Goodbye from Community Ecologist, Roselle Chapman

April 2023

Roselle Chapman - Community Ecologist

After 6 amazing years as Wild Oxfordshire’s Community Ecologist the time has come to hand the reins over to Imogen Parker and the future community ecology team. I am incredibly proud to have played a part in such a small but passionate team who have worked so hard to help build Wild Oxfordshire into what it is today - a highly effective, caring and growing organisation, sitting at the centre of a network of organisations working together to bring a better future for Oxfordshire’s nature.

It is difficult to pull out a single highlight, but something that I have increasingly enjoyed is working with other organisations. We are lucky in Oxfordshire to have a wonderful group of dedicated and knowledgeable individuals working for a host of organisations, be those charities, local government, DEFRA bodies or the protected landscapes and Wild Oxfordshire now has a very strong mutually beneficial partnership with many of these. Through the Community Ecology Project, we have worked particularly harmoniously with the Trust for Oxfordshire’s Environment, The Wychwood Forest Trust and TVERC.  I am also delighted at the strengt of our partnership with Cherwell District Council which has grown in strength from advising the district’s local groups and parish councils to securing the Wild Kidlington Project which kicked off in 2022.

Undoubtably, what makes being a community ecologist the best job in the world is working with Oxfordshire’s growing network of community groups. It is such a privilege to be shown around sites, by those who know them the best and value them the most; who volunteer their blood, sweat and tears to defend and manage them for people and nature. Some sites such as the Jubilee Wildlife Spaces, set up by my predecessor Cynth Napper, are home to some incredibly rare species have been managed by volunteers for over 20 years, others such as Lyne Road Green in Kidlington are a blank canvas and are just starting out. I think that this is where Wild Oxfordshire’s strength lies; over 20 years ago it made a commitment to support community action for Oxfordshire’s nature and it has stuck to that commitment. It has picked a thing and is doing it well!

Some of our recent achievements include:

100+ environment groups mapped to help people connect with their local one

• On-site bespoke advice provided for 52 groups

• 675 volunteers helped (offering c. 32,400 volunteer hours to Oxfordshire’s environment)

• 5 neighbourhood Plan Groups helped

• 1 road verge safari led, 1 new Road Verge Nature Reserve proposed to OCC

• 2 road verge survey training days run

3 medical centres helped to create and manage Bee Healthy Gardens

• 5 bee ID training days run

• 14 specialist surveys commissioned.

• 2 hedgerow survey training days run

2000m new hedge planted

• 600m of hedge rejuvenated

• 5 hedgerow management training events held to build and sustain local capacity

• 2 MPs and 1 Secretary of State enlightened in the benefits of a well-managed hedge

4 Local Environment Groups Conferences organised

• 36 presentations made to parish councils and groups.

• 5 town and parish council forums to tackle the biodiversity crisis and climate change addressed.

That’s just the Community Ecology Project! I have also been lucky enough to observe the evolution of the Evenlode Catchment Partnership (ECP), from its inception with Hilary Phillips to its astonishing expansion with Ann Berkeley. Established to facilitate improvements in water quality, enhance biodiversity, flood management, resilience to climate change and build greater community engagement, it is now lauded as an exemplar project of the catchment-based approach.

None of this would have been possible without a great team of trustees, staff, and supporters. With special thanks to Hilary, Clare Sian and the trustees who welcomed me so warmly 6 years ago. Clare has remained the stalwart and font of Oxfordshire knowledge and Camilla joined us during Covid, skillfully navigating us to continue serving Oxfordshire through the pandemic and has generally whipped us into shape.

So, as the government sets out to invest more in nature’s recovery, we can expect community ecologists to play an increasingly important role in encouraging parish councils and other local groups to show leadership, fostering understanding and facilitating the right actions on the ground.  I couldn’t be prouder of what Wild Oxfordshire does and the potential for what it can still achieve. I am very much looking forward to following Imogen’s progress as she brings fresh eyes and energy, different skills, and new ideas. There is an outstanding team in place who, with your continued support, will ensure that Wild Oxfordshire goes from strength to strength and its impact continues to grow.

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