Stanton St. John: Shepherd's Pits

Information kindly provided by Philip Barnett.

For an approximate location map, click here.

Two small pools (known as Shepherd's Pits) were created here in 1990-1991 to provide irrigation water for the surrounding farmland. The value of the pools has increased due to the successional vegetation changes, particularly around the southern pool, which is now partially surrounded by reeds, willows and alders. In the autumn reduced water levels provides good wader habitat, the southern pool being the most productive with large muddy bays.

The pools are not marked on the current OS map, but are at approximately SP570089.

Follow the Oxford ring road to the Green Road roundabout at Headington. From here take the minor road to Barton. Follow the road through Barton and up the hill, and at the top of the hill take the right turning towards Stanton St. John. After ¾ of a mile you will see the pits on the east side of the road. Parking is possible in a small lay-by by the entrance gate but take care not to block the entrance, or there is a lay-by further up near the T-junction.

Frequent bus service within Oxford to Barton (about 1½ miles).

The North pit can be viewed from the road, but it is necessary to walk the short distance to the South pool (access status unknown) to scan for waders.

Resident: Little Grebe, Canada Goose, Mute Swan, Tufted Duck, Mallard, Moorhen and Coot.

Summer: Sedge and Reed Warbler. The adjacent farmland is also worth checking with breeding Corn Bunting and Yellow Wagtail (3 pairs in 1999), and the occasional Hobby.

Spring and autumn: migrants such as Wheatear are regular and Whinchat, Tree Pipit and Redstart have also been seen. In the autumn the exposed mud produces a good selection of waders such as Greenshank, Ringed Plover, Little Ringed Plover, Whimbrel, Green Sandpiper and Dunlin.

Winter: large numbers of Mallard and Tufted Duck may include Pochard, Teal, Shoveler, Wigeon and Ruddy Duck. Occasional Snipe, Jack Snipe (January 1996), Barn Owl, Buzzard and Merlin.

A small area of calcareous grassland by the pits has common butterflies such as Essex Skipper and Marbled White.

Otmoor, Shotover, Sydling's Copse.
Philip Barnett