The Pinkhill Meadow ponds, created in 1990 on a degraded floodplain of the R. Thames near Oxford, were the first to be made by Freshwater Habitats Trust. They are now recognised as a Flagship Ponds site due to the richness of the site, its unique history, and the detailed monitoring of the site over its 32 year history.

In 1990, Freshwater Habitats Trust started work with the Environment Agency and Thames Water on the creation of a new pond complex to trial new ideas and concepts about river floodplain restoration being developed around designing and digging new ponds. Thanks to support and funding from site owners Thames Water and the Environment Agency, we had access to Pinkhill Meadow, a blank canvas nestling between Farmoor Reservoir and the River Thames in Oxfordshire. The project involved the excavation of 40 ponds in the meadow to create a clean water pond complex with pools of varying depth, size, permanence and water sources (both ground and surface-water fed). Unusually for a wetland creation site, the ponds were then continually monitored – yearly for the first decade and then at intervals right up to the present day. Results from these surveys show that Pinkhill is exceptionally rich in wetland plants – in fact its richness has only stabilised recently, plateauing at around 70 plant species. Invertebrates too show a similar level of richness. This makes Pinkhill Meadow probably the most monitored pond creation site in Europe (and perhaps anywhere).

Pinkhill has always been used as a demonstration site and now is perhaps most important for showing how to repair damaged floodplains. Through Flagship Ponds we developed that concept further, running training sessions on wetland plants, invertebrates and water chemistry which have all been well attended by a wide range of volunteers – from school groups and beginners through to expert naturalists. Funding from Heritage Lottery Fund with additional support from Trust for Oxfordshire’s Environment (TOE2) has enabled further surveys, and strategic pond management to ensure diversity of the ponds is maintained. Investment in the site by owners Thames Water has recently seen the site fully fenced, the site will now be grazed and this management work sustained long into the future.

The latest chapter in the history of Pinkhill Meadow has seen the site used to experiment with the introduction of threatened Thames plant species. For example, Greater Water-parsnip Sium latifolium, which would once have been found throughout the Thames is now restricted to just two sites in Oxfordshire – sadly struggling at both. Working with Oxford Botanic Gardens, local species experts and the Flagship volunteer group, specific habitat was created and young plants introduced. This work has been documented in order to provide evidence to inform future wetland plant species restoration work. Further introductions of Tubular Water-dropwort Oenanthe fistulosa, Water Violet Hottonia palustris and Frogbit Hydrocharis morsus-ranae have also taken place.

Location: Oxfordshire

Accessibility: Some Flagship Pond sites are accessible to the public, and some are not. If in doubt, consult maps for rights of way, look online for site information, or contact the site manager, and follow any instructions on site. It is up to you to check whether you require permission to visit and access the ponds on a site.

Site owners/managers: Thames Water