Thursday, 9 July 2020

Walking in the Lower Windrush Valley - Spotlight on the Gill Mill Circular


We recently completed a project to improve and promote three circular walks in the Lower Windrush Valley. Today we’re putting a spotlight on one of those routes, the Gill Mill Circular Walk.


New waymarking discs signposting the route
Distance: 8 kilometres, stile free
Time: Allow at least 1 hour 45 minutes
Start and end point: Rushy Common Car Park, Grid reference SP 380 074, Postcode OX29 6UJ
The route begins at Rushy Common Nature Reserve Car Park where you start by walking towards Ducklington along two permissive bridleways.

Down Valley Way bridleway
The bridleways were opened 2015 by Smiths Bletchington as part of the Gill Mill quarry development. They link in with existing Rights of Way, as well as the Windrush Path, creating a circular route that connects Ducklington, Rushy Common Nature Reserve and Hardwick.
 
A lot of the area is currently farmed but over time the scenery from the will evolve to quarry workings, and eventually a 60 hectare reedbed and lakes created for nature conservation and recreation.
 
Before reaching Ducklington you’ll cross the western arm of the River Windrush. Keep your eyes out for Water Voles in this area as they’re often sighted from the bridge.

Water Vole on the River Windrush. Photo credit: Justin Hoffmann

View from the bridge crossing the Windrush
Once nearing Ducklington you will join the Windrush Path and follow the banks of the River Windrush south before crossing West back towards Tar Lakes and the walk’s conclusion.


The Windrush Path


Tar Lakes



Tar Lakes

 
Thank you to Smiths Bletchington for their support and maintenance of the permissive footpaths and bridleways and our funders for the project - Trust for Oxfordshire’s Environment (TOE) with funding from Grundon Waste Management Ltd through the Landfill Communities Fund.


Scarlett Tiger Moth on Windrush Path


Tuesday, 23 June 2020

Improving access and promoting circular walks in the Lower Windrush Valley


Last year, the Lower Windrush Valley Project secured funding to improve access and promote three beautiful circular walks in the Lower Windrush Valley. We have:

New kissing gate to replace stile

New route signage
The three routes have been selected because of their ease of access, beautiful scenery, proximity to local businesses and nature reserves, and links with the Windrush Path and Thames Path National Trail. There is something for everyone – the walks vary in length from 2.5km to 8km and two of the routes are now stile free.

The project was funded by Trust for Oxfordshire’s Environment (TOE) with funding from Grundon Waste Management Ltd through the Landfill Communities Fund, and additional support provided by Thames Path National Trail and the Oxfordshire County Council Rights of Way improvement budget.

We hope that the three routes will provide easy to navigate route for visitors and locals. If you’re walking in and around the Lower Windrush Valley, please remember to follow government guidelines regarding social distancing.


Tar Lakes - part of the Gill Mill circular route

Friday, 29 May 2020

Kingfisher Quest


We’re delighted to announce the launch of Kingfisher Quest, a Kingfisher survey across the Lower Windrush Valley from 1st June to 31st August. 

A copy of the survey leaflet below tells you more about the survey and how to submit your sightings. We also hope to include an event as part of the project but this will be confirmed later in the summer to ensure we adhere to government guidelines.
The project is funded by Oxfordshire County Council’s Councillor Priority Fund.


 







Tuesday, 28 April 2020

Snakeshead fritillaries of Ducklington Mead SSSI


On Sunday 19th April Ducklington Mead was due to be opened up to the public for Fritillary Sunday, an annual event where visitors can walk through the meadow and admire the Snakeshead fritillaries. Unfortunately, the event was cancelled this year but we’re sharing some photographs from previous years… we’ll have to wait until 2021 to see the real thing!

Spring 2018

Ducklington Mead lies just south of Witney and is the only meadow of its type in the Lower Windrush Valley. It is designated a SSSI (Site of Special Scientific Interest) both for its rare hay meadow plant community and its population of snakeshead fritillary.

 
Spring 2019

The rare snakeshead fritillaries at Ducklington Mead are only found on a handful of sites in the UK. They tend to be associated with meadows as they need to flower and set seed in order to survive. The traditional hay cut in early July enables this to happen; they do not survive in areas subjected to grazing in spring.

This photograph shows the meadow later in the season - Summer 2003

Wednesday, 15 April 2020

Wildlife at home



Our gardens, both small and large, can be a haven for wildlife. With people spending more time than usual at home this Spring, here are some of our suggestions to keep you busy and give wildlife a helping hand:

  • Create a small pond in an old washing up basin or large planter.


  • Create a hedgehog highway

In other words, create small openings between boundaries (fences or walls) so that Hedgehogs can move easily between gardens – ask for permission before making any holes in fences!

  • Build a Bug Hotel


It doesn’t have to be as large as this! You could even use an old plastic milk or drinks bottle with the end cut off.


  • Let your grass grow

Leave some of your lawn unmown to benefit wildflowers and insects

If you’re keen to record wildlife in your garden there are many surveys to take part in from home. Here are a few of our favourites:








Thursday, 19 March 2020

Adopt a Bird Box Scheme


The Windrush Path at Standlake has excellent foraging habitat for small passerine birds and raptors alike, with hedgerows containing berries running alongside much of the path and surrounding agricultural land and floodplain meadows for hunting small mammals. However, the trees that run alongside the path are generally young and thin, with few holes present for cavity nesting birds present due to their small size.
 
The Lower Windrush Valley Project are therefore installing bird boxes along this section of the Windrush Path. These will be a mix of high quality 32mm hole and open fronted boxes, to suit different bird species that use the nature reserve. Little owl boxes will also be installed in the area to provide nesting opportunities to this declining species.


32mm hole nest box
Open fronted nest box
We are inviting people in or around the LWVP area to ‘adopt’ the bird boxes, making a direct improvement to the habitats along the Windrush Path and support local bird populations. This is are a great way to directly support local bird populations in the area, and you will see the results by coming to see chicks that are nesting in the boxes being ringed as part of British Trust of Ornithology’s monitoring scheme.
 
Adoption of a passerine box costs £35. As part of your adoption, you will receive the following
  • Adoption certificate
  • Map of the boxes
  • Standlake Common Nature Reserve and Mosaic Trail leaflets
  • Information on your bird box, what is likely to nest in the box and about the birds at Standlake Common Nature Reserve
  • Invitation to one of two chick ringing sessions at the site, to be held in May (dates TBC and COVID-19 dependent)
  • Report on the results of the box ringing at the end of the year
 Please email lwvp@oxfordshire.gov.uk if you would like to adopt a box or would like more information about the scheme.
 
Please note that the boxes will be adopted on a first come-first served basis, so contact us soon if you would like to get involved!

Volunteer Chris Hughes putting up a bird box
Many thanks to Linear Fisheries for supporting this project.

Thursday, 27 February 2020

Bird species records from the Langley’s Lane and Rushy Common hides - 2015 to 2018


The Lower Windrush Valley Project bird hides at Rushy Common and Standlake Common Nature Reserves contain record books where visitors are encouraged to write down their wildlife sightings. The records are then transcribed to Excel and submitted to the Thames Valley Environmental Records Centre (TVERC).

LWVP volunteer, John Cobb, recently carried out analysis of bird species records from the hides at Standlake Common (Langley’s Lane) and Rushy Common. The records show some interesting trends in bird populations.

The most significant conclusions from the records are:

  • A combined total of 164 species has been observed at the two sites.
  • A significant decrease in the number of records of Grey Herons at both sites, but
  • A large increase in the number of records of Great White Egrets at both sites.
  • An apparent decrease in the number of records of Little Grebes at Rushy Common.
  • A significant (–30%) decrease in the numbers of waders recorded at Langley’s Lane, but
  • An increase (+50%) in the number of waders recorded at Rushy Common.
  • Wintering duck populations fluctuate but remain healthy.

Great White Egret at Standlake Common
The species records are submitted by visitors to the hides and therefore, to some extent, are likely to reflect the varied interests and identifications skills of the visitors. Common species are often under recorded so please remember to note down those Coots or Greylag Geese next time you visit the hide.

Next steps:

  • Use conclusions to inform future management of nature reserves
  • Complete similar analysis over a longer time period
  • Ensure records from all three hides are transcribed as quickly as possible so our data is current and…
  • Streamline the recording process to enable us to keep on top of data entry!


The Lower Windrush Valley Project bird hides are operated with a key holder scheme. If you would like to purchase a key, see our website here: https://www.oxfordshire.gov.uk/residents/environment-and-planning/countryside/lower-windrush-valley-project/buying-bird-hide-key