As you wind across the boardwalk through the shoulder-high reeds, with a soft grey cygnet quietly lapping beside you, you might well be forgiven for thinking you are in some enchanted rainforest. It is hard to imagine that this land was once a rubbish site, covered with metal, splinters of stone and brick, plastic bags, decomposing waste, even a mouldering caravan.
This is a story of regeneration, of vision, of patience, and of community endeavour. It’s uplifting, and it goes like this:
Once upon a time there was a festering swamp. People used it to empty their rubbish. Dogs used to roam wild, hunting in the middens for scraps. There were rusty supermarket trolleys, rusty bedframes, rusty syringes – and more …
Then a dedicated group of local people decided to turn it into something lovely. With the help of conservationists they patiently and painstakingly cleared the area, carving out mini-habitats where birds and insects and flowers could flourish.
Together they began to turn it into a haven of biodiversity and a place where people could stroll in peaceful recreation.
Then Oxford City Council decided that it needed to build yet more houses beside the canal so it tried to claim the land. The Friends of The Trap Grounds (the definite article is significant) refused to be daunted. With the support of the Open Spaces Society they fought all the way to the House of Lords and, after a five day hearing, won their case.
Thank heavens they did – for this is one of Oxford’s subtlest delights and a monument to all that is good about our brilliant city. A corner of quiet and ever-changing fascination, a symbol of community spirit in action.
For the full story, log onto the Friends website – where you will also learn the fascinating history of its name. For a link to the Open Spaces Society (which we were inspired to join as a result) click: http://www.oss.org.uk
And for a collection of images taken over many months with extraordinary devotion and patience, check out the stunning photography of Nicola Devine. Better still, go there for yourself. The noticeboard proudly announces:
Owned by Oxford City Council: maintained by Local Volunteers
The Friends of the Trap Grounds
Home of Reed Warblers, Reed Buntings, Sedge Warblers, Willow Warblers, Water Rails, Woodpeckers, Cuckoos, Kingfishers, Bullfinches, Tree Creepers, Swans, Water Voles, Lizards, Newts, Frogs, Toads, Grass Snakes, Glow Worms, Bats, Dragonflies, Damselflies, solitary bees, rare moths and spiders. And much more …
It was worth preserving this space. It’s very special – and what it represents is very special too.