Building the Freshwater Network

Wetland habitat conservation where it makes the biggest difference

Small freshwater habitats are hotspots for wetland wildlife and conserving them has a disproportionately positive impact across whole landscapes. Despite this, these critical habitats are widely overlooked in policy and are very underfunded. We’re building Oxfordshire’s Freshwater Network by focusing on two areas of the water environment where we can make a big difference by working on small wetlands — alkaline fens and floodplain wetland mosaics. See below for more information.

The project is also funding the Thames Valley Wildflower Meadow Restoration Project to enable them to restore more floodplain meadows along the River Thames west of Oxford. See below for further information.

Alkaline fen

The alkaline fens of Oxfordshire are a very special feature of the county. Fed by springs emerging from chalk or limestone in valleys and on hill slopes, in the UK this distinctive and internationally important habitat is found mainly in north-west Wales, East Anglia and Oxfordshire. Despite their small size, these wetlands support a wealth of wildlife that are absent from much of the rest of country. However, due to lack of recognition of their value, many sites are degraded.

This project is continuing to fund the restoration of alkaline fens through the Oxfordshire Fens Project, a Freshwater Habitats Trust project begun in 2018. You can read more about the wildlife of the county’s alkaline fens and our work to restore them here. This further funding is enabling us to expand our conservation methods to ex situ conservation of the rare plants of alkaline fens through the GroWet programme.

Floodplain wetland mosaic

Freshwater Habitats Trust has been building clean water ponds and other small wetlands on floodplains for 30 years, starting with the highly successful site at Pinkhill Meadow by the River Thames at Farmoor Reservoir. The project will be creating a new pond complex at Farmoor Reservoir in partnership with Thames Water, in the floodplain of the River Cole on the National Trust Coleshill Estate, and at two private sites in the floodplains of the River Ock and River Thame. These will provide a mosaic of different types of pond and surrounding wetland habitat, providing vital clean water in key areas for freshwater wildlife.

Floodplain meadows

Much more expansive are the iconic and internationally important meadows that sweep along the Thames from around Eynsham through Oxford. For over a thousand years these natural grasslands have been storing carbon, trapping sediment, holding floodwater and putting on incredible displays of wildflowers such as Great Burnet, Meadowsweet and Devil’s-bit Scabious.

The project is enabling restoration of this floodplain corridor by funding the Thames Valley Wildflower Meadow Restoration Project to restore more floodplain meadows around its core site at Eynsham.