|Hook Norton Cutting|
|OS grid reference:||SP 357 314|
|Nearest postcode||OX7 5SG|
|Usual work:||Scrub clearance|
Hook Norton Cutting is an old railway cutting that has been a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) since 1971. The site contains a variety of semi-natural and man-made limestone habitats including calcareous grassland, alongside scrub and secondary woodland. Hook Norton Cutting is also important for the interesting geology, and the species of bees and butterflies that inhabit the site. This was the site of OCV's first task in October 1977.
Geology and History
Hook Norton Cutting is sited on Jurassic rock sections of the late Bajocian/early Bathonian formations. Recognised as being among the most important sections of the Chipping Norton Formation, it is thought to be vital in the understanding of some of the fundamental changes from the Middle Jurassic successions. The site runs along an old railway line that took four years to construct in the late nineteenth century and was used to move the local ironstone to smelters in Wales. The construction of the railway and digging of the cutting exposed many layers of rock, highlighting the importance of the site for our understanding of geological history. The railway was closed in 1965, after which parts of the site reverted back to woodland and scrub though natural succession.
The unimproved species-rich grassland at Hook Norton Cutting provides habitat for species including burnet saxifrage, false oat grass, upright brome, field scabious, glaucous sedge, birdís-foot trefoil, adderís tongue, centaury, cowslip, wild carrot, kidney vetch and ox-eye daisy. Blackthorn, hawthorn, crack willow, sallow and brambles have naturally spread over some of the ground since the closure of the railway creating an area of scrub. On the steep Northern slopes this reversion has led to some mature secondary woodland consisting primarily of pedunculate oak and ash with some field maple and sycamore. Within the woodland areas of scree provide habitat for bracken, hartís tongue, ploughmanís spikenard and ferns.
The ballast left on the railway track and the retaining walls provide additional habitat variations, utilised by a range of species. The railway track hosts species including common figwort, brooklime, rosebay willowherb, hedgerow cranesbill and meadow cranesbill along the Northern section, and common spotted orchid, woolly thistle and basil thyme along the dryer Southern sections. The retaining walls support rue-leaved saxifrage, biting stonecrop and various species of lichens, while the berms extending back from the walls provide habitat for mosses, including some uncommon species.
The grassland and scrub supports numerous species of bees and butterflies including the dark green fritillary, marbled white, white-letter hairstreak and meadow brown. A diversity of bee species inhabiting the site at Hook Norton, include the solitary bee Andrena bucephala that has been recorded at just three other sites in Britain, and eight species of solitary bee of the genus Lasioglossum. Larger species recorded at the site include lizards, badgers, and 47 species of birds including garden Warbler, goldcrest, greater spotted woodpecker, green woodpecker, blackcap, whitethroat and lesser whitethroat.
Hook Norton Cutting provides a large variety of diverse habitats in a relatively small space. BBOWT, with occasional support from OCV, continue to support this site through important tasks such as scrub clearance to help retain the delicate balance and to prevent the whole site from reverting to woodland. Species such as the solitary bees rely on the unimproved grassland flora, whilst the blackthorn provides important habitats for butterflies such as the green hairstreak, thus requiring the balance to be retained.
Hook Norton Cutting is a quarter of a mile south of Hook Norton Village. Leave Oxford heading North on the A44 to Evesham and Chipping Norton. At the Southcombe junction near the Chipping Norton Gold Club leave the A44 by taking a right onto the A3400 towards Stratford. At the next roundabout take the third exit onto the A361 towards Banbury. Follow this road until taking a left towards Hook Norton. You will see a road go off to the right to Swerford, but carry straight on towards Hook Norton. Parking is at the side of the road near the collapsed bridge.