Burgess Field was the City Council open landfill site until the early 1980s, which explains why it stands noticeably higher than the neighbouring Trap Grounds allotments and Port Meadow itself. When it was closed, a clay cap was put in place and the area was roughly landscaped and partially planted with trees and hedges in the 1990s by volunteers led by Anthony Roberts, Head of Parks Services at Oxford City Council. The trees were carefully chosen to encourage wildlife, have since flourished, and now form the tall hedges that in 2019 we have started to lay to provide better cover for nesting birds. Many thanks to Adrian Arbib for permission to use his photos.
Images © Adrian Arbib
Burgess Field was then largely left to grow and mature undisturbed, although the main paths have been kept mown and the hedges occasionally trimmed. It is now a delightful, open green space, and a magnet for walkers, with or without their dogs, joggers and nature lovers.
The Friends of Burgess Field group was formed in January 2018 to try, in conjunction with the City Council, to care rather better for this precious green space. That year the City Council planted a couple of thousand native trees along the eastern border, which are now growing well. The hedges have mostly bottomed out, are too thin to provide adequate cover for nesting birds, and scrub is spreading rapidly on the grassland areas. We hold regular work parties to tackle these issues, removing scrub, and starting to lay some of the hedges. We have also planted bulbs and honeysuckle, are trying to establish a wildflower meadow, and have planted further trees and removed vast quantities of litter. This is all done by volunteers, funded by donations from the Friends of Burgess Field.
It's not clear how Burgess Field's name originated, but the most likely is that on the completion of the Godstow Nunnery buildings (1148) the Burgesses endowed the Abbey with land on the east side of Port Meadow.