Rushy Common Nature Reserve and Tar Lakes | Oxfordshire County Council

Rushy Common Nature Reserve and Tar Lakes

A 30-hectare site with three lakes that are being managed for the benefit of people and wildlife.

tar lake

Rushy Common Nature Reserve

Rushy Common Nature Reserve is a haven for wildlife so public access is not permitted across the reserve. However, the bird hide on the southern shore offers good views across the site and is accessible to wheelchair users.

A bird viewing screen was also installed in September 2016 which allows bird watchers and wildlife enthusiasts the opportunity to see a side of the reserve not easily viewable from the current hide.

Winter numbers of waterfowl such as wigeon and teal can be in the hundreds and in the summer breeding common tern swoop across the water and great crested grebe carry their stripy chicks on their backs. Huge dragonflies patrol past the bird hide and you might be lucky enough to see a kingfisher.

A key for the hide can be purchased from the project office email lwvp@oxfordshire.gov.uk, telephone 01865 815426 and enables you to visit hides in the Lower Windrush Valley at any time.

Tar Lakes

Tar Lakes is a delightful lakeside area with open skies and large expanses of water reflecting the ever changing light. The wildlife interest includes elegant swans and great crested grebes on the water all year round; dragon and damselflies dart across the water’s edge in the summer and flocks of fieldfare gather berries from the hedges in the winter.

The first lake has a gravel surfaced path suitable for pushchairs and wheelchair users. Then there is a longer grassy path meandering around two more lakes. This path also joins into the wider public rights of way network.

The Hardwick Brook runs between the lakes in a fenced-off area designed for conservation benefit. The grass is not cut here very often and you can see a profusion of wildflowers and insects through the spring, summer and autumn.

Bees love the summer flowers and clouds of common blue damselflies can be seen from June onwards. Goldfinches give a brilliantly colourful display as they feed on the teasel seeds in the autumn.

Visiting the sites

Rushy Common Nature Reserve and Tar Lakes are found to the south east of Witney, on Cogges Lane, a single track road that runs from Cogges to Stanton Harcourt. The Ordnance Survey grid reference is SP 381 074, the nearest post code is OX29 6UJ.

By car

The car park at Rushy Common has space for roughly 20 cars and is open at all times. A height barrier restricts vehicles over 2.1 metres.

By bicycle

Access by road, down Cogges Lane or public bridleways enables off road cycling access from Ducklington or South Leigh. Cycle racks are available in the car park for those arriving by bicycle. Please note that cycling is not permitted on site.

By foot

Public footpaths across the fields from Hardwick (1 mile), South Leigh (1 mile) and Ducklington (2 miles) all provide access to the site.

Please note that permissive access to Rushy Common car park, Tar Lakes and the associated footpaths is made available to the public at the discretion of the landowner and that access to the water is not permitted for any purpose.

For further information contact the Lower Windrush Valley Project.

History of the reserve

The extraction of sand and gravel was completed at Rushy Common in 2005 and at Tar Lakes in 2008. After restoration both sites were opened to the public in May 2011 and are managed by Smiths Bletchington and the landowner, in collaboration with the LWVP.

Before mineral extraction the site was grassland with limited biodiversity interest. The restoration, the result of careful preparation and planning by Smiths Bletchington and the LWVP, has created a diverse range of habitats including standing open water, ponds, ditches, islands, and gravelly shorelines in the nature reserve and open lakes and grassland in Tar Lakes.

Regular monitoring will record the development of the site which already is a home to many species of wildlife, some of which are nationally scarce. One hundred and twenty species of birds have been recorded already.

Circular walks from Rushy Common

Rushy Common car park provides a good starting point for circular walks in the wider area. Follow a three mile circuit south for a gentle walk beside the River Windrush or a three mile circuit north to South Leigh to see the wall paintings in the parish church of St James the Great.

Last reviewed
11 July 2017
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