Earth Trust

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Founded in 1967, Earth Trust, is an environmental learning charity (not-for-profit organisation) which was originally known as the Northmoor Trust for Countryside Conservation.[1] Earth Trust was established by the British engineer Sir Martin Wood to promote environmental conservation through land management, education, and land science. It is a registered charity under English law.[2]

Earth Trust is based in Little Wittenham, where it owns and manages a 500 hectare (1235 acre) estate, which includes Wittenham Clumps, a conservation farm, Little Wittenham Nature Reserve, a national research woodland (Paradise Wood) and a newly created wetland on the banks of the Thames (River of Life).

From the early 1990s, Earth Trust focused on strengthening their education, research, and agricultural programmes[3] and played a pioneering role in developing agri-environment schemes.[4] The current Farm Step initiative allows start-up green businesses to get on the ladder by offering land with favourable tenancy agreement terms and the opportunity to work alongside other like-minded entrepreneurs. Farm Step businesses are currently producing lamb, pork, goats' cheese, salad and honey.

In 2006, Earth Trust completed a move to volunteer-constructed, environmentally friendly offices at Hill Farm and opened a landscape evolution centre known as Project Timescape; the project ended and the Earth Trust Centre is now used as an educational base for visiting school and community groups and during Earth Trust events. The Earth School programme offers a wide variety of workshops for pupils on school trips.

In 2009, Earth Trust came into a management position of Thrupp Lake, located in Radley, which is owned by RWE nPower. A wetland site, it is one of England’s bird sites.[5] In addition, Earth Trust manage a number of community meadows in the nearby towns of Abingdon, Didcot and Wallingford.

Earth Trust hosts a full programme of events each year, including countryside management courses, taster workshops and family festivals. They are best known for their Lambing Weekends in spring, which were attended by over 8,000 people in 2016.[6]

Earth Trust relies on the support of volunteers who carry out a range of tasks, including habitat management on their nature reserves, administration in the office, and support during education sessions and events. In 2016 the hard work of the Earth Trust Volunteers was recognised when they received The Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service – the MBE for volunteer groups.[7]


Little Wittenham[edit]

Round Hill at Wittenham Clumps.
  • Earth Trust Centre - Located at the base of the Wittenham Clumps, the Earth Trust Centre comprises the office, learning barn (formerly Project Timescape) and Fison Barn, which is hired out for weddings, parties and corporate events.
  • Wittenham Clumps - Wittenham Clumps is actually two locations, Castle Hill and Round Hill. The two hilltops are known to be the two oldest planted hilltop beeches in England, dating back over 300 years. It is also known by several names such as Berkshire Bubs, due to the fact that it once was a part of Berkshire, and Mother Dunch’s Buttocks, referring to a lady of the Dunch family who owned Little Wittenham Manor in the 17th century. They are also known as the Sinodun Hills. Wittenham Clumps and Little Wittenham Nature Reserve are the most visited free site in Oxfordshire.
  • Little Wittenham Wood - Located in the area of North Wessex Downs, Little Wittenham Wood is a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) due to the large breeding population of great crested newts that live in the ponds and a Special Area of Conservation (SAC).
  • Broad Arboretum - Planted in 1998, the Broad Arboretum features every species of fauna native to Oxfordshire along with recent introductions such as walnut, sycamore and chestnut.
  • Neptune Wood - Neptune Wood was planted to honour the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Trafalgar. Thousands of oak trees were planted in this area to replace the countless number of trees that were used to build the ships. Specifically, Lord Nelson's flagship was made out of approximately 5,000 oak trees, while the 27-ship fleet had used over 50,000 trees.
  • Paradise Wood - Paradise Wood is a national research woodland that is the largest collection of hardwood timber trials in the country. It consists of around 60,000 hardwood trees and the research is helping Earth Trust champion a new sustainable model for our trees and forests - integrated management which balances their value for amenity and for wildlife, as well as for economic, sustainable timber production.
  • River of Life - In 2010 Earth Trust acquired 35 hectares of land next to the River Thames. As well as adding 2.5 km of Thames frontage to the Earth Trust portfolio, this land provided a golden opportunity to create a unique wetland landscape. River of Life is an ambitious project that will ‘re-wild’ this stretch of the Thames. With support from the Environment Agency, in 2013-14 new backwaters and ponds were dug, and reedbeds, wet woodland and wildflower meadows planted. In June 2014 River of Life was the joint winner of the Best Practice Award for Practical Nature Conservation at the Chartered Institute of Ecology and Environmental Management (CIEEM) Awards.[8]


  • Wallingford Castle - Now in ruins, the castle was known to be one of the greatest medieval castles located in England. In 1066, William the Conqueror and his army crossed into the Thames at Wallingford and ordered the building of the castle. Castle Meadows today is home to important wildlife habitats and is a much-loved community greenspace. Earth Trust manage the site on behalf of South Oxfordshire District Council.
  • Riverside Meadows - Riverside land located alongside the Thames River in Wallingford. It is considered to be a rare and threatened habitat and Earth Trust is working to restore the wildflower meadows. Riverside Meadows can be enjoyed during the summer months when the meadows are ablaze with fields of oxeye daisy, common knapweed and bird’s-foot trefoil. Earth Trust manage the site on behalf of South Oxfordshire District Council.


  • Mowbray Fields - Earth Trust manage this local nature reserve in Didcot on behalf of South Oxfordshire District Council. It is home to the common spotted and southern marsh orchids.
  • Thrupp Lake - Thrupp Lake, part of the Radley Lake complex, is located in the village of Radley on the edge of Abingdon and is a man-made lake owned by RWE npower and managed by Earth Trust. Radley Lakes were the subject of a community campaign to save them from being filled in (2005-8).[9] In 2015 Earth Trust was awarded the management contract for some of the surrounding former lakes.
  • Abbey Fishponds - Earth Trust took over the management of this community nature reserve in Abingdon in July 2014. It was once thought the site housed fishponds for the Abbey, hence the name, but more recent archaeological work suggests this was not the case. The site is also known as Daisy Bank. Earth Trust manage the site on behalf of Vale of White Horse District Council.

Earth Trust Events[edit]

Earth Trust host many events throughout the year that aim to get people out enjoying the countryside, from family festivals to bushcraft courses. The majority are held at their flagship site in Little Wittenham with a small number taking place on the nearby community nature reserves that the charity manages.[10]

See also[edit]


External links[edit]