Oxford University Parks occupy about 90 acres of land and can be accessed from Parks Road or Marston. The University bought about 70 acres from Merton College in 1853 and added to it over time. The lily pond was constructed in 1925 and attracts swans, ducks, moorhens and coots. A path from the pond runs alongside the River Cherwell to High Bridge (also known as Rainbow Bridge) which was built in 1923-4 as a relief project for the unemployed. A walk over the bridge takes you through a lovely natural area, to Marston Ferry Road, thence to the Plain and into Oxford city. In the summer, the river is popular for punting.
University Parks successfully combine the functions of an arboretum with the provision of sport facilities for the university. There are more than 60 different genera of trees to be seen as well as 200 different specimens, under-planted by about half a million spring bulbs. The large expanse of grass was maintained by sheep and cattle until the introduction of mechanical mowing in 1937.
During the First World War, aeroplane hangars and a soldiers’ camp were built in the Parks, and in the Second World War the Parks were ‘dug for victory’ to provide 80 allotments.