Nature and wildlife

Oxfordshire is famous for its beautiful environment, engaging wildlife and spectacular landscapes - and getting out and experiencing it is good for your health and happiness!
Cycling in a woodland

Oxfordshire has beautiful countryside, rolling hills and peaceful rivers. But there's also a lot of green and beautiful space in Oxfordshire's towns, ranging from the ancient Oxford Botanic Gardens to nature meadows, canal paths, parks and shopping centre gardens. Wherever you are in Oxfordshire, you don't have to go far to find green spaces, wildlife, and space to relax and enjoy nature.

There is evidence that contact with nature can help people feel better, be happier, and some studies even suggest that it can help you recover more quickly from mental and physical illness, or gain more benefit from exercise.

Instant Expert: A recent study found that teens exposed to nature and wildlife were less likely to suffer from depression. One hypothesis is that this is caused by attention restoration theory, where people concentrate better on tasks after spending time in nature. So if you find your focus is drifting on revision or homework, a walk somewhere green might press your reset button.

Take it outside!

For children and young people, spending time outside has great benefits, no matter where you live. Walking, running or cycling helps keep you fitter and more healthy. Knowing your area helps connect you to local communities. Plus when you're out and about, you get to find out about local events and interesting places.

Here are our top ten tips for seeing more of the outside world:

  • Try out different routes to school, college or work and find your greenest route
  • Play a location-based phone game like Zombies, Run! Ingress or Pokémon Go
  • Make a list of all the wildlife you see in your area
  • Find a green space in or near your school, workplace or college where you can go and decompress
  • Grab some lunch and have a picnic if the sun is shining
  • Use online maps to find interesting landmarks to walk to
  • Find all of your local parks and public gardens
  • Take part in wildlife counts or events like the Big Garden Birdwatch
  • Learn the signs of changing seasons from Nature's Calendar and look out for them in your local area
  • Get together with a friend and walk or run regularly

Learning now how to get greenery and nature into your life helps build healthy habits. These support mental and physical health, and help make you more resilient.

Crucial: When you're out and about with your friends, make sure you look out for each other's safety. River safety is important all year round, not just in flood season, Outdoor Safety matters, especially if the weather is hot or cold, and Personal Safety isn't just important in urban areas - you also need to be safety aware in the countryside.

Countryside and wildlife

Oxfordshire's countryside include grassland, hedgerows, heathland, meadow, rivers, woodland, water meadows and more. All have their own wildlife and plants, including rare and special animals, insects and more.

When you're visiting the countryside, you need to follow the Countryside Code. This includes things like taking your litter home, planning your journey, following advice and signs and keeping dogs under control.

Some parts of the Countryside, like nature reserves and public paths are designed for visitors.. You can find lots of interesting places to see nature, animals, plants and wildlife in Oxfordshire, like circular walks, nature reserves and nature parks. But there are also many rights of way - paths you can follow across the countryside.

Instant expert: Find out all about Rights of Way and how you can use them to explore the countryside - and what to do if you meet any cows!

Did you know:

  • Oxfordshire's county flower is the Snakes head Fritillary?
  • Uffington White Horse is the oldest chalk-cut hill figure in Britain and may be 3000 years old?
  • The Upper Thames Living Landscape is one of the best wetland areas in England, and its wildlife includes otters!

Urban Greenspace

With over 60% of Oxfordshire's population living in the towns, urban greenspace is really important. Parks, river and canal paths meadows and nature reserves can be found in all of Oxfordshire's towns - check your town or district council website if you're not sure where they are - and you can see wildlife like badgers, kingfishers, foxes, hedgehogs, butterflies and more in your own local area, and even in your own streets and gardens.

Instant Expert: Although gyms and leisure centres are a great place to get fit, some evidence suggests that people who exercise in green spaces (for example, by doing park runs or military fitness) might get extra benefit, especially to their mental health. But it may be that some people particularly enjoy exercising outside, and exercise inside is better than none at all, so do what works best for you.

Wherever you are, make the most of your local wildlife and nature.  

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