The Ock Catchment Partnership protects and restores freshwater and wetland habitats, and manages the catchment to reduce flooding and diffuse pollution.

The Ock catchment

The River Ock is a tributary of the Thames in Oxfordshire. Its catchment is typical English countryside with heavy clay, used mainly for modern industrial farming, superimposed on a landscape of small villages and country towns, ancient woodlands, and rivers, streams, ponds, meadows and marshes, whose history can be traced back 5,000 years.

Freshwater wildlife in the Ock and Thames is under severe pressure. Pollution, drainage and climate change mean that plants and animals are disappearing from the landscape. The problems facing freshwaters in this area are a microcosm of larger threats to the water environment – and show how hard it is to combine our economic lives with the protection of the natural world.

With its historic floodplains and wetlands, Oxfordshire has been identified as an Important Freshwater Landscape in the Freshwater Network. Through the Ock Catchment Partnership, we’re working with partners to restore and create the county’s freshwater habitats.

Visit the Ock Catchment plan interactive storymap
Stream with water flowing over rocks and tree branches.

Our vision for the Ock

“Working together to improve the entire freshwater environment of the Ock Catchment from its springs, fens, ponds and headwaters, along its tributaries and chalk streams to its floodplains and main rivers, so that it has more clean water, is more biodiverse, its communities experience reduced flooding, is resilient to climate destabilisation, provides water resources and is valued and used by local people.”

About the Ock Catchment Partnership

The Ock Catchment Partnership is a group of  local organisations and individuals working together using the Catchment Based Approach to plan and deliver activities and projects in the Ock.

The Partnership meets quarterly and is hosted by Freshwater Habitats Trust using a small grant from the Environment Agency, supplemented by specific support from Thames Water. Part of its remit is to collaboratively produce and update the Ock Catchment Plan, directing how the whole freshwater environment will be improved as required by UK legislation.

The Ock Catchment Partnership is bound by Terms of Reference and guiding principles.

The aims of the Ock Catchment Partnership

1 Reverse the decline in the Ock Catchment’s biodiversity

We’re increasing the diversity and abundance of native freshwater plants, invertebrates, amphibians, fish, mammals, reptiles and birds at landscape scale through:

  • Restoring and creating the full range of freshwater and wetland habitats
  • Protecting, extending and connecting clean water habitat
  • Increasing distribution and resilience freshwater species of conservation concern populations.

2 Improve water quality

This will mean that wildlife can thrive and people can safely enjoy the Ock’s bathing waters. To achieve this, we’re working with partners to reduce pollution from agriculture, sewage, urban areas and roads.

3 Manage flood risk

We’re supporting the delivery of Natural Flood Management (NFM) in the Ock’s headwaters and Sustainable Urban Drainage schemes (SUDs)

4 Enhance resilience of the Ock’s freshwater environment to the climate crisis

We’re restoring ecosystem functions at the landscape scale and maximising the carbon storage potential of natural carbon sinks

5 Encourage sustainable water resource management and demand measures

This will help to meet water needs for drinking water, agriculture and business without damaging the freshwater environment.

6 Public engagement

We’re upporting the community to value, understand and enjoy the freshwater environment.

7 Evaluate our success

We continually collect evidence, capture best practice and share what works – and what didn’t.

Working together for a healthier catchment

Through the Ock Catchment Partnership, we’re collaborating with partners across the Ock catchment.

The Partnership also includes: the Flood Network, Friends of Lye Valley, Hill End, HT Farm Consulting, Kingston Lisle and Fawler Parish Council, Long Mead’s Thames Valley Wildflower Meadow Restoration ProjectSandford on Thames Parish Council and Steventon Parish Council.

Get involved

There are a number of ways you can get involved in protecting and improving the Ock for freshwater wildlife and keeping our rivers safe for swimming.

Practical conservation activities

  • Fen restoration – join the active volunteer community restoring Oxford’s rare Alkaline fens by scything, raking, making dams and removing willow scrub at Hinksey Heights (Freshwater Habitats Trust), Chilswell Valley, Friends of Lye Valley and Friends of Raleigh Park.
  • Letcombe Brook Project – join this local community project safeguarding and enhancing this amazing chalk stream
  • GroWet – support the return of lost rare wetland plants to the landscape by growing them on at home
  • Curlew Project – help our most iconic wetland wader keep breeding in the Ock
  • Plastic Blitz – keep our rivers clean and reduce microplastic entering the ocean by removing plastic from the Ock’s rivers
Group of people standing in a field.

Citizen Science

  • Riverfly Partnership – get involved in monitoring caddis flies and mayflies, indicators of water quality, in your local stream
  • Oxford Rivers Project – support people to swim in clean water by monitoring the Bathing water at Cutteslowe
  • ZSL Outfall Safari – reduce untreated wastewater entering our rivers by finding misconnections


PondNet training event

Project aspirations

Do you represent a community organisation and have an idea for a project which will help us meet the Catchment Plan objectives for our freshwater environment?

If so, we would like to hear from you. Please contact or

If we consider the project meets the Catchment Plan objectives, represents value for money and would be feasible to deliver if funding was available, we will add to our list of aspirational projects. We will aim to use this project pipeline as a basis for seeking funding from relevant partners for future delivery.

Aerial view of alkaline fen with people raking and scything and electricity pylon.

Our work in the Ock catchment

Discover more about the practical work we’re carrying out in the Ock Catchment.

Ock Arable project

We’re engaging with farmers across the Ock catchment in partnership with Environment Agency to help tackle pollution and improve the water environment.

Find out more
Aerial view of a landscape, including a meandering river and newly dug ponds.
Oxfordshire-Buckinghamshire Freshwater Network

We’re building the Freshwater Network to create wilder, wetter, cleaner, more connected habitats in Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire.

Find out more
Group of people standing in a field
Ock Catchment Farmer Cluster

We’re inviting farmers across the Ock catchment who share our passion for a healthy freshwater environment to join the Ock Catchment Farmer cluster.

Find out more