Friday, 27 June 2008


You will have seen the orchids pictured in the post dated 17th June entitled "What does the proposed Extraction Site look like?"

The Cotswold Rare Plants Group (CRPG) found a number of orchid species on the site: the Early Marsh, Southern Marsh and Bee Orchids. The other rare species that the Group found was Adder's Tongue Fern. Having drawn up a list of plants, the plants they discovered indicated that these fields were once water meadows.

The CRPG stated: "the presence of just one or two of these species would not be so special, but the presence of this number as a whole, the orchids and the Adder's Tongue in particular, make the site worth saving from a botanical point of view... What we have here is a moment in time in the long process of reversion from arable to meadow. Provided the regime is continued of taking off a hay crop every year, the ground will gradually become more impoverished. The false oat-grass will decrease and more delicate meadow grasses and more flowers typical of the Thames flood plain eg Ragged Robin, will have a chance to establish themselves."

OUTRAGE argues that "if left alone, its (the site's) biodiversity would in time equal that which is claimed for it under the applicant's (Hanson's) open water and reedbed restoration scheme." Furthermore, OUTRAGE claims that "the kind of biodiversity attainable without the development is more appropriate to the traditional character of the Upper Thames Valley." The assessment by the applicant (Hanson), although confirming the findings of the Cotswold Rare Plants Group (CRPG), failed to note the presence of Adder's Tongue."

The CRPG report states that "Adder's tongue is an unusual plant to find."

"It grows in neutral wet meadows but ploughing and fertilising of grasslands have destroyed many of its old habitats" (CRPG 'Botanical Report on Stonehenge Farm', 2005). The Oxfordshire Local Biodiversity Plan: Habitat Action Plan for Neutral Grassland and Grazing Marsh states that: 'the extent of neutral grassland in the UK has declined dramatically with a loss of 97% of semi-natural sites between 1938 and 1984 and subsequent declines of between 2 and 10% per annum".

The CRPG Report lists a number of species which indicate that these fields 'were once old water meadows' and that their current condition represents 'a moment in the long process of reversion from arable to meadow'.

OUTRAGE argues that "the fields in question have been under their present regime for approximately 12 years. The gravel development is estimated to take about 8 to 10 years. The evidence shows that, during that period the fields will continue to revert to water meadowland. The lakes that currently cover so much of the local area are essentially alien to this landscape. Reedbeds, which would form a relatively small proportion of the restoration scheme, are already abundantly present at the Cassington development... "

As Oxfordshire's own HAP states, more than 97% of the nation's neutral grassland has been destroyed. The Upper Thames Valley is characterised by just such grassland. Here is an opportunity to recover some of that plant and wildlife diversity.
The applicant (Hanson) describes the establishment of lakes and reedbeds as 'restoration' and as adequate compensation for the loss of the two grassland fields. But this is not 'restoration'. Lakes and reedbeds would be new features. By contrast, the return of water meadows would be a genuine 'restoration', the loss of which could never be adequately compensated for by yet another mosaic of wetland habitat."

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