Florence Park, Oxford
This project was founded by a partnership led by People Place and Participation Ltd, a social enterprise and charitable Community Benefit Society that took on a decommissioned children’s centre in the heart of the park and in 2018 turned it into a thriving community hub - Flo's the Place in the Park. The centre houses a nursery, cafe, shop and health centre. For more information about the team of partners involved with setting up Naturescape - click here.
What is the site like now?
Our site is currently more like a small field than a forest or a garden! We have two magnificent Horse chestnuts on the boundary of the park, part of an extensive avenue planted when the park was built in 1934. We will plant trees and new hedges– wild fruit trees, Field maples and fruit bushes – but we need to introduce natural elements for play much more quickly whilst the trees grow.
Our plan is to create a series of 'rooms' in a species rich grass area, using mixed native hedging and insect friendly dry hedging, a 'water room' for our pond, a 'fire room' for a fire pit and gathering circle, an 'air room' for grasses and wind feature and an 'earth room' for play with logs, rocks and a mud kitchen. a meadow can house paths and dens, to cut dens and nooks into the mature hornbeam hedging, create a hillock and a pond. A sensory path will meander through the centre of the plot. We will create create a journey of exploration of the environment using activities throughout the year, including foraging, planting, wildlife observation and creative play.
It will be an exploratory space with the emphasis on planting wild flowers and edible foraging.
It will be located within and integral to a much loved urban park and support a culturally diverse community with both economic and social disadvantage and thriving entrepreneurial spirit.
It will also support ecological diversity with rainwater harvesting, native hedging, bee and insect-friendly planting, and of course the pond
It will be stewarded by programmes to support communication, social cohesion, increase confidence and reduce anxiety.
It will be a dog free area as this has been requested by many families – particularly from some communities who have told us that the number of dogs in the main park puts them off using the park or letting children run free there.
Insect and bee friendly planting and the pond will encourage biodiversity on the site and fulfil a crucial role in creating an ecosystem.
We have talked to users of the park, the council, local community leaders and outdoor play specialists in our area, and our design is based on their needs and intentions. The daycare nursery at Flo’s for 2 to 5 year olds, would like to use Naturescape at least twice a week. Others in the area would work with groups of older children from all our surrounding schools and youth groups. The local Dad’s group would also use it weekly. Naturescape will be fenced and gated, but still available for use by anybody in the community at times when not booked by community groups.
We are very grateful for the support and funding received from The National Lottery, Oxford City Council, Trust for Oxfordshire Environment and The Nature Effect CIC. A big thank you to Joy Weideman for her fantastic logo design and support.