What we do
Nature in West Oxfordshire is under pressure like never before. Our mission is to change that.
We work with local communities to protect and restore the spaces once part of the historic Wychwood Forest—120 square miles and 41 parishes of today's West Oxfordshire. We also run projects promoting the Wychwood's unique cultural identity and helping people learn traditional rural skills and crafts.
Restoring habitats doesn't just mean conserving what's already there. We acquire land considered degraded and give it the space it needs to become a nature reserve of tomorrow.
Our wide array of events—from rural skills courses to tree-planting sessions with schoolchildren, regular volunteering opportunities to a bustling annual Forest Fair—engage diverse local groups with the natural world around them.
Where we come from
Our charity was born from local people's passion for our very special Wychwood landscape.
In the 1990s, Alan Spicer was offered a sabbatical. A micro-biologist with a fascination for the then-budding field of environmental studies, he decided to use this time to study the flora growing at the base of hedgerows in the Wychwood area.
To his surprise, he discovered that he could accurately map the boundaries of the ancient Wychwood by analysing the flora growing today.
Inspired by this, Alan contacted the then-County Forester Eric Dougliss about starting a project to restore habitats in the ancient Wychwood. Eric put him in touch with Shipton-based solicitor Charles Keighley, who had much the same idea, and after hours of discussion one Monday morning the Wychwood Project was born.
Alan and Charles presented the Project to the Oxfordshire Nature Conservation Forum, who were supportive of their aims. The Project garnered the support of the Countryside Agency, West Oxfordshire District Council, the Oxfordshire Woodland Project, the Esmée Fairburn Trust and the Oxfordshire County Council, who hosted and part-funded the Project.
In its early years, the Wychwood Project focussed on supporting community conservation initiatives, including the creation of community-owned woods in places like Leafield, Shipton-under-Wychwood, Charlbury, and Hailey. In 2009, using funds raised from successive Wychwood Fairs, the Project purchased Foxburrow Wood in Witney.
For years, the Wychwood Project had been supported by another grass-roots local charity, the 'Friends of Wychwood'. The two formally merged in 2011 as the Wychwood Project became strong enough to function independently from the county council.
A decade on, in 2021, the Wychwood Project changed its name to become the Wychwood Forest Trust, in recognition that though projects must come to an end, our work to restore and protect habitats in the historic Wychwood area is needed indefinitely. We remain committed to supporting communities across the Wychwood with restoring biodiversity across the historic Wychwood area.
Where we work
We deliver conservation activities across the area formerly designated the Royal Hunting Forest of Wychwood. You might be surprised to learn that this includes 41 parishes and 120 square miles—much of today's West Oxfordshire! The historical term 'Forest' didn't describe a particular type of habitat but was instead a legal designation, denoting areas in which hunting rights were reserved for the sovereign. The historic Wychwood Forest would have included meadows, cultivated open fields, heaths and downs as well as woodlands.
Not everyone realises they live in the area once part of the Wychwood. Take a look at the map below to see the boundaries of the ancient Wychwood and find out if you do. Many thanks to George Williams, Mapping Solutions for the time and effort he dedicated to creating this resource.
As well as encouraging landscape regeneration, we manage a suite of nature reserves across the Wychwood area. Click the images below to find out more.