Getting Back to business after another success at this year’s Oxford Open Doors

Getting Back to business after another success at this year’s Oxford Open Doors

We were delighted to see so many local people join us for our Oxford Open Doors weekend 9/10 September, when hidden spaces opened their doors to invite you in.  25,000 + people came and with over 3,000 visiting us in Cornmarket and in the Painted Room so we had a great time too. Thank you to everyone who took part, the venues and to all our volunteers.

We work hard to keep the weekend free, and can only do this thanks to our members and supporters who enjoyed their own special programme in the days leading up to the weekend. 

Please help us to keep this amazing event going - join us and become a member – see how to join at the end of this blog.

And as we say goodbye to Oxford Open Doors for another year, the OPT team is busier than ever, getting back to what we do throughout the year.   Here’s an update on some of the hot topics we are working on:

Preserving the Painted Room

In amongst the shoppers and commercial hubbub of the city, it’s easy to miss, or dismiss, what lies beyond the little doorway leading up to the bookies, Bet Fred and squashed in between Vodafone and Pret a Manger.   And as so many people discovered over the Oxford Open Doors weekend, climbing the stairs is to be transported back in time to what remains of the timber-framed 13th Crown Tavern with its original wood panelled walls, which roll back to reveal the most extraordinary vibrant Elizabethan wall paintings which lay undiscovered for over 250 years.   The Rooms have known links to William Shakespeare, who stayed here with his friends who moved from London, the vintners, John & Jane Davenant, on his journeys between London and Stratford-upon-Avon.  And in the 20th century, when the wall paintings were found, the Rooms became OPT’s home and the offices of (Sir) John Betjeman when he was OPT secretary(Director). 

Breaking news:

This month we have finally signed a formal lease of the Rooms so that we can raise the money needed to improve them.  On 18th September investigative work and pigment testing begun, in order to inform future work to stabilise the wall paintings.  We will also look at whether we should remove the sliding wooden panels which are causing damage and will allow the wall paintings to be seen more easily.

Look out for our birthday celebrations in November!

Celebrating 40 for 40

See the Oxford Times for the start of OPT’s celebration of 40 years of the OPT Awards. Known as 40 4 40 we have been doing some background research and have picked a project for each year which will appear in the Oxford over the next 5 weeks with the chance for the public to chose their favourite project – don’t forget to vote!

Oxford Flood Alleviation Channel

We have been working hard to find out more about the Flood Alleviation Channel and how and if it will work, and to understand the detail of what this channel, which cuts across the whole of the west side of the City will look like, and how it will affect the natural environment and Oxford’s precious green spaces, some of which is owned by OPT.   

We are trying hard to get our heads around the sheer scale of what is intended and want to know how it will be managed into the future.  Sadly, even the Environment Agency are now accepting that it will harm OPT’s Hinksey Meadows which have been farmed as hay meadow for hundreds of years, and which we’ve been managing in a way that has encouraged an ever increasing colony of Oxford’s iconic Snake's Head Fritillaries to appear.  We think these will be lost, but are doing our best to fight our corner. 

We are also trying to understand the full detail of what is intended at Willow Walk, the amazing rural character route into Oxford from the west, much by Oxford’s cyclists and walkers.  It appears that a very large ‘highways standard’ bridge is currently planned which will aid the flow of water underneath the causeway and will mean the loss of a lot of the trees around it - it is hard to see how the character of the leafy lane can survive. 

Ultimately the EA can compulsorily purchase any of the land, but before any of us get that far we need to keep talking.  So we work with all the partners, and continue to do our best to counter any harm.  We hope this will help to find the right balance between the harm caused to the environment and the improvement to the flooding, both of which are important.   Surely we can find a way where people in this area can continue to enjoy Oxford’s open and green spaces?

Managing the urban sprawl in Oxford

Housing numbers and building on the Green Belt are high on the agenda in the OPT office and we have never been more grateful for our ownership and control over 1000 acres of land, ensuring that it stays green and open for all.  OPT has the historic environment and Oxford’s green setting at the core of our aims and we have been working hard making detailed comments of the recent Local Plans for South Oxfordshire, Oxford City and Cherwell District Councils.

“OPT has the historic environment and Oxford’s green setting at the core of our aims”

We have been long time defenders of the Kidlington Gap, with Vice President and former Trustee, Ian Scargill wrote an early publication on this in the 1980s.  We will continue to champion this area which is now under threat as Cherwell’s Plan includes this Green Belt area around Oxford Parkway Station and the North Oxford Golf Course as suitable for development, something with which we don’t agree.

Within the City we continue to take a lead in protecting the Oxford views and have been much exercised by the City Council’s suggestion that planning controls on high buildings and restricted heights should be relaxed and higher buildings encouraged, albeit with some controls over the quality of the designs.  We are meeting with the City and Historic England, who were our partners on the Oxford View Cones Study 2015 which looked at views into the city from the surrounding hills, those ‘Dreaming Spires’.   We are hopeful that a second phase of this work can now happen in time to inform the Local Plan, and intended to understand and manage the views looking and out and across from high buildings in the city itself.   We will also be encouraging everyone to think about what views matter to Oxford residents too.  Do you have a favourite view? 

This gives you just a flavour of the vital work that OPT does to look after Oxford.  None of this is possible without our members or our donors

There’s never been a better time to join OPT

Our members are vital to us. Please help us to continue our crucial work and become a member.

There are a host of great benefits:

  • Get your own copy of the Oxford Open Doors brochure delivered to your door in advance of the event, with a host of special member only events.
  • Free year-round access to the Castle Mound and Oxford Castle visitor attraction.
  • 10% discount at the Castle Gift Shop.
  • 10% discount in the newly refurbished Castleyard Café.
  • 15% discount at the Victoria Arms Pub on the banks of the Cherwell at Old Marston – famed for its literary links and Morse/Lewis connections.
  • A varied programme of annual activities including lectures, visits and walks in town and country.
  • Volunteer opportunities.
  • Regular e-newsletters & twice-yearly newsletters.

Becoming a member is easy. Join:

Oxford's Dreaming Spires: Credit for the beautiful photograph from C Andrews