Swan on smooth water

Radley Lakes Trust

February 2023 Newsletter

Here’s RLT’s latest newsletter. It includes news about Trustees and our masterplan projects, some successes on funding, dates to reserve in your diaries and the current position on future gravel extraction.

If you have queries, or would like to become involved in something please email info@radleylakestrust.org. In the case of work under the Sounding Bridge on 1 March a rapid response would be really helpful.

The Trustee Board

In April Craig Woolhouse will be taking over from Andrew Ashton as our chair. Craig (pictured below) lives in north Abingdon and has for many years been a regular visitor to the Lakes area. A civil engineer by background he has recently retired from the Environment Agency, where his roles included Area Director for the Thames Valley.  Craig has been a Trustee since 2021 and Andrew will remain a Trustee, so there will be plenty of continuity.

Craig Woolhouse by the sea

We are keen to recruit new Trustees. Particular gaps are social media, volunteer management and fund raising, but if you think you can contribute in other ways that is of interest too. To help you consider, we can let you have some simple facts about the role (which is not too scary!) and arrange an informal chat.

Biodiversity plantings by the parking area at Sandles

On 24 November 2022 volunteers helped us to plant a very fine hedgerow (picture below) and an area of shrubs and small trees alongside. 

Row of hedgerow saplings in protective tubes

The next step is to sow wildflowers nearby. There will be cornfield annuals, perennials for sunny areas and perennials for shade (30 different species in total). All will be native and add to the biodiversity of the area. The perennials may take some time to establish but the annuals should give a colourful display this summer… provided we get some rain!

The plan is to prepare the ground on 7 March with the help of the Abingdon Waitrose Management Team, as part of their community activity. Sowing will then be in late March. If you would like to be involved please let us know.

The orchid glades on Thrupp Green

Perhaps the most spectacular feature of the Lakes area in recent years has been the late spring display of orchids on Thrupp Green. One of our masterplan projects for this year has been to extend the glades and to make them more visible. This work was carried out in January, generously funded by John Curtis and Sons Limited.

In the short run the cutting back looks severe (photo below), but the area will soon revegetate in the spring. How quickly orchids will appear must be uncertain but there will be wider ecological benefits, including for the warblers which nest in the area. One of the walks we plan for May is to visit the area, so you can see and hear the wildlife there.

Area of scrub cleared to encourage orchids

Paths maintenance and improvement

We recognise that the new paths which we created in 2022 need monitoring and maintenance to ensure they remain easy to walk.

On 15 February the Vale Ramblers did a brilliant job cutting back the vegetation on the Sounding Bridge Path. Do have a look at this video of the work in progress.  A photo of the team is below.

Group of volunteers at the lakes

We will be following up on 1 March (starting 2.00pm) with work to build up the surface under the Sounding Bridge itself to ensure it stays reasonably dry in wet weather. Help would greatly be appreciated so if you are free to do some (strenuous) outdoor work that day, please get in touch straightaway.

Meantime we are pleased that the new path along the eastern edge of Barton Fields survived the flood and ice in January. The pictures below compare the surface with that in the previous winter.

Muddy path from 2022
Clean path from 2023

Two funding successes

On 23 October, 19 supporters of RLT helped marshal the Abingdon Marathon and nominated us as their charity. Together with funding from the drinks station run by Abingdon Naturalists this raised £815 for RLT. We are hugely grateful to all concerned, who braved a morning of torrential rain, and plan to build on this in 2023.  See the news item here.

Some of you play the Vale Community Lottery and nominate RLT as your charity. In addition to our share of your ticket price the Vale District Council has just awarded us £1,000 from their general lottery fund. As a follow-up Bethia Thomas, Council Leader, is to visit the Lakes and see what our work has achieved. So, many thanks to those who have bought lottery tickets nominating RLT, and much encouragement to those yet to do so.  It can make a real difference. The link is here.

Events in 2023

Here are some firm dates for your diary. 

  • 13 March. The History of the Lakes area. Presentation by Richard Dudding.  Details are here.  Do come along. The normal speaker fee will instead be donated to RLT.
  • Date to be decided. Quiz Evening with supper in Radley Village Hall. Not quite the same format as the old FRL one, but should be a fun social for all.
  • 11 June. Lakes and Cakes by Thrupp Lake. Aimed at all the family. Similar format to 2022, but a little earlier in the year.
  • 20 October. Fungus Foray, led by Pedro Collins
  • 22 October. Abingdon Marathon. See item above about marshalling.

Also we are developing plans for a series of seasonal walks, timed to co-incide with the natural life to be seen and heard. We hope that these  will include the orchid glades in the spring and bats in the late summer.  Also pond-dipping in the summer aimed at all the family.

More detail will follow in the next newsletter.

Plans for mineral extraction

There has for many years been a planning permission to extract the remaining gravel in the Lakes area, which lies mainly underneath Nyatt Field (pictured)

Deer in Nyatt Field

Before this can be exercised there needs to be a ‘Review of Old Minerals Permissions’ (ROMP), with an Environmental Statement and agreement by Oxfordshire County Council to new modem conditions.  This is a very important process, as conditions can control the method of working, limit environmental impacts during operation and secure conservation-based restoration.

A ROMP application to OCC has now been submitted, but it has not yet been validated and is therefore not on the OCC website.  It will eventually appear here.

When we have studied the application we expect that the Trust's own representations will focus in particular on the following.

  • Minimisation of ecological impacts on the Local Wildlife Site, and in particular the exclusion of Orchard Lake (photo below) from the area to be extracted.
  • Maintenance of access alongside the Sounding Bridge Path and alongside Orchard Lake between the Sustrans track and the Thames.
  • Completion of the work as quickly as possible, with the early return of the land to recreational and wildlife purposes.
  • Restoration to be carried out on a phased basis with biodiversity gain created through shallow lakes with islands and through areas of natural revegetation. The restored area should have public access but manged so as not to conflict with wildlife.
  • Appropriate restoration also to be agreed for the unrestored area north of the Sustrans track which was extracted many years ago.
Family wading in shallow lake

If you want to make your own representations to OCC you can do so at the link above.  In any event let us have your views on the most important things to safeguard.

Supporting the Trust

The Trust now has over 160 Friends. If you have not already joined, do become one. It is free, and ensures you are kept in touch with everything and can come to all events.  And the more Friends we have the stronger our grounding in the community and our ability to influence events affecting the Lakes.  Just fill in this simple form.

Even though we have had some funding successes we remain much in need of income for essential day to day expenses. There are a number of ways you can help us.

Online donation. This is very simple and the taxman will add gift aid for us. Payments can be one-off or regular.  Just use the button below.

Easyfundraising.  If you're shopping online you can help to raise funds for us through this scheme.  Click here and select RLT as your chosen charity.

White Horse Community Lottery. See item above.  Every time you buy a lottery ticket and select RLT as your chosen good cause, you are helping our finances. Click here.

All financial help, however small, is greatly appreciated. Many thanks to those who have already donated and to those who now plan to do so.

Queries and comments

Please get in touch at the email address below if you have any queries or problems with the links. Also do let us have any feedback about the newsletter or about the Lakes themselves.

Contact details

Richard Dudding
Secretary, The Radley Lakes Trust

Mailing and email addresses are given below