Oxfordshire's wetlands celebrated in special event at Hinksey Heights

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Over the past 20 years many of Oxfordshire’s wetland habitats have declined or even disappeared, due to threats like pollution, drainage and housebuilding.

The Freshwater Habitats Trust is trying to turn the tide on this worrying trend, and organised a day of exploration, learning and fun at one the county’s wetlands - Hinksey Heights near Oxford.

The Big Nature Day featured wetland-inspired activities and arts events for people of all ages, including pond dipping, bug house building and guided walks.

Visitors were also able to join workshops with professional dancers and choreographers Helen Edwards and Elizabeth Spight.

Freshwater Habitats Trust organised the outdoor event to celebrate its GroWet project, which has involved people across Oxfordshire nurturing rare wetland plants at home and in community centres over the summer. This autumn, the Oxford-based national conservation charity will move the plants to their natural habitats in Oxfordshire's wild ponds and wetlands.

The Freshwater Habitats Trust is working with the landowner of Hinksey Heights to improve access by laying paths

The Big Nature Day was an opportunity to explore Hinksey Heights Nature Trail and find out about volunteering with Freshwater Habitats Trust.

With the help of volunteers, the charity is now restoring one-and-a-half hectares of fen and introducing rare fen plants to the site.

Freshwater Habitats Trust Community Engagement Officer Lizzie Every said: "We've been running a successful series of events in and around Oxford throughout the GroWet project but wanted to do something really big for the local community this August bank holiday.

"The Big Nature Day is a true celebration of GroWet and of Oxfordshire's wetlands. We've organised activities for nature-lovers big and small -  from pond dipping to contemporary dance. We can't wait to welcome people to Hinksey Heights to celebrate Oxfordshire's exceptional freshwater habitats with the local community."The Big Nature Day also celebrates the successful rebuilding of the nature trail by a team of dedicated volunteers, over two years. This has involved laying down new limestone paths and boardwalks across the entire 2.5km of pathways.

GroWet is part of Freshwater Habitats Trust's Building Oxfordshire's Freshwater Network project. This major initiative marks the beginning of the charity's new approach to protecting and restoring freshwater habitats by building the Freshwater Network.

It is funded through the Government's Green Recovery Challenge Fund and supported by the National Trust, Oxford Botanic Garden, People-in-Action, River Thame Conservation Trust, Thames Valley Wildflower Meadow Restoration Project and Thames Water.