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

Improvement of freshwater habitats


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.