Best known as one of Oxfordshire’s finest golf clubs, Frilford Heath Golf Club now has another award to its name: Outstanding Environmental Project of the Year 2017, proving that recreation and nature can work together hand in hand.
The award, which is one of the categories under the 2017 Golf Environment Awards (GEA), was announced at the Hotel Du Vin, Harrogate, in a ceremony hosted by the Sports Turf Research Institute (STRI) Group last month.
Frilford Heath lies within Frilford Heath, Ponds and Fens Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI). It is a unique habitat for Oxfordshire, designated for its acid grassland, heathland mosaic and rare calcareous fen habitat, alongside the invertebrates and fen plants that live there. With the help of an agri-environment Higher Level Stewardship grant, Frilford Heath Golf Club amazed the judging panel with their extensive fen restoration works at Boundary House Fen, a result of true determination. Neglected for many years, their efforts have seen the return of a number of fen indicator species including bog pimpernel which is only found at a handful of sites in Oxfordshire. In partnership with Natural England, and with the help of Abingdon Green Gym volunteers, the green-keeping team have worked to enhance this nationally important habitat for the future of the SSSI.
Speaking about the award, Company Chairman, Alistair Booth, said: “We are delighted to receive recognition for our work with partners by winning this award. The fen restoration is just one of a series of activities undertaken at the golf course to enhance the rare habitat. We are proud to say it has been undertaken with the support of our Greenstaff and members who have been enthused and delighted to see the increase in wildlife.”
Alison Muldal, Land Management Adviser at Natural England said: “Work underway at Frilford started in 2007. It has taken time, but the progress we see now is heart-warming and shows what can be achieved with determination and partnership working. I am delighted to see the improvement to the SSSI and particularly the way in which Frilford Heath Golf Club management, Greenstaff, and members have embraced the environmental management plan. It’s fantastic when golfers come over to chat to me about wildflowers, fungi, birds, insects or mammals they have seen while playing a round of golf.”
Sophie Vukelic, Ecology and Environment Consultant at the Sports Turf Research Institute STRI Group, said: “It was evident from my first visit to Frilford Heath Golf Club that they would be in the running for Outstanding Environmental Project of the Year 2017. The collaborative team’s sheer effort and determination to transform what was a neglected and unloved area into a wildlife haven has been truly inspirational. Frilford Heath really is a fine example of how wildlife and golf can work hand-in-hand”.