Friday, 21 December 2018

2018 Highlights

2018 has been a busy year.. here are some of the highlights

Nature Conservation and Land Management
Annual maintenance at Standlake Common and Rushy Common Nature Reserves including reed clearance, coppicing, mowing, fence repairs and hedge cutting.
Two new Barn Owl nest boxes installed at Standlake Common, supported by Linear Fisheries and SSEN.
Fish and Amphibian eDNA survey carried out at Rushy Common.
The Wetland Bird Survey (WeBS) Report
Analysis of WeBS data for the five years up to 2016 shows that numbers of wintering Gadwall and Shoveler in the Lower Windrush Valley exceed the agreed 1% threshold for a site of national importance.  Coot are approaching the 1% threshold.
Gadwall at Standlake Common

Yellow Fish Scheme
We worked with the Environment Agency to roll out the Yellow Fish Scheme in Witney. The scheme raises awareness of pollution pathways to our rivers and yellow fish stickers are placed by drains to remind people that anything put down these drains can impact local streams and rivers.
Between March and July:
  • 58 stickers attached to drains in Witney
  • 50 businesses visited and given information
  • School visit with Henry Box
Yellow Fish sticker with the message 'Only rain down the drain'

Access to the Countryside
Windrush Path Improvement Project
Thanks to funding from TOE, Grundon Waste Management, Newland Angling Club, Standlake Parish Council and the Standlake Mosaic Trail a section of footpath near Standlake was resurfaced in November improving access for those walking the Windrush Path or accessing the bird hides at Standlake Common.
An updated interpretation panel with be installed in the new year.

Community Engagement
Friends of the Lower Windrush Valley
The Friends group was launched in early 2018 and has gone from strength to strength with now over 20 regular volunteers.
Volunteers take part in a variety of activities to support the running of the Lower Windrush Valley Project and management of our reserves.
Over 500 hours volunteered
Friends of the Lower Windrush Valley activities in 2018
  • Big Garden Birdwatch at Rushy Common
  • Guided walks and talks
  • Standlake Brownies visit to Tar Lakes
  • Ducklington Annual Parish Meeting
  • Wetland Wildlife Family Day
  • Gill Mill Quarry Tours x 3
  • Wychwood Forest Fair
  • Annual Forum
Quarry Tour at Gill Mill

Partnerships and communications
We welcomed corporate supporters Oxford Pharmagenesis in May 2018
We are updating and re-printing several of our leaflets that provide information on nature reserves, public access sites and footpaths.
We continue to use our blog, Facebook and mailing list to share news and opportunities

Tuesday, 4 December 2018

Improvements to the Windrush Path at Standlake

We are delighted to share that we recently secured funding to make some improvements to the Windrush Path between Standlake to Newbridge.
The footpath provides a key link between the village of Standlake, the Thames Path and pubs at Newbridge. It’s also part of the Standlake Mosaic Trail which is popular with visitors, particularly young families.
The footpath in December 2017
Work was completed on the footpath this week and the resurfaced section will improve access for those walking the Windrush Path or visiting the bird hides at Standlake Common Nature Reserve. A new interpretation panel at the start of the footpath in Standlake will be installed in the new year.

The resurfaced footpath
Thank you to our funders: Trust For Oxfordshire's Environment (TOE) with funding from Grundon Waste Management Ltd through the Landfill Communities Fund, Newland Angling Club, Standlake Parish Council and the Standlake Mosaic Trail fund.

Monday, 5 November 2018

Report highlights the importance of the Lower Windrush Valley for wintering wildfowl

A recent Lower Windrush Valley Project report looks at data collected by volunteers as part of the BTO Wetland Bird Survey for the five years up to 2015/16. The report finds that numbers of wintering Gadwall and Shoveler exceed the agreed 1% threshold for national importance and Coot are approaching the 1% threshold. 

Gadwall at Standlake Common (Pit 60)

There are around 60 gravel pit lakes in the Lower Windrush Valley and of these only 24 are currently counted as part of the WeBS survey. We need more volunteers to take part in the survey to get a full picture of how wetland birds are using the lakes.

If you would like to take part in the Wetland Bird Survey in the Lower Windrush area, contact the Lower Windrush Valley Project on

If you are interested in training, BTO are running a course at Farmoor Reservoir in January:
Shoveler at Standlake Common (Pit 60)

To purchase a key for the bird hides visit the Lower Windrush Valley Project website:

Thursday, 1 November 2018

Lower Windrush Valley Project Forum

Lower Windrush Valley Project Forum
Thursday 15th November
7.00pm – 8.30pm
Northmoor Village Hall

Join us at our annual gathering for an update on the project’s activities and two guest speakers.

Angling is the designated afteruse for many of the gravel pits in the Lower Windrush Valley, with a number of commercial and club fisheries operating in the area. These organisations have a key role to play in both land management and recreation in the valley. Hear more from our guest speakers:
Chris Blunt, Linear Fisheries
Ian Collins, Farmoor Fly Fishing Club

Come along to find out more about the project and meet others who live, work and volunteer in the Lower Windrush Valley. Refreshments will be provided.

For more information contact 07557 082575 or

Friday, 5 October 2018

A bird's eye view of Standlake Common

After a dry summer, water levels at Standlake Common are the lowest they have been in many years. It's the perfect time to take some aerial photographs and get a better look at the islands.

The East shore and Langley's Lane bird hide.
Water levels are around 25cm lower than they were during Summer and Autumn 2016 and 2017. As we can see in the photographs, the lower water levels expose more islands and gravel shoreline.
While water levels are low we can walk across to several of the islands, making it easier to carry out vegetation removal - an added bonus!

Standlake Common Nature Reserve facing West towards Shifford. You can see the River Thames meandering along the South of the reserve.

Monday, 25 June 2018

Exploring Gill Mill Quarry

Saturday saw some fantastic weather and a good turnout for our quarry tour at Gill Mill, organised by LWVP, Oxfordshire Geology Trust and Smiths Bletchington.

The quarry was opened in 1989 and lies within the Lower Windrush Valley, covering an area of 184 hectares.
Our visit started with an introduction at the quarry office, after which we headed to the main extraction area to the North of the site.

Gravel face inside the current working area
Bill talks about the geology of the area and how the gravels were formed

We then visited the processing plant where the material dug during extraction is washed and sorted in to different sizes. The plant at Gill Mill produces up to 400,000 tonnes of product a year.

The view from the top of the processing plant

After extraction takes place, each phase of the workings is restored in line with the scheme agreed as part of the planning permission. A large proportion of the area currently being dug will be restored to reedbed and wet woodland for nature conservation but there will also be open water for recreation and around 11km of new footpaths and bridleways.
The next section of the tour took us to two of the restored sites, Rushy Common Nature Reserve and Tar Lakes.

Lucy talks to the group about the restoration and management of Tar Lakes
The bird hide at Rushy Common

Finally, we rounded off our visit with a trip to the recycling plant and a team photo.

Wednesday, 16 May 2018

Yellow Fish spotted in Witney

Yellow Fish spotted in Witney!
Don’t worry, these aren’t real fish, but stickers used to raise awareness about water pollution.

We’re working with the Environment Agency on a campaign in Witney which involves putting stickers featuring yellow fish and the message ‘Only Rain Down the Drain’ next to surface water drains that go straight to local streams and rivers.
The aim is to remind people that what they put down the drain has an effect on the local river system and wildlife.
We’ve already been out around the Station Lane area, attaching stickers and speaking with local business and residents to raise awareness about water pollution.

The ‘Yellow fish’ initiative was developed by the Environment Agency and is being implemented by local groups with an interest in the environment across the country.
For further information:

Tuesday, 13 February 2018

New homes for Barn Owls

Yesterday we installed two brand new Barn Owl nest boxes at Standlake Common Nature Reserve. These boxes will replace two that were installed over 10 years ago and were beginning to show their age.

One of the old nest boxes
Scottish and Southern Electricity Networks engineers installing one of the new boxes... the weather was kind to us!
The new box is in place!
The boxes at the reserve have been used frequently over the years with 12 owlets recorded by a local Barn Owl group.

A record clutch of 10 eggs in 2014
Two young Barn Owls

This work was kindly supported by Linear Fisheries who funded the new boxes and Scottish & Southern Electricity Networks whose engineers carried out the installation.

Monday, 29 January 2018

Rushy Common Birdwatch

On the 28th of January, we opened up the hide at Rushy Common to participate in the RSPB’s Big Garden Birdwatch by counting the total number of each bird species we saw in 1 hour.  

During our hour long count we spotted 19 different species and 167 individual birds.

Of our 18 birdwatchers, it was great to see a mix of regular visitors and those who had never visited the reserve before.  

Here are the full results:
Blue tit
Canada goose
Carrion crow
Coal tit
Great crested grebe
Great tit
Greylag goose
Lesser black-backed gull
Long-tailed tit
Tufted duck


Friday, 5 January 2018

RSPB’s Big Garden Birdwatch at Rushy Common

Come and join us as we throw open the doors of the hide at Rushy Common nature reserve to participate in the RSPB’s annual Big Garden Birdwatch. For one hour we’ll count the total number of each species we see. The data will help identify not only the species using the site but will help establish trends and determine just how the birds and wildlife are doing.

You’ll also be able to learn more about the Lower Windrush Valley Project and the new ‘Friends’ group. New and inexperienced birders especially welcome. Be part of the world’s largest wildlife survey and help count the wildlife that’s counting on us!

Date: Sunday 28th January 2018
Time: 12-1pm
Location: Rushy Common Nature Reserve Bird Hide, Tar Road, South of Witney

More Information: