More habitats of Boundary Brook Nature Park.

The Mixed Native Woodland

This area was planted in November 1990 and covers 0.3 hectares. We were advised that oak woodland was the predominant type on heavy Oxfordshire clay so we made oak the dominant tree in our woodland. Other forest trees are ash and wild cherry.

The shrub layer trees include holly, rowan, field maple, hazel, dogwood and guelder rose. There is also a small amount of wild privet and rose. Along the southern edge of the woodland, we have planted buckthorn, holly, crab apple and pussy willow to provide nectar for early insects. Holly is the food plant for the holly blue butterfly and buckthorn that of the brimstone butterfly. As the tree canopy shades out more of the grass we will plant woodland flowers, including bluebells. In 1997 we made a winding path through the woodland.

Photograph of Cornfield.
Photograph of Cornfield

The Cornfield

Because the plants are annuals, whose seeds germinate when exposed to light, the ground is cultivated each year. Annual cultivation also stops the establishment of grass and perennial plants which would prevent cornfield seeds from germinating successfully. The cornfield was created to provide seeds for the finches and to give colour for much of the summer.

A variety of colourful plants used to grow among grain crops before the advent of herbicides. Unlike most wild plants, they can flourish in rich soil without being shaded out by the companion crop. No topsoil was removed from this area and the cornfield annuals were sown with wheat and barley seed. Some years we add agricultural sunflower seeds to the cornfield mix.

The Rough Grass Area

Seven of the species of butterfly to be found on site have larvae that feed on grass. As we were advised that they fare rather better in grass that is not cut, we strim only one small section each year to keep the scrub down without destroying too many butterfly larvae.

Taller meadow plants such as scabious, knapweed, St John's wort and meadow cranesbill, were planted in the rough grass.

Because the rough grass areas are infrequently disturbed, some very large anthills can be found. They are regularly visited by green wood-peckers after the grass has been cut. The frogs also seem to spend a lot of their time here.

The Kitchen Garden.

Fruit and vegetables are cultivated organically, as many garden chemicals are harmful to all forms of wildlife.

Photograph of kitchen Garden.
Photograph of kitchen Garden

The central part of the area consists of five rectangular beds, with a square bed at either end. The beds have a wooden edging and are separated by gravel paths. A leaky hose system provides the beds with water. A strip about two metres wide, inside each hedge has been sown with a wildflower mix to attract pollinating insects and give a colourful backdrop to the kitchen garden. A ‘fedge’ (fence/willow hedge), planted at the entrance gives an enclosed feel to this area.

At the far end is a potager to demonstrate what could be done in a very small garden. Herb flowers are attractive to beneficial insects; sage, for example, attracts the bumblebees. We need bees to pollinate our peas and beans. Lovage and feverfew plants attract hoverflies, whose larvae eat aphids.

The Mixed Native Hedge

Many trees, shrubs and climbers can be grown as a hedge. They can be nearly as useful to wildlife as woodland if they are not cut back too hard. Most hedges, designed to keep out livestock or people, have a predominance of thorny trees and shrubs. Our hedge, which was planted in early 1991, is designed to mimic a typical old farm hedge and has approximately 70% of thorny plants. These include hawthorn, blackthorn, holly, buckthorn (common and alder) and three types of wild rose. Other shrubs are hazel, field maple and guelder rose. The bramble is self-sown.

Hedges can provide food as well as nesting and roosting sites for birds and nectar for insects. Perennial plants, including red and white campion, greater stitchwort and hedgerow crane's-bill were planted as the grass at the foot of the hedge was shaded out. Part of the hedge has been laid.