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Appreciating the web of interdependence

When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the universe”. The words of John Muir, Scottish naturalist and famous for his writing about Yosemite, USA, resonated in my mind, as both CEA Directors joined a guided walk in Wytham Woods, Oxford, September 2012.  The woods, still verdant and alive with bird song, are an area of ancient semi-natural woodland, owned by the University of Oxford, and used for environmental research.

Led by Nigel Fisher, the Conservator, over 80 people enjoyed a glimpse behind the scenes, heard about the long-term bird and badger research, and now, over the last eighteen years, the increasing amount of valuable data being gathered linked to climate change.

Also known as the Woods of Hazel, the land was bequeathed by a family to remember their daughter, and it has become one of the most highly monitored ecological sites in the world. This might give a sense of lots of intrusive equipment and people on site but this wasn’t apparent from the walk. The numbered trees, the painted posts and monitoring stations fade into the background against the knowledge that these studies are gathering vital data. Time and time again we heard about the interdependent links co-existing between the plants, invertebrates, animals, birds and the underlying geology that makes Wytham Woods what it is. We also came to appreciate how weakening of just one part of the ecosystem often has long-term knock-on implications throughout the chain.  Yet, progress in reducing an impact or re-instating a habitat takes many years.

The event was part of the annual Open Doors weekend.  More information about Wytham Woods, including access and walking permits, can be found at

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