Barton Fields Wildlife Site

Clearing ponds at Barton Field

credit: Micheal Bloom

Abingdon Naturalists Society has been caring for Barton Fields since it was designated as a Jubilee Wildlife Site in 2013.

Situated north of the Thames, upstream of Abingdon Weir, the 17-acre site has a mosaic of habitats including grassland, marsh, scrub and woodland.

Our conservation volunteers, the Green Team, work to enhance the site and its biodiversity.  In the grassland many native plants have been introduced and a wildflower meadow was created in 2008, with Lottery funding.  Introduced plants include Lesser Calamint, Spiny Restharrow, Sawort, Knapweed, Field Scabious Marjoram and many others.  A small plot sown with ‘Cornfield Annuals’ was a new venture this year.  As the name implies, these are wildflowers such as, Corn Marigold, Cornflower, Corn Cockle and Poppy, which have been eliminated from farmland due to herbicide use.  We hope to increase the area devoted to these colourful flowers next year.

In the marsh area, six small ponds have been dug.   These host amphibians and invertebrates such as dragonflies.  Dragonfly enthusiasts visit the site regularly and several scarce species have been recorded in recent years.  The ponds are a great resource for pond dipping and the Green Team have hosted school parties and other children’s groups in recent years.   Children love to catch and examine pond creatures.  They also enjoy exploring the grassland and wooded areas to find bugs, looking under numerous reptile mats to find Grass Snakes and small mammals.

The stream beside the Thames Path provides ideal habitat for Water Vole which unfortunately are rarely seen, probably because they are heavy predation by American Mink from the river nearby.  In this stream, in June you can see the attractive mauve flowers of Water Violet, a rare plant in Oxfordshire, a member of the Primula family.  We are fortunate that our smallest UK mammal, the enchanting Harvest Mouse, is common in the marshy area.  They weave neat tennis-ball-size nests from grass, supported on grass stems.

As for birds, many species of warbler can be heard singing in spring.  In winter we hang out feeders, providing seed, mainly for finches and buntings.  In winter too, Snipe and Water Rail can be found in the marsh area.

Our Green Team is active in recording.  During spring and summer we do weekly butterfly surveys, while in autumn we carry out a fungus foray and have recorded 110 species to date.   Other taxa are recorded throughout the year.

Anyone who would like to help on Barton Fields should contact:

David Guyoncourt: david.guyoncourt@ntlworld.com Tel: 01235 529151