The Radley Lakes area benefits from a wide diversity of habitats including:
- Deep lakes, Thrupp and Bullfield favoured by a wide variety of ducks and grebes
- Small woods including some wet woodland.
- Areas of unimproved grassland
- Flyash pits which are partially flooded and attract dabbling duck and wading birds, some of which breed there.
- Areas of reedbed, which host Reed Warbler and Reed Bunting breed and a Bittern can be seen sometimes in Winter
- There are also numerous small ponds and shallow lakes in the area .
PARTS OF RADLEY LAKES UNDER NEW MANAGEMENT
This winter saw the start of Npower’s 5 year aftercare phase for the pulverised fuel ash (PFA) filled Areas G and H/I, and I am happy to report Earth Trust was awarded the contract for the first year. See the map of the Radley lakes area below to identify the different areas.
The main aim of the restoration of Areas G and H/I is to ensure that the restored areas at Radley Lakes provide a diverse range of habitats for a variety of species associated with the woodland, wetlands and water bodies in the area as well as the specialist species associated with the PFA substrate (which is alkaline).
In Area G this winter the Thursday and Friday volunteers have been clearing saplings and scrub (mostly willow) from an area that seasonally floods. The willow in this area was in danger of replacing what was a lovely open feeding area for waders into a dense wet scrubby area that is prefect for predators. By cutting the willow we have opened the area out again for wintering wading birds, and I can report it is definitely under water as I write this – hopefully the waders will find it! We started this task at the beginning of October and finished mid-November, with a total of 9 work party dates amounting to herculean 315 volunteer hours!
In Area H/I the Thursday volunteers have created new rides through an area of establishing silver birch and willow woodland and glades in orchid rich areas. This work has started the process of creating woodland edge habitats, again adding to the mosaic of habitats at the site. Woodland edge areas are very important structural elements within woodland, providing valuable habitat for a wide range of wildlife, much of which differs from the high forest areas. A diverse range of sun-loving plants and insects benefit from sunny open areas, often reminiscent of communities in unimproved grassland or other open habitats.
In the new year we are hoping to start opening up an area in H/I that seasonally floods (near the remaining open water) for the same reasons described above for Area G. However, this largely depends on what the weather has install for us, as it might already be flooded by January. If so we will move on to Area G to do some coppicing of willow, birch and other scrub/trees within an area of establishing scrub. By starting a coppicing rotation the aim is to provide different aged coppice cover, adding to the mosaic of habitats in Area G.
Whilst working at Areas G and H/I this winter myself and the volunteers have seen so much wildlife, some of the highlights for me have been Great Crested Newts, Snipe and Jack snipe, Woodcock, Green Sandpiper, Raven and a Barn Owl!
Finally I would just like to say a huge THANK YOU to everyone involved in the habitat work we’ve already carried out this winter!
Earth Trust Community Wildlife Warden
The FRL Executive is seriously concerned about an application to Oxfordshire County Council (OCC) to quarry the western Radley Lakes area, particularly in relation to the large Local Wildlife Site area, including Orchard Lake, which will be destroyed by further gravel workings.
In the 1970s, planning permission was granted for gravel extraction in the western area of Radley Lakes. Little working has taken place there so far, but now it seems that quarrying may start again. A ‘Review of Old Mineral Permissions’ (ROMP) application has been submitted to Oxfordshire County Council by J Curtis & Sons Ltd. ‘ROMP’ is a procedure, which allows up-to-date conditions to be put on old permissions, but it cannot normally prevent the quarrying from taking place. The plans are to extend gravel extraction over an area of approximately 42 acres in total, including Bruney and Nyatt fields, which lie between Longmead Lake and the Thames. The area is a rich wildlife area, and has also become increasingly important to the local population for informal access in recent years.
About 11 acres of the land to be exploited, including Orchard Lake and its surrounding wetland, lies within a designated Local Wildlife Site (LWS).
This LWS includes many important habitats, including the shallow Orchard Lake itself, its surrounding reedbeds, a large botanically diverse sedge bed, wet woodland and unimproved grassland, including orchid rich areas. The proposed shallows will be created by backfilling using the overburden from the workings. Topsoil in the overburden tends to create eutrophic conditions, which are unfavourable for much aquatic life. Low-key angling is proposed as the main after-use.
In the plan the extracted gravel will be transported to Tuckwells plant by dumper truck and possibly also by conveyor. The gravel extraction work is scheduled to last for between 11 and 15 years (but could last longer depending on the demand for sand and gravel). Public access will be restricted during periods of excavation, which will be in four campaign periods per year lasting 3 to 4 weeks.
Ironically, some of the pressure to exploit the area comes from OCC (which has to meet a target for available reserves of gravel in the county), even though it was OCC itself, which designated the area as a LWS in 2006.
So far, only the Non-technical Summary of the Environmental Impact Assessment for this application has been seen. It is expected that OCC will consult on the application, including the full Environmental Impact Assessment, in the near future.
Update: J Curtis and Sons have published a Statutory Notice of Consultation on the ROMP application, but Oxfordshire County Council have not released the papers on which w