and backgrounds to get involved and turn their homes and other local green spaces into wildlife-rich areas.

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Some of the ways people can do this include creating a bee hotel, growing a wildlife-friendly vegetable garden, building a hedgehog home and learning how to attract butterflies to their garden.

BBOWT has provided step-by-step guidance on how residents can do this as well as other tasks to boost wildlife in the town, and will promote them through its Wild Bicester channels.

The trust also says that 'wilder neighbourhoods' are an essential part of our health and wellbeing and that people who spend time in nature are happier.

Happy hedgelayer Pic: Ed Munday

Happy hedgelayer Pic: Ed Munday

BBOWT volunteers helping to create a scaffold for a new hedgerow. Picture: Ed Munday

Ed Munday, community wildlife officer at BBOWT said: “Nature needs to be part of everybody’s everyday lives and restoring nature can be the greatest generator of hope and happiness.

“We know many people in Bicester are already passionate about how their ‘local patch’ – whether garden, street, or their community space - could be greener and wilder and there is already some fantastic conservation work being done in the town.

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“The Wild Bicester project is a hugely exciting opportunity for more people of all ages and backgrounds to get closer to nature in their everyday lives and also to be inspired and moved by its beauty and wonder.

“There is a role for everyone to play and together our local actions in Bicester can form part of the collective national and global effort for a better, wilder future with more nature everywhere.”

BBOWT says that the UK is one of the most nature-depleted countries in the world and that it is losing more of its nature every day. It says new generations grow up more and more disconnected from the natural world around them, starved of the opportunity to enjoy the wonders of wildlife.

Bee on sainfoin (Chilswell) Pic: Ed Munday

Bee on sainfoin (Chilswell) Pic: Ed Munday

A bumble bee drinks nectar from a sainfoin flower. Picture: Ed Munday

Wild Bicester will create a network of community groups to work on local green spaces and run a series of educational events, activities and resources to inspire and support people to take action.

The project plans to create opportunities in schools, parks, allotments, community centres and streets for people to get involved and take action for wildlife themselves and will also work strategically with local authorities to create more space for wildlife across Bicester.

Councillor Andrew McHugh, Cherwell’s lead member for health and wellbeing said: “Bicester Garden Town is committed to protecting and enhancing the natural biodiversity of the area, while providing healthy, social neighbourhoods for people to live.

Cherwell District Council last month said it would make a renewed effort to ensure developers who build in the district contribute to improving the natural environment.

“Wild Bicester will play an important part in both these areas, monitoring the town’s eco-system whilst giving residents the chance to engage with the environment around them, offering an easy way to boost their physical and mental wellbeing.

“It gives our residents the opportunity to regain a sense of wonder at the beauty and diversity of nature on their doorstep.”

Bicester already has groups such as Bicester Green Gym and Bicester Grassroots that carry out conservation work, and whose efforts the new project will aim to build upon.

Cherwell District Council also last month said it would make a renewed effort to force developers who build in the district to help improve the natural environment.

Its executive committee approved the 2020-2022 Community Nature Plan and its approach to addressing the council’s statutory biodiversity duty.

The plan sets out a vision to work with partners and projects to protect and enhance the region’s natural environment and Wild Bicester is one of the ways it hopes to do this.

BBOWT says wild urban patches and green spaces in Bicester are crucial – offering essential homes for wildlife, connecting wild places and bringing wildlife, and the benefits of a healthy natural world, into our lives.

Parks, allotments, school grounds and community spaces can all offer something for nature and, in doing so, can bring people together – creating healthier and more socially connected communities.

The trust believes that if people are given a helping hand, garden birds, bees, hedgehogs, foxes, frogs and insects can all thrive.