Cuttlebrook Nature Reserve in Thame (£5,532 S106, 2016 )

Improvement of freshwater habitats

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The project has had a long gestation and, as discussed with Fiona Danks and Dominic Lamb, has had to be amended during the EA consent process. The project now consists of the creation of new freshwater habitats, particularly: the creation of a backwater to act as a fish fry refuge; the creation of a new spawning bed; and the creation of dog access facilities to reduce siltation caused by the unavoidable entry of dogs into the Cuttle Brook on this very popular site. Work is also underway on reducing the shading of the brook with the aim of achieving 25% shade and 75% un-shaded.

Work since the previous claim and project report has been focused on building a new dipping platform to replace the earlier one which had been in place some 20 years.

Future work under this project includes: a further backwater and creation of an in-line pond to reduce the silt and chemical load of ditches draining into the brook (scheduled for September 18); installing a sleeper bridge across the first backwater; putting in flow deflectors to reduce low-flow silt deposition and, if funds permit, re-surfacing the muddy footpath alongside Cox’s Wood.

Summary of Activity (include any key dates):

  • 18/2/18 – Removal of dilapidated dipping platform began but was cut short by snowfall.

  • 18/3/18 – Completion of removal of old structure and site preparation.

  • 15/4/18 – Begin installation of support posts (posts all rammed in to 1500mm depth).

  • 20/5/18 – Completion of post ramming and installation of bearers. Begin decking out.

  • 17/6/18 – Completion of decking and anti-slip surface.

The projects have been completed entirely using volunteers – from the application for EA consent through to the operation of machinery.

Some professional help has been received, particularly assistance with making the EA application, but delivery of the project has been entirely down to volunteers.

The project has been a tremendous success so far. We are very pleased with the results to date. The dog-entry points have been well received by owners and are being used by dogs. Other entry points are now being restricted so the brook’s silt load has been reduced.

The backwater has supported good numbers of fish fry, though emergent vegetation has been slower than expected to get going.

We were caught out by the late winter weather and this set our timetable back for replacement of the dipping platform, not least because we wished to avoid disturbance in the pond during the amphibian breeding season.. The delays in completing this major project have resulted in a knock-on delay in vegetation clearance as we found ourselves up against the bird-nesting period.

Wigginton Village Hall energy improvements (two grants of £5,000, Grundon, 2015)

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Wigginton Village Hall was in a bad state of repair, cold, unwelcoming and expensive to run. Rather than see it close, the local community have worked hard to improve it.  A TOE funded energy audit recommended various improvements, and TOE has funded secondary glazing, insulation and an air source heat pump.  The hall has also been redecorated and is now very welcoming.  Energy use to be monitored over the winter.  Members of the local community at the opening event were very appreciative of all that has been achieved.

Buscot Estate Circular walks (£5,000 Grundon, 2017)

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This project is a sister project to the Coleshill Circular Walks, providing improved access, clear way marking for four circular walks on the Buscot Estate. These walks are being published both online in a downloadable format and as a leaflet.

The footpaths on Buscot estate have been surveyed by volunteers. Volunteers lined up to put the way markers in place and survey the routes for additional way marking posts. These volunteers include a group of disaffected boys from Oxford who have been excluded from school in addition to my retired general volunteers.

The proposed walks have been very well received by Buscot villagers and the Buscot Tea Rooms, who will help to publicise the walks. We will be holding a Launch Walk on Thursday the 20 September at 6.00pm. This will be a guided walk following the Red Route.

Bicester Bird and Butterfly Boon, MOD Arncott, (£5,000 Grundon, 2016, and now awarded additional funds)

Improving the management of site for biodiversity.

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Funded project report provided by Jake Piper:

TOE has supported land management for wildlife conservation at the MOD Arncott site over recent years.  This is a military training site with a mix of woodland, rough grass and scrub and training infrastructure.  It is not intensively farmed or actively managed by the MOD, so is rich in biodiversity with birds (including seven warbler species and Turtle Doves) and butterflies, for example, which include rare and declining species.

In order to maintain the necessary mosaic of habitats for the diversity of species, conservation management requires periodic cutting of established woodland, rejuvenating and opening up the canopy, as well as enabling ponds to remain in the landscape. This work is undertaken by Chiltern Rangers (CR:  a non-for-profit social enterprise which was established from a local authority woodland management unit), who work with the BTO on bird monitoring at the site.

On a very hot mid-July day, TOE trustees were taken around the site by Steph Rodgers of CR, Gary Becket, MOD conservation officer, and Stuart Hodges, a Butterfly Conservation species champion who also monitors the site.  We were shown, for example, areas where CR working parties have created open areas and low scrub in line with the specific breeding habitat needs of Hairstreak butterflies, as well as other sites where Gary has plans to open up other areas to increase edge habitats and light.  The CR work parties are made up of volunteers - sometimes including some military personnel - who carry out woodland operations assisted by and under the guidance of CR staff.   (TOE has subsequently been able to put Steph in touch with an Oxford Brookes University Professor who leads a wildlife conservation course who would like to offer this practical experience of woodland management to his students.)

Recent TOE funding has covered the cost of CR staff at land management days, plus tree saplings (Wych Elm for White Hairstreak breeding and feeding sites), and supplementary feed for turtle doves - in accordance with RSPB guidance - as their numbers are declining sharply in the UK.

TOE trustees were impressed by the enthusiasm, knowledge and efforts of all the conservation staff we met at the Arncott site.  Both Steph and Gary expressed their thanks for the support given by TOE.

Bure Park Wildflower Meadow, Bicester (£3,379 Grundon, 2016)

Funded project report:

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The project is the creation of a wildflower meadow to increase biodiversity in the Bure Park Local Nature Reserve. We planted nectar rich plants which are attractive to bumblebees, hoverflies, moths and butterflies, as well as snowdrop bulbs around the edge of the meadow. We have engaged with the local community – in particular Bure Park Primary School to promote better understanding of the nature reserve and biodiversity in the local area. We have commissioned BBOWT to advise us and train Bicester Green Gym volunteers to monitor the progress and success of the meadow and help us evaluate the success of the overall project.

Summary of Activity:

The final element of the wildflower meadow project was to bring in advice and training from BBOWT for members of Bicester Green Gym. The training was extended to Bicester Community Orchard and Friends of Island Pond Wood in nearby Launton (FIP) - related local groups in the Bicester area.

Colin Williams from BBOWT duly made a site visit the meadow on 21st June, to gather initial data on the progress of the meadow, tracking species against the seed mix list provided by Boston Seeds.

Colin then returned to Bure Park on 3rd July to advise the volunteers to monitor the species in the meadow and the butterflies and bees that were in evidence.

He also advised on management of the meadow moving forward

He discussed future monitoring of the site in future and agreed to give further advice and help in 2019 when the volunteers will start an annual monitoring of the meadow using the baseline data from the site visit this year.

Colin has sent the Green Gym the following documents to guide them moving forward:

  1. Management advice document

  2. Seed mixture flower photographic guide

  3. Non-seed mixture flower photographic guide

  4. Species list from his visit on 21/06/2018

What has been accomplished? 

Colin identified 47 species of plant including many flowers which are important sources of nectar including Viper’s Bugloss, Common Knapweed and Bird’s-foot Trefoil. There are also several 'good grasses' which would not have been in the meadow if not for the seeding that was done last year. During the plant survey a number of butterflies were observed visiting the flowers for nectar including Small Tortoiseshell, Green-veined White and Meadow Brown, as well as bees and butterflies

Colin observed that it was extremely encouraging to find this diversity after one year since the planting of the meadow, and a success for pollinators for butterflies. He also reiterated that establishing a wildflower meadow is an ongoing project that can take many years and this is just the beginning of the meadow in Bure Park.

The Green Gym and staff members of Cherwell District will carry out the Big Butterfly Count in August to further track the butterflies that the meadow is attracting.

The main task in the immediate future is to tackle the docks, which are currently the main weed problem. Bicester Green Gym will be cutting the seed heads on 10/7/18 and taking them off site.  Colin has advised that they use the “lazy dog tool” later in the year to root them out. 

Please describe if and how volunteers are involved with the project;

The advice from Colin Williams from BBOWT has been an important element of the project, involving, advising and enabling Bicester Green Gym to continue to care for the wildflower meadow in conjunction with maintenance from Cherwell District Council’s contractor.

We would be grateful if you would provide some feedback on TOE2’s grant giving process:

I have found Toe2’s grant giving process to be very straight forward and I have appreciated the personal approach. It was extremely helpful to have the initial advice visit from Chris Parker to enable us to plan the project and monitor it. I have also appreciated the chance to contact Toe2 with queries about monitoring and extending the project and receiving prompt replies.

 

Chipping Norton Health Centre Bumblebee border (£250 OCC Environment Fund, 2016)

Project report by Craig Blackwell

The Bumblebee Border at the Health Centre is looking fantastic and many people are stopping to admire the layout and read the BB interpretative board. I was up there the other day and a guy in a suit was rushing by looking at his iPhone; he looked up, walked on, turned round, came back and said what a wonderful border it was. I explained about the BBs and he was really impressed with the idea. If we can catch the eye of people like that then we must be doing something right.

The Wychwood Project has organised a family event around the BB border in August. I will be talking about the plants and the bees and then we will visit the garden centre for a guided tour around BB friendly plants.

We are currently in discussion with the Centre for Sustainable Healthcare (which is based in Oxford) regarding scaling this project up to benefit other areas.

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Chipping Norton Cemetery bumblebee project (£500 Main Fund Grant, 2016)

Project report by Craig Blackwell

I visited the cemetery today - the yellow rattle that was sown has worked wonders and reduced the vigour of the grassland throughout. As a result other things are beginning to move in, including knapweeds and, would you believe it, common spotted orchids. There were also large numbers of butterflies such as meadow browns and ringlets. The area is also largely clear of weed species such as docks and thistles. I am really pleased because we always knew the area was going to be a bit of a challenge.

Incredible Edible Hooky (£1500 Grundon, 2017)

This project to create publicly accessible vegetable beds around the village was completed in June 2017.  FD visited the site this August to check on how the beds were being looked after; the beds visited were well maintained and looking productive.  It would be good to encourage more such projects to apply, provided ENTRUST can register them as one project.

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Old Headington Village Hall

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The 1950’s brick-built hall with crittal metal windows, a high ceiling and a very large pitched loft space was difficult to heat and yet had high energy bills.  Many hall users are elderly or young, so maintaining a comfortable temperature is important.  The hall is a popular venue for exercise, yoga and meditation classes and is used by local organisations for meetings and events. 

Charges are kept as low as possible and income and expenditure are evenly balanced each year.  Funding from TOE2 and Grundon allowed the committee to install secondary glazing and cavity wall insulation.  The committee believes that this will result in reduced fuel use and lower bills, and that the hall will become an even better community resource.

River of Life

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Grant: £10,000

TOE and Grundon Waste Management Ltd were delighted to be a part of the Earth Trust’s visionary landscape scale wetland creation project beside the river Thames in South Oxfordshire. 

Our funding supported the establishment of priority habitats including reed beds, wet woodland and lowland meadows.

Duke's Cut

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Grant: £6,253

This former gravel pit near Oxford is a valuable wetland site with a mosaic of habitats.  The site had become overgrown and local Wildlife Trust BBOWT sought TOE funding to support pollarding overgrown trees, thinning back scrub and cutting back reeds in order to create open water areas. 

The work will lead to better conditions for a range of wetland plants and animals. 

Image courtesy of Erin Murton

Oxford Landscape and Views

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Grant: £5,000

The Oxford Preservation Trust has created a new two-and-a-half mile circular route at the Old Berkeley Golf Course in Boars Hill, overlooking the classic 'dreaming spires' view of Oxford. 

Opened in early October 2016, the site now has new signs, improved access points and a new footpath, making it much easier for people to access and enjoy the area.

Cuttlebrook Footbridge

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Grant: £5,000

Thame’s Cuttlebrook Nature Reserve provides a valuable green space in the town, somewhere for local people to enjoy and wildlife to thrive. 

TOE funds supported a sturdy new footbridge which is accessible to all and improves links with local rights of way.  The bridge was designed and built by local volunteers, with grant funding used to purchase materials.

Chilterns Path Volunteers

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The South Chilterns Path Maintenance Volunteers is a well-supported volunteer group which improves local rights of way across the South Chilterns. 

TOE has supported several of their excellent projects, which offer good value for money and make real improvements to countryside access across the area.

Bloxham Circular Walk

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Enhancing a new circular walk around Bloxham by improving access to the local countryside and creating safe, easily accessible paths.  There are options for a longer and a shorter waymarked route, with attractive views of the village and its rural setting. 

TOE supported new gates and steps and improved drainage.  The walk is now enjoyed by many local people, including the local health walk group. TOE is looking to fund more circular routes around Oxfordshire’s villages.