Newsletter Autumn 2018

Welcome to our quarterly newsletter! Here we like to update you on the work the Trust and its partners have been carrying out around the Thame catchment as well as any national news that may affect our freshwater habitats.

After a long hot summer that had an impact on water levels in all of the Thame catchment waterbodies, things have turned cooler with some welcome rain seen. Lots of things have been happening led by both ourselves and our partners. We hope you enjoy reading about them in our Autumn newsletter! If you have any suggestions for our Winter newsletter then contact 

Lapwing can be seen in Autumn as they migrate from northern Europe to overwinter. Photo courtesy of Doug Kennedy

You say Goodbye…

As many of you will know we said goodbye to our project officer Natalie recently. Although sad to see her go we are also excited for her as she is off to travel the world! As I am sure you will agree, Natalie has worked hard and achieved a lot during her time at the Trust. She was sad to leave having got to know so many of our lovely volunteers and landowners and has promised to come back and visit us when she returns. I am sure you will join us in wishing her all the very best with her travels and beyond. Bon Voyage!.

…and I say Hello!

As well as goodbye it was a big hello to our new project officer Tim! Tim has a lifelong interest in rivers and is also an occasional fisherman. Prior to joining RTCT he worked for over seven years at the South East Rivers Trust as a senior project officer after gaining an MSc in Aquatic Resource Management. He brings with him a wealth of experience in managing both large and small fish passage, habitat improvement and water quality projects through from idea to delivery. He was instrumental in the award-winning restoration of the Carshalton arm of the River Wandle in South London that culminated in the successful recruitment of brown trout in the river for the first time in 80 years. On top of his watery experience Tim has also had a successful career as a research chemist as well as being a qualified chemistry teacher. Tim has been enjoying getting to know the catchment and meeting people over the past few weeks and is looking forward to meeting more of you over the coming months!

Volunteer Thank You Event

We were thrilled to see so many of you at our Volunteer Thank You event on 1st October. Over 40 of our wonderful volunteers and supporters came to the lovely College Farm venue in Long Crendon for an evening of talks and chat over wine and nibbles. We heard talks from our CEO, project officers and trustees about the work that has been achieved over the past year with help from our amazing volunteers. As well as this there was a sneak preview of some of the projects coming up over the next year that you can be involved in. Current opportunities for involvement are advertised in the rest of the newsletter but watch this space for future projects too!

Riverfly Update

The Angers Riverfly Monitoring Initiative (ARMI) was set up by the Riverfly Partnership with the aim of protecting the water quality of our rivers. Volunteers are trained to head out to their local rivers once per month to monitor the presence and abundance of specific freshwater invertebrate groups. These groups were chosen due to their ease of identification, meaning anyone can take part and also due to their sensitivity to pollution.

We are now monitoring riverfly at seven different sites with 3 new sites coming on stream (!) in the past few months. Results can be found here and show that no trigger levels were breached – good news but we need to remain vigilant. Many thanks to our great team of volunteers for their dedication.

Riverfly sites


Water quality monitoring volunteers needed!

A quarterly survey of water quality across the catchment is carried out by our volunteers using simple test kits to measure the levels of two widespread nutrient pollutants, nitrate and phosphate, in their local streams, ponds, ditches and in the one and only River Thame.

By monitoring the catchment we can identify trends in water quality and target areas for future conservation work. We have a number of sites that require people to monitor them. See the following map for the location of the sites.

If you are interested in signing up to be a water quality monitor please email Hannah at

River Thame – Birding desert or just under watched and undervalued?

The River Thame may not be your first thought when deciding on where to spend a Sunday morning birding! Well a major new local survey programme managed by the River Thame Conservation Trust (in partnership with the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO)) might just help you to change your mind.
Three years ago RTCT set out to survey the bird life of the catchment by establishing two surveys:
• BTO WeBS group survey to regularly track wetland birds on the main river
• Atlas survey to cover all species across the catchment and compare with 2007-11 data. The survey work has been live for nearly 3 years now and is starting to build a comprehensive picture of the catchment.


• The Wetland Bird Survey has recorded 47 wetland species.
• The Atlas survey has recorded 139 species.

The surveys have highlighted key breeding territories for Curlew as well as showing what an important area the floodplain is for wintering Lapwing, Golden Plover, Snipe, Teal and Wigeon. Good numbers of records for Autumn and Winter migrants have been submitted and shown reliable sites for species such as Jack Snipe.

Surveyors have also been treated to fly over Osprey and Whimbrel, cracking Hawfinches, Merlin chases and found new territories of scarce breeding birds such as Spotted Flycatchers. Cracking sound recordings have also been made of call Quail!
The project has much still to do but is starting to build a detailed picture of the catchment, its importance for the birdlife of Buckinghamshire and to maybe dispel any myths that the River Thame is a birding desert!

Want to get involved?
Volunteers are being recruited now for year 3 of the Atlas in both the Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire sections of the catchment. We also have a vacancy in the Oxfordshire section of the WeBS survey near Wheatley. Contact Nick Marriner at for details.

Wintering Lapwing on the River Thame at Wheatley



RTCT and CEH working together to monitor water quality

Volunteers from RTCT have been working with the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology (CEH) to carry out water quality monitoring as part of the Thames Initiative Monitoring programme. The programme investigates the changes in water chemistry and ecology in the River Thames and its major tributaries and certain sites were at risk due to funding cuts. The Thame site at Wheatley was one of these sites and is now monitored by our volunteers who take weekly samples, do sample preparation and water filtering before posting the samples to CEH for analysis. To read more about the programme and the elements monitored Click here

Shabbington wood – a special freshwater haven

One of the best places for wildlife in the River Thame catchment is Shabbington Wood Complex Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), which includes Bernwood and Waterperry Wood. The site, which is owned and managed by the Forestry Commission, was designated as an SSSI in the 1980s because of its importance for nationally rare hoverflies and butterflies, including the Purple Emperor and the Black Hairstreak.

Shabbington Wood has now also become a haven for freshwater wildlife with 18 ponds built between 2011 and 2018.


Indeed, eight of the nine ponds created as part of the Million Ponds Project in 2011 all now support Great Crested Newt, stoneworts – a very simple type of water plant, which is believed to be the ancestor of all land plants – and many aquatic invertebrates likes water beetles and mayflies. The only pond that isn’t really any good for wildlife is the one that was created specifically for dogs to jump in – it’s too disturbed and murky for anything to want to live there. Excessive disturbance of ponds by dogs can be a problem for wildlife in areas of public access with many visitors. See here for FHT’s dog guide to ponds:

With another nine ponds added in spring 2018 by the South Midlands Newt Conservation Partnership, the woods are now becoming an important wetland area. SMNCP, working in collaboration with the Forestry Commission, is hoping to add many more ponds throughout the woods in future year to create a network of freshwater habitats for wildlife. Ad hoc monitoring shows that the new ponds are already full of life, including many very small dragonfly larvae that will emerge next spring and summer. SMNCP will be monitoring the new ponds annually to see when Great Crested Newt and other wildlife colonise them – we have still much to learn about species dispersal and the colonisation of new habitats. The Shabbington Wood complex is a truly exceptional wildlife area and, between the work of the Forestry Commission, the River Thame Conservation Trust and the other organisations involved – it will become an even better wildlife haven in future.

A new pond at Shabbington Wood


Revised draft Water Resources Management Plan published by Thames Water

In February 2018 Thames Water published a draft Water Resources Management Plan and sought comment via public consultation. They received 540 representations and recently published a statement of response to these representations as well as a revised draft plan. If you are interested in reading both of these documents follow this link

Don’t forget to buy your copy of our 2019 Calendar!

Love the River Thame and it’s catchment? Want to be able to see beautiful pictures of the river and it’s wildlife throughout the year? Then why not buy our 2019 calendar! Featuring 12 gorgeous pictures taken by Doug Kennedy and all yours for the sum of £7 (£7.95 incl p+p) A perfect Christmas present for friends and family!
Contact to place your orders