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The Christopher Lewis Fund for the Meadow

Preserving our surroundings for future generations

There is more to a Christ Church education than just reading for a degree. The historic fabric, the Cathedral, sport, music, and the many other areas of college life combine in a unique way at the House, to make for a transformative education for our students. Christ Church would not be the same without the buildings, gardens, and Meadow that make the living environment here so beautiful.

All of Christ Church’s gardens and Christ Church Meadow lie within the Grade 1 landscape, and donations to the Gardens and Grounds Fund allows us to protect and nurture these assets. Only 9% of over 1600 sites in the UK are classified as Grade I and are deemed to be of exceptional interest, and as an early example of ornamental walks, quadrangles and garden spaces, our grounds are of the highest historical significance.


Managing and enhancing Christ Church Meadow, in perpetuity

Christ Church would not be the same without the vibrant surroundings that make the living environment here so beautiful. We have the great fortune of being custodian of Christ Church Meadow, a place beloved by so many alumni and friends of the House, and the Christopher Lewis Fund will allow us to manage and enhance the Meadow in perpetuity.

The 46-acre open space is a Grade 1 listed landscape, designating the area as being of “exceptional interest”. Of the 1,600 sites included in the English Heritage Register of Historic Parks and Gardens of Special Historic Interest in England, only 9% are classified as Grade 1. 

The majority of the Meadow was gifted to Frideswide Priory by Lady Elizabeth Montecute in 1346, with the Priory later closed on the orders of Cardinal Wolsey for it to become the chapel of Cardinal College (later Christ Church Cathedral). The Meadow has remained more or less unchanged since medieval times. 

Christ Church Meadow provides an attraction and a sanctuary for up to 1 million people a year who enjoy rus in urbis during daylight hours 364 days a year which is free of charge. The Meadow is home to many protected animal species, including bats, badgers, water vole, otter, reptiles and amphibians including the smooth newt, in addition to notable invertebrate and bird species. The lush grass is grazed by the college’s herd of Longhorn cattle, which over-winters in Binsey on a Christ Church farm.

Christ Church has the responsibility to conserve and manage Christ Church Meadow. The management strategy for the Meadow is that the site is enhanced and managed for nature conservation, accommodating recreational access in a sensitive manner.

The maintenance programme for much of the Meadow has been changed in recent years from highly groomed weekly mowing and strimming, to a once or twice a year mow. This has given a much softer and wilder appearance and has led to the reappearance of many species that we thought had disappeared including wild orchids such as Common Spotted, Pyramidal and Bee Orchids. 

Restoration work has been helped by the use of ‘green hay’ harvested from a species-rich ancient floodplain meadow just outside Oxford. This provides a source of seeds of important species which have been lost, including yellow rattle, great burnet, bedstraws and ragged robin. The hay is spread in a thin layer across previously cultivated areas on Christ Church meadow. 

Some areas have also been sown with various wildflower seed mixes appropriate to the location, such as cowslips, red campion and meadow cranesbill. We are also planting around 15,000 native wild bulbs in these areas too every year including snowdrops, wild daffodils, bluebells, wild tulips and snakes head fritillaries. 

The work is undertaken by a team of gardeners, led by Head Gardener John James, with external agencies brought in from time to time to undertake survey work or support strategy development. We also employ two Meadow men whose role is to keep the Meadow clear of litter and to ensure security. 

The costs of maintaining and enhancing the Meadow are just over £200,000 per year, 60% of which is spent on staff costs. Despite the importance of the Meadow as a historic asset and as a site for visitors and wildlife, there has never been a dedicated endowment fund to cover or contribute to the costs.

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