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Lye Valley: Past News

Judy Webb awarded Certificate of Honour

Dr Judy Webb, FOLV Chair, was awarded the City Council's prestigious Certificate of Honour in 2017 in recognition of her immense voluntary contribution to wildlife, the environment and green spaces in Oxford.

Judy receiving certificate

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Bee Orchids Rescued from Obliteration …

…at Oxford Parkway and moved to the (relative) safety of Rock Edge, FOLV assisted by local residents

Decapitated bee orchid
Bee orchids decapitated by mowing

Planting clumps
Planting clump containing bee orchids

Removing turf
Removing clumps of turf
to insert the bee orchids

Yellow lineWood Farm News: Autumn 2015 includes Judy's article about the Lye Valley
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Brown Hairstreak Butterfly
Rare Butterflies in the Lye Valley

Ten eggs of the rare brown hairstreak butterfly were found in September 2015 in the Lye Valley – a number dwarfed by the 41 eggs found in a FOLV member’s garden nearby!



Left: Brown hairstreak resting on a runner bean leaf.

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Bamboo cane

Left: Filming with That's Oxford TV

Above: Laying out a vegetation monitoring
transect, ie 4 bamboo canes!

Watch the interview on You-Tube
Monitoring Wildlife in the Lye Valley

In September 2015 That’s Oxford TV interviewed FOLV Chair, Dr Judy Webb, as she was conducting a vegetation monitoring transect – ie counting the number and varieties of plants in exactly the same area this year as last, concentrating on the recently cleared west side ie the steep slope towards Warren Crescent. Good news – as a result of active management and volunteer help, this area of the fen has greatly improved  and Judy recorded  much larger quantities of plants rare in the county like marsh lousewort. A new record for the site of a scarce plant was marsh willow herb (2 plants). This was seen for the first time, probably a recurrence from buried seed that had been brought to the surface by the disturbance and stimulated to germinate by the higher light present as a result of reed removal.

FOLV are the only group monitoring wildlife in the Lye Valley and Rock Edge to assess whether species are thriving or in decline.

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Natalie Bennett
On Friday 28 August 2015 the Friends of Lye Valley welcomed Green Party Leader, Natalie Bennett, to the Lye Valley. Dr Judy Webb, FOLV Chair, explained the extreme rarity of the Lye Valley habitat and showed her some of the rare plants and insects which have survived there for over 8,000 years. Luckily the iconic Grass of Parnassus was in flower – with a total of seven blooms – three more than last year. Threats to the Lye Valley from development within its rainwater catchment area, experimental ‘Sustainable Drainage Systems’ which cannot be maintained in perpetuity, sewage, chemical pollution, and invasive Himalayan balsam were mentioned. A visit to the species-rich Lye Valley ponds completed Natalie Bennett’s visit. Photographs of the visit
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January 2016

Frost transforms the Lye Valley

Pithy elder stems will make homes
for red mason bees

Oxford City Council repairs the boardwalk

Volunteers bash old blackthorn to encourage
regrowth for rare hairstreak butterflies

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Advice on how to make gardens pollinator-friendly

Powerpoint Slideshow and text of the talk given by Judy Webb on 'Gardening for Bees and Other Pollinators' at the Friends of Lye Valley AGM on 3 August 2015

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Countryside Volunteers preparing to sow limestone-loving wild flowers

Below: The Friends of Lye Valley members often work alongside other volunteer groups. This article in the Oxford Mail of 11 September 2015 features the Countryside Volunteers clearing garden escapes in order to sow local limestone-loving wild flowers in the Slade entrance, which was being treated as a car park.

Article in Oxford Mail

Yellow lineWhat’s Going on in the Lye Valley in 2015?

Plenty, is the answer. FOLV, BBOWT, OCV and Oxford City Council Countryside volunteers have been working hard to improve and extend the fen by:

  • Cutting down and raking away the reeds which choke our rare plants;
  • Cutting back scrub which has encroached on the fen;
  • Cutting down trees which shade the fen and prevent the native rare flowers, sedges and mosses from growing.

The boardwalk has been extended so that you can keep your feet dry while admiring the north fen and peering into the ponds.

You may have noticed how the path near the new house is churned up to mud. FOLV have asked the builder to leave it like that so that we can sow seeds of butterfly-attracting chalk grassland flowers. We’ve also asked him to help us clear away the alien garden escape shrubs (Russian vine – ‘mile a minute’ – and variegated cornus for example) which have little wildlife value so that we can encourage more local wildlife-friendly plants and bushes e.g. blackthorn (food plant of the rare brown hairstreak butterfly), and honeysuckle and wild rose – our beautiful scented native flowers.Yellow line

Drying seed
Seed sowing in July 2015

The Friends of Lye Valley collected limestone-loving wildflower seed from Milham Ford Nature Park to sow on Rock Edge, Magdalen Quarry, and the Slade entrance to the Lye Valley which we aim to return to limestone meadowland. Yellow rattle is particularly important as it is semi-parasitic on grass, weakening it and allowing the wild flowers to flourish once more.

See photographs of the collecting, drying, and sowing

Friends of Lye Valley Join Forces with Oxford Conservation Volunteers
Marsh helleborine

Friends of Lye Valley volunteers joined forces again with Oxford Conservation Volunteers to work in the South Fen of the Lye Valley SSSI at the beginning of July 2015. It’s privately owned so you can’t usually visit this hidden treasure. We wore hard hats as protection from stray golf balls – though no one’s ever been hit. We cut and raked away reed, pulled balsam, lopped overhanging branches that were shading the fen, and took back the scrub which quickly invades if neglected. And our reward – a glorious flourishing fen, dotted with 2,000 marsh helleborines and, under our feet, a carpet of tiny pink bog pimpernel whose seeds have survived for 100 years. Magic!

Left: Marsh helleborine, which is nationally rare

Work on the North Fen, June 2015
Judy counting orchids

A highly productive work party got cracking on Sunday 28 June 2015 when the two groups of volunteers joined forces to work on the North Fen of the Lye Valley SSSI.  Reeds were raked away, willows ‘given a haircut’, Japanese knotweed pulled up, the tree line taken back to reveal more of the ancient fen and tufa-forming springs and a good time had by all. The reward – seeing swathes of common spotted orchids and marsh helleborines in the fen.  We did need wellies though!

Oxford Mail, 30 June 2015:
 ‘Precious’ reserve gets a spruce-up


Left: Dr Judy Webb counting common spotted orchids in the Lye Valley North Fen.

Did You Know?

Proportionately there are more rare plants in the Lye Valley than in any other city site – at 20 species this is a third of the 61 species on the County Rare Plants Register found within all the nature sites in and around Oxford that are managed by Oxford City Council.

See our Chair, Dr Judy Webb’s, detailed report on the state of the Lye Valley for the Wild Oxford Project.  It’s the ONLY fen (alkaline bog) to show such fast return to its former glory in Oxfordshire.  Formerly there were 10 really good alkaline fens.  Of these, 8 are being lost to natural succession to wet woodland through lack of management. Only Cothill fen and the Lye Valley fen are actually improving, due to having management. The Lye Valley fen – thanks to its volunteers, Oxford City Council, BBOWT, Oxford Conservation Volunteers – and not forgetting the Friends of Lye Valley – is getting better and better!  But it still needs our help and protection.

Read all about it!

Headington Festival
Headington Festival 2015

Friends of Lye Valley were at the Headington Festival in Bury Knowle Park
on Sunday 30 May 2015

More information

Scything reed
Winter management 2014/15

The friends of Lye Valley worked to open up the fen by clearing brambles, chopping back vegetation on the fen's bank, scything reeds which choke the rare plants, chopping willow which shades the fen, and removing willow from a spring.


Lye Valley scrub clearing
Getting Stuck in the Bog!

Judy Webb's reports on the Wild Oxford Project (Chilswell Path and Rivermead Nature Park as well as Lye Valley) can be downloaded in PDF format from the Wild Oxford webpage (listed under Downloads near the end)

In September 2014 a Wild Oxford event in the Lye Valley, organised by Andy Gunn (right) of BBOWT, gave students from St Clare’s the chance to get stuck into fen management – and stuck in the squishy Hogley Bog too! 

Eleven volunteers had a great time clearing dense scrub and fallen trees from the north side of the fen, revealing a previously undiscovered tufa-forming spring as well as heaps of rubbish including cans of paint and broken glass. Fresh vegetation will soon move into the clearing, providing food for invertebrates and flowers for us to enjoy.

As well as the usual cups of tea, the St Clare’s volunteers collected Community Service credits for their Baccalaureate. So well done all – and we look forward to welcoming you back!

Friends of Lye Valley members and others are encouraged to join in with the Oxford Conservation Volunteers work party for some part of each day, covered by OCV insurance. OCV work 10– 4pm, but people can drop in and help for a couple of hours if that is what they can manage.  More reed than before will have been cut so we really need as many rakers as possible.

Letter in Oxford Times, March 2014
Letter, Oxford Times, 27 March 2014
Launch of “Wild Oxford” project

Wild Oxford is a new two-year project on Lye Valley and two other wildlife sites in the city, bringing together local communities:

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Old Road campus/Park Hospital site

Two planning applications have been granted planning permission:

  • 14/01586/RES: “Erection of medical research building (Big Data Institute) on 3 levels plus basement and plant enclosure at roof level, together with landscaping and ancillary works. (Part reserved matters of outline planning permission 12/02072/OUT relating to plot B5, seeking approval of appearance, landscaping, scale and layout)”
  • 14/01494/FUL: “Demolition of various vacant prefabricated building. Retention of one prefabricated building plus the construction of 3 storey research building, catering building, 100 space car park and ancillary work for temporary period during construction of proposed Big Data Institute (BDI) Building on adjacent land”

Response from Judy Webb to the public consultation on 28/29 March 2014 on the proposed Big Data Institute and Amenities Building

Wildlife-friendly planting suggestions from Judy Webb for the site, updated April 2014

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The Oxclean litterpick in the Lye Valley on Saturday 8 March 2014 (above) was reported in the Oxford Mail

Chairman's Reports from previous years:
Friends of Lye Valley, 2013–2022