Cothill Fen, 5th October 2019

Eleven of us turned up for today’s session at Cothill Fen, led by Eleanor with Judy Webb and Steph from Natural England. It was quite a mild, grey day and we were assured that the high water levels had gone down a little – welcome news at a site where often at least one of us gets water in our boots.

We were split into two groups, with the majority of us moving piles of reeds that had already been cut and raked to fill a pond that had formed in a ditch on the edge of the woodland. Tussocks of reeds had deliberately been left across the fen to form a mosaic habitat structure for flora and fauna.

A smaller second party made their way to the other end of the site, to where the ‘evil spring’ is still bringing nitrate from the farmed fields beyond, which is leaching onto the fen. A dam has been formed along the stream edge but with all the duckweed on the fen water, it’s apparent that nitrate is still getting through. Our task here was to remove cut reeds from the stream itself, so that it can continue to run its course, and pile them up and tamp them down to reinforce the dam. There was a lot of sludge involved. It was hard going!

We had a welcome tea break where it was announced that the Radley Lakes quiz night will be taking place on 26thOctober. Then it was back to work, with more shifting of reeds, and Kevin also took to a large fallen log with a bow saw.

We were lucky with the wildlife, today, seeing newts and a water scorpion and a small furry mammal which remained unidentified as it hid in the reeds before we could properly see what it was. Judy also found two uncommon fungi, an earth tongue (Geoglossum fallax), which she planned to take home in order to examine its spores under her microscope, and the much rarer Stinking Fanvault (Camarophyllopsis foetus) which, although tiny, gave off an incredibly strong mothball-like smell.

We went home happy with our work, and pretty much covered in mud or, as Sally called it, ‘Eau de Fen’, which has a distinctive sulphurous smell with notes of water mint!

Judy gives us our instructions

Base camp

Starting work

A newt in a drag bag

Duck weed

Don’t tell the ponies but the electric fence isn’t actually on

Clearing sludge from the stream

Tea break

Earth tongue fungus

Tiny stinking fanvault

Rosie takes a whiff

Water scorpion

Blogger covered in eau de fen


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