Freshwater Habitats Trust Oxfordshire Fens Project
Oxfordshire's calcareous, alkaline, valley-head, groundwater-fed fens
Above: Cothill Fen, 13 August 2018, photo by Judy Webb
On Sunday, 2 June 2019 Judy led a walk at Cothill Fen / Ruskin Reserve NNR
in celebration of the anniversary of the purchase of the Ruskin Reserve for the Society, negotiated by G.C. Druce and Professor Poulton in 1902 (ownership was transferred to the National Trust in 1916). Judy has been writing a history of the site.
Photos taken by Christopher Hoskin of ANHSO are available here. More photos of orchids in the fen taken by Judy are here.
It was also an opportunity for people to see how the hard work of Natural England and Abingdon Green Gym volunteers has improved the condition of this site. Reed and trees have been pushed back to restore the valuable flowery short fen, benefiting plants such as Narrow-leaved Marsh Orchid, Common Spotted Orchid, Marsh Valerian and Cotton Grass. Small Red Damselfly is the rather special feature of this reserve. In addition to the wet fen, the walk encompassed the dry Hurst Copse ancient woodland behind the fen.
The reserve’s future is uncertain due to possible routes of the Oxford-Cambridge Expressway
The Berkshire, Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire Wildlife Trust (BBOWT) has produced an excellent guide to walks in this fen area
Judy's interest in fens dates back to her PhD (completed in 1977) on the vegetation history of three alkaline fens in Scotland (now National Nature Reserves). She has studied and recorded the plants, invertebrates and fungi, as well as the water quality, of Oxfordshire alkaline fens since 2006 and is regularly contacted by the local branch of Natural England and by Oxford City Council about fen management. Her particular research interests are in Cothill Fen SAC, a site of European importance, and the Lye Valley SSSI.
These fens, which are some of the most botanically diverse habitats in England, typically occur in valleyhead and hillslope locations. They are mainly irrigated by groundwater discharge from springs and seepages, with the water table close to the surface all year round.
An excellent poster created for an event covering groundwater-dependent ecosystems held in February 2013, organised by The Geological Society, provides detailed information.
Lye Valley fens
Alkaline Fens & the Importance of the Lye Valley SSSI Fens within Oxfordshire and Nationally/Internationally, Judy Webb 2014
Photos by Judy Webb of important plant species found in these Oxfordshire fens:
Sedges and grasses
BBOWT Wild Oxford Project: fen restoration work in Chilswell Valley
Abingdon Green Gym members working at Cothill (National Nature Reserve) on 6 December 2014 - photos by Judy Webb
Meet the Soldierflies of Cothill Fens, article by Judy Webb, May 2015
2 February 2018
Judy and other volunteers from a new conservation group led by Leo Jennings of Natural England cut back trees and scrub at Cothill Fen SSSI near Abingdon as part of maintenance to stop tall plants taking over the wetland habitat. See article in The Oxford Mail, 3 Feb 2018. Although this was the first time Judy had worked under the aegis of this group, she has been involved with work at Cothill Fen for several years
Bog bean, Menyanthes trifoliata Fruits of Black Sedge, Carex nigra Marsh helleborine, Epipactis palustris
Photos by Judy Web
Photos by Judy Web