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Wildlife Trust launches appeal to buy ‘missing piece of wildlife jigsaw’ beside the River Thames

On Monday 17 July, the Berks, Bucks & Oxon Wildlife Trust launched an appeal to raise £220,000 towards the purchase price of farmland at Duxford Old River, one of the vital missing pieces of a vast jigsaw for wildlife. This will create the first nature reserve to cover both sides of the river anywhere along the Thames.

The Trust’s Chimney Meadows nature reserve is just across the river from the farmland at Duxford, so the Trust will be able to create one of the largest nature reserves in Oxfordshire.

Neil Clennell, the Trust’s Director of Conservation & Education for Oxfordshire explains: “In so many places wildlife is being squeezed out of its natural habitats where it used to flourish. Here the peaceful meanders of the old river are natural playgrounds for otters and water voles, and the reeds are full of dragonflies and damselflies.

“If the Trust’s appeal is successful we’ll let Mother Nature take the lead, with just a little bit of help from us to get things going. At 113 acres the Duxford Old River land is in many ways a vast blank canvas with so much potential for wildlife.

“BBOWT can take a step back, let nature lead the way and see what nature does with the site. We hope that Duxford Old River will develop into a wonderful, complementary mosaic of habitats to the meadows that we created on the northern bank of the river, completing this part of the upper Thames wildlife jigsaw.”

The Trust would allow the Thames to flood onto the land and hold water in ponds and pools, providing much-needed and undisturbed habitats for curlew and lapwing to breed, and large flocks of birds such as snipe and teal to overwinter here. New backwaters and a fish pass will give safe havens for fish to spawn and insects to thrive, providing more food for bats and birds.

Neil outlines why this opportunity will be transformative: “We’ve shown on Chimney Meadows that after 14 years of careful stewardship we’ve been able to restore 654 acres of farmland to its former glory and create a major haven for wildlife.

“The current owners of the land at Duxford have farmed sympathetically for wildlife; the dense reedbeds and thick hedgerows with tall crack willow trees are full of the birdsong of warblers and buntings. Our ecology officer Colin Williams recently recorded 45 species of bird including little egret and a pair of nesting curlew. But it could be even better. The land has no formal protection for wildlife so BBOWT is determined to protect it and its wildlife for the future.”

BBOWT has applied to trusts and grant-making bodies for funds to contribute to the purchase of the land at Duxford Old River. The public appeal for £220,000 will also contribute to the purchase.

You can give to the Duxford Old River appeal via this website: bit.ly/DuxfordOldRiver

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