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Trees and Fields

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Iffley takes great pride in its open spaces.

 

Andrew Benfield tractor and trailer Glebe field

Andrew Benefield and his tractor with volunteers in Glebe field

 

Trees for Iffley’s Glebe Field? 18 May 2019.

 

 

An Iffley resident has suggested to Friends of Iffley Village that trees might be planted in the Glebe Field, as a contribution to mitigating climate change, which is driven in large part by the huge clearing of forests elsewhere.

 

The present situation is that the field is mostly left to grass and wild flowers except for a strip of old trees & undergrowth on the upper eastern part of the field.

Two walnut trees were planted a few years ago below these trees, one doing well and one, having nearly died, now has four lateral branches coming into leaf. The grass both below and above the line of old trees is cut annually by a farmer, and allowed to dry before baling and removal to feed his livestock.

 

The lower grassed area has sometimes been used for a summer party, with tables and chairs set out and food prepared, sometimes with music too. It does not fit in too well with the use of the field for hay, which requires the grass be left to grow during the summer, and wild flowers left to set seed.

 

The field was saved in 1996 from being built over largely due to the generosity of the Critchley family who, with additional financial support from other residents, purchased it from the Church Commissioners and passed it to the Oxford Preservation Trust (OPT). Their Rachel Sanderson regularly organises working parties of village volunteers to clear growth of brambles, and ivy on the walls, and such like.

 

We referred the idea of planting trees in the Glebe field to the OPT and to Mary Tate of the Critchley family for their views.

Mary was supportive mentioning that the original gift of the field for the benefit of the local community should be kept in mind. OPT’s Rachel said the idea was timely as it was the second request for tree planting on OPT land with a view to combating climate change that she had received this quarter.  

 

Each field, wood or nature reserve that the OPT own is managed as is felt appropriate for that site with the history behind acquisition and ownership always playing an important part in decision making. Their Land Committee will be meeting later this month so she will seek their view and get back to us.  Meanwhile she would be interested to hear how our discussion with the FOIV goes at the AGM and what the general view is.  

 

Before any trees are planted, the OPT would want to have a wider consultation, especially with neighbours, to understand everyone’s views.

 

The case was raised during the FOIV AGM on 14th May and a number of ideas put forward there and in subsequent emails. One pointed out that trees absorb carbon dioxide thus helping reduce the threat of climate change whereas cutting hay for cattle exacerbates it through their production of methane.

 

More than one person asked whether a community orchard could be considered. It could occupy a small part of the Glebe while leaving space for a mown area for social events.

 

Lorna Froud, a recent arrival in Iffley, reports that in their local community of Earley, near Reading, there were various projects to establish community orchards. They helped develop an understanding of the links between growing food and healthy eating, provided a focus for communities and increased the numbers of rare native fruit varieties.

 

Trees were sourced from the National Fruit Collection at Brogdale (www.nationalfruitcollection.org.uk). She said too that the Orchard Project (www.theorchardproject.org.uk) provides support and advice to communities and local authorities wanting to plan and plant an orchard. They can help design, plant and maintain community orchards and are great at training local volunteers.

 

Often these projects were supported with funds from the Big Lottery Fund Local Food Programme.

 

Wild flowers are already recognised as a component of the Glebe Field but they could be provided with an area where they would receive greater encouragement by enhancing their competitiveness over the usually more dominant grasses.

 

There has been a catastrophic reduction in insects, including bees, in the UK over the last half century and wild flowers contribute to their welfare.  The Royal Horticultural Society has useful advice on the establishment of wild flower meadows - https://www.rhs.org.uk/advice/profile?pid=446.

 

The Rose Hill and Iffley Low Carbon group already have a programme for tree planting and could be valuable partners. Ben Raskin’s book The Community Garden Handbook (2017, £10) is a useful reference for planning such a project.

 

Please send your thoughts and ideas to Greenspaces@iffley-village.co.uk .