Know before you go
Parking informationPark at Dry Sandford Pit Reserve car park; walk west to Cothill village and take footpath on right (String Lane) opposite the Merry Miller pub for 0.25 miles.
Flat; wet ground; boardwalks, kissing gate
When to visit
Opening timesOpen at all times
Best time to visitMarch to August
About the reserve
This atmospheric fenland reserve is particularly rich in plants for its size - more than 300 different species have been recorded here. The carefully managed fen, a nationally rare habitat, is fed by several springs. The tussocky landscape includes an abundance of black bog-rush and blunt-flowered rush and many uncommon fenland mosses. Other wetland habitats are large areas of reedbed, open water, wet woodland and ancient woodland, made up of alders and willows. There is also an area of ancient woodland.
Extensive areas of peat, fed by limey water, have resulted in a mix of soils and plants. Unusually, there are both 'lime-loving' and 'lime-hating' plants here. Many orchids can be seen including southern marsh-orchid and the nationally-scarce narrow-leaved marsh orchid, all lime-loving flowers. Many small sedges can be found here, including long-stalked yellow-sedge. Another lime-hater, the graceful grass-of-Parnassus, produces large white flowers on a single stem in August and September.
Among the lime-hating plants are some intriguing insectivorous species. Butterwort is the most common of these and has violet-like flowers and traps insects on its sticky, yellow-green leaves, while bladderwort traps insects underwater. This site is also excellent for birds and insects. Look out for the day-flying scarlet tiger moth, and dragonflies and damselflies, including the nationally-rare southern damselfly. Rare soldier flies are also found here including the clubbed general and silver colonel.
Ruskin Reserve, a Rothschild Reserve
In May 1912, the banker and expert naturalist, Charles Rothschild founded the Society for Promotion of Nature Reserves – the organisation that would become the Wildlife Trusts. His vision was to identify and protect the best places for wildlife, and these became known as Rothschild Reserves. Parsonage Moor is part of what Oxford botanists at the time knew as the Ruskin Reserve.
Things to do
Explore Cothill Fen, which includes Parsonage Moor, one of the most diverse wildlife areas in Oxfordshire, by downloading our circular walk leaflet.