December: Catching Oxford's Winter afternoon Light…

December: Catching Oxford's Winter afternoon Light…

We wanted snow, not rain, at Christmas, pelting down to try to dampen our moods as well as our boots, with no time to stop and chat, as we dash from door to door huddled beneath umbrellas. And then the sun comes out, warm winter light catching the ancient stones of All Saints in the High, the Christmas lights strung across the street no competition for its brilliance. The mood changes, we smile and chat and offer Christmas cheer to strangers, heading home to dry off and wondering if it really matters if we’ve forgotten something. As by the time you read this it will all be over, with Christmas Day come and gone, food eaten, bottles empty and presents given. 

It continues to rain, and as we close our offices for the last time to go home to family and friends, we do so knowing that our flood meadows know no working hours, and will be there day and night doing as nature intended and helping to keep our feet and our houses dry, or as much as nature can. 

Alongside these, our nature reserves and all our green spaces will also be there for everyone to enjoy, open 24 hours a day 365 days a year. And as now is the time when desks sit empty and emails go slow, and there is a little more time to relax I’d like to encourage you to go for a walk.  

This year we have been talking with partners across the NHS, Doctors surgeries and communities, about the benefits that our green spaces can bring to people’s health and wellbeing, and how we can add more value and get better at sharing and working across the parties. It is nothing new to think of our land for the benefit of the health of Oxford residents, as it lies at the very heart of the conservation movement in the 1920s, and the idea of our land being the ‘green lungs’ of the city at a time when many people’s living conditions were often unsatisfactory. The importance of developing well was never more on my mind than at the final day of Local Plan examination in the week leading up to Christmas. The Plan will guide development in the city for the next 25 years which includes more housing and the need to put as much on a site as possible as such sites are in short supply. This will all need careful planning, of course, if good healthy places are to be built, and there is to be an open spaces strategy alongside. It is good to know that our own green spaces will be there, and I ponder at just how precious and crucial they will be for the wellbeing of the Oxford of the future.     

This Christmas I invite you to get out there and to share in the green spaces which we have been looking after all year round for you to enjoy. The office may be closed but the website is up and running and we have recently redesigned our walks to make them more family friendly and fun for everyone. I hope you enjoy them.   

And if heading to town is more your thing, then look at our pavements as if they are made of gold, where great men and women have walked, and layers of history are caught up in the stones. And let me unlock a little of this for you, by encouraging you to find our Oxford Heritage Walk Books, at Blackwell’s or the Castle, assuming they did not make it to your Christmas stocking. These little books will take you on an intimate and charming journey through the streets of a City that you may know, but which will always surprise and delight. Happy New Year.