AN OPEN day in one of Oxford's ecological 'gems' was an ideal opportunity for children to engage with the natural world.

The Friends of Lye Valley, a group that looks after the 8,000 year old internationally rare habitat, invited families to the Headington site on Sunday for guided walks, talks, den building, bug identification, scythe demonstrations and more.

Despite some showers, the day proved an ideal opportunity for youngsters to learn more about nature while having some fun.

Ecologist and science teacher Roger Baker, of Headington, was out with his son, seven-year-old Rowan, daughter Lucy, four, and his in-laws Graham and Lesley Wilkinson.

Mr Baker described the area as a ‘little gem’ off the Oxford ring road and emphasised the importance of teaching the younger generation about nature and wildlife.

He said: “Rowan really liked looking at the water bugs they had there, and he also enjoyed the den building.

“It’s really important to me that children get the opportunity to go outdoors and see what it is we need to look after, because there’s a danger that if they don’t appreciate it for themselves they aren’t going to protect it in the future.

“It’s really quite a special place and it only exists in part thanks to the volunteers who go down there and maintain it.”

Anna Bishop, 42, enjoyed a day out in the valley with her eight-year-old son Kenneth.

The maths teacher from Headington, who is taking a Beaver group to the area on Thursday, used the open day as an opportunity to learn more about the environment, while Kenneth had fun building a den and getting close to wildlife.

She said: “He’s really enjoyed building a wigwam den. It was fantastic. They also had some nets where you could catch butterflies and grasshoppers and other bugs. And somebody had done some pond dipping so he had the chance to see some frogs and tadpoles.

“I think it’s really important that children engage with nature and it’s right on our doorstep.

“I’ve enjoyed it too – I had a good reccy and a nice walk. I’m a lot more knowledgeable about the area now.”

For more on the Friends of Lye Valley visit