On the sunny but chilly morning of Sunday 7 November 2021, eighteen Field Club members gathered for a tour of Gibbets Close Farm, led by Neil Clennell from the Wychwood Forest Trust.
The Gibbets Close site has been gifted as a legacy to the Wychwood Forest Trust. It is an area of approximately 50 acres, surrounded on three sides by roads or urban expansion, while the far side, to the east, is open towards Eynsham. The land has been permanent grassland for several decades, from which hay has been taken annually followed by aftermath grazing.
The tour took us over rough grassland edged by hedgerows in which mature trees such as ash and oak are growing. Hay has not been taken, nor has the land been grazed for a year, and already young oak saplings are sprouting across the area. Vegetation in other areas suggest that the land retains moisture, while in the lower area there is a pond.
The future of this site is yet to be decided. Neil discussed the merits of allowing the land to regenerate naturally, with the possibility that within ten years natural woodland, as well as scrub, would provide a beneficial habitat for many species of wildlife(*).
Trefoils, knapweed and some grasses have been noted, but a botanical survey would be welcomed.
Wildlife including kestrel, chaffinch, meadow pipits and roe deer were seen. A barn owl was disturbed earlier in the morning. A BTO survey would be appreciated.
Negotiations regarding the immediate future of the site are ongoing. Progress regarding the site will be entered on the Wychwood Forest Trust website.
Neil was thanked for an interesting and stimulating tour which was enjoyed by us all.
* By a remarkable coincidence the following letter was published in the Observer on the same day and suggests one possible future for the Gibbets Close site.