Three GP practices in Oxfordshire will be creating healthy havens for bumblebees and other pollinating insects in their grounds as part of the Bee Healthy Project. The pioneering scheme, run by the Trust for Oxfordshire’s Environment (TOE) in partnership with the Centre for Sustainable Healthcare and Wild Oxfordshire, will provide the surgeries with specially chosen flowering plants and expert advice. Funded by TOE and the Postcode Local Trust, a grant giving charity funded entirely by players of People’s Postcode Lottery, the project aims to provide green spaces that are attractive to both pollinators and people. The idea builds on the success of an earlier project at Chipping Norton Health Centre, where herbaceous beds now hum with bees throughout the summer.


 The three surgeries awarded Bee Healthy funding are St Bartholomew’s Medical Centre in East Oxford; Summertown Health Centre in North Oxford; and Windrush Medical Practice in Witney.

Bumblebee populations have suffered long-term decline as a result of modern farming methods, but gardens in towns and cities can help to sustain their numbers. Craig Blackwell and Roselle Chapman, the project’s ecologists, say gardeners can support bees and other insect pollinators by choosing plant species that are high in nectar and pollen, and planting combinations that will flower across the seasons – from March when the queen bees emerge, through to October.  The surgery planting schemes will have around 15 plant species overall, including summer-flowering herbs such as marjoram, hyssop and catmint. Plants will be purchased from nurseries that can give an assurance these have not been treated with neonicotinoids, insecticides that can pose a high risk to bees.

At the Chipping Norton Health Centre, all eight of the bumblebee species commonly found in the county now visit the site. Patients often stop to admire the bees, and some have been inspired to create similar oases in their own gardens.


Katherine Blaze, Operations Manager at Summertown Health Centre, said, “We’re chuffed to be part of the project. We wanted to get involved because we are very conscious of bees and want to do all we can to support them. We have a little garden at the front and thought it would be a great opportunity.” She added that patients would be involved in the planting and were excited about the idea. As part of the project the surgery is planning to install ‘bee hotels’ – breeding places for cavity-nesting solitary bees – and a bench for patients to sit and relax.   

At the Windrush Medical Practice the project will include three different borders. The surgery has already created a wildflower area. Shirley Watts, Facilities Manager, said, “We don’t have a garden that we can sit in, but we have a lot of plants and the patients are really interested in it all. We’re delighted to have been chosen to take part.”

Volunteers at each centre are preparing the ground over the summer, and planting will take place in the autumn; contact TOE for dates of the planting events.


Improving access to Marston meadows

TOE has been delighted to support the creation of a new punt stop on the river Cherwell at Marston Hamm, which allows boaters to access Oxford Preservation Trust’s beautiful meadows for picnics and walks. Supported with funds from Grundon Waste Management through the Landfill Communities Fund, this project is very much about improving access to some of the wild places within Oxford City.

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A tempting home for swifts?

This eyecatching swift in University Parks in Oxford is a fine sculpture, but it also provides bespoke nest boxes to tempt swifts to nest here. The swift tower was created as part of the RSPB’s two-year Swift City Project which has increased awareness of our endangered swift population, encouraged better swift recording and also ensured that more swift nest boxes are installed around the city. TOE was delighted to provide a grant towards the swift tower with funds from Grundon Waste Management. We do hope that swifts will like it too!

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Incredible Edible Hooky - local food for local people

One of the cornerstones of the "Incredible Edible" philosophy is to create more resilent communities by encouraging local communities to grow more food.  The Hook Norton group has created "incredible beds" on unused, unloved bits of land with the intention of growing fruit, vegetables and herbs for members of the local community to help themselves to.  A TOE grant funded by Grundon supported the creation of the beds, which one year on are well cared for by Incredible volunteers, and looking very productive. TOE would welcome enquiries from other local food groups for similar projects to encourage communities to get involved with growing food.  



Village Connections

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The excellent work of the South Chilterns Path Maintnenance Volunteers (SCPMV) continues, improving local rights of way in their area of the Chilterns.  Their latest project in Berrick Salome Parish has improved access between the village and neighbouring communities by replacing stiles with gates. TOE welcomes funding applications from projects that improve access to local green spaces and encourage more people to walk rather than take the car. 

New website launched

TOE's new website has gone live today. We've changed our name slightly, having dropped the '2' from TOE2, but most of the content otherwise remains the same. We just wanted to make it feel a bit more up to date and easier to find key information. 

Please feel free to post comments with feedback and suggestions.

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From the Wildlife Trusts' website:


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