History of Milham Ford Nature Park



Where does the name 'Milham Ford' come from?

In the 1890s Milham Ford School began as a private nursery in Iffley Road. When it moved to Cowley Place, it took the name of a nearby crossing over the River Cherwell (information from Oxford Mail).  It became a grammar school in 1944 and a girls' school in 1974.

In February 2003 Oxford Brookes University bought the former Milham Ford Girls' School from Oxfordshire County Council to house its School of Health & Social Care (now one department of the university's Faculty of Health & Life Sciences), but the green area in front of the school was not included in the sale. 


Dr Curt Lamberth beside one of the drains
In the rear, the Berkley Homes housing development is to the right of the former school building


Largely as a result of local pressure, notably from Dr Curt Lamberth and Dr Judy Webb of the New Marston Wildlife Group, in 2008 Oxford City Council  negotiated a 40-year lease on the land, which is owned by the County Council, and agreed to its being conserved as a public park.  Furthermore, it officially designated the members of the wildlife group as 'Friends of Milham Ford Park' and invited them to take an active part in the management. 

In 2006 part of land to the south of the school itself was sold by Oxford Brookes to Berkeley Homes for development and the buildings on it were demolished. (The three-part sun-dial sculpture, Helios, was moved to a new site.) This development could have caused a problem for the conservation of the wild flowers (particularly the bee orchids), which had been growing in the grounds for many years.  Nutrient-poor soil is essential for their survival and this had been achieved by spring water from the Beckley Sands of Headington Hill percolating downhill through the upper two metres of the soil.  To prevent the loss of this water to the green area, instead of being routed away from the new housing via storm water drains, it is now collected in a
French drain at the top of the site, above the development, and piped around the new housing, following the line of the old school front drive and forming part of a sustainable drainage system.

At a point near the Harberton Mead entrance, both the spring water from Headington Hill and (piped separately) surface run-off from the new development and what is now Oxford Brookes School of Health & Social Care is brought to the surface to form a meandering brook and two pond areas. 

New Marston Wildlife Group members transferring plants from the old pond to the new ponds -
18 April 2009


These ponds act as temporary holding tanks, helping to prevent flooding from surface water in the lower parts of New Marston.  In periods of very heavy rain, once the water in the ponds reaches a predetermined level, any excess water is taken off by storm-water drains near the Marston Road border,  which were newly installed at the time the ponds were created.


The tennis courts were removed to enable the stream and ponds to be built.  When the Berkeley Homes sales cabin was dismantled, the soil that was excavated from its foundations was retained and later replaced.  It was expected that seeds of the native species in that soil would germinate.  Unfortunately only tougher plants, such as docks, have grown here since.


For further information on the stream and ponds: click here


For information on the activities of the New Marston Wildlife Group, both in the park and elsewhere, click here