Nature Reserves

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Boarstall Duck Decoy, BuckinghamshireWebsiteStreet MapGoogle MapPhotos

Boarstall Duck Decoy
Nature Reserve
Managed by:National Trust
OS grid reference:SP 624 151
Nearest postcode:HP18 9UY
Usual work:Scrub clearance, coppicing, path maintenance

Boarstall Duck Decoy is a rare and interesting nature reserve with 13 acres of lake and native woodland near Brill in Buckinghamshire. The woodland at the site was once part of the Royal hunting forest of Bernewode Forest that stretched from Wheatley in Oxfordshire to Buckingham, and Bicester to Thame in the 12th century. The nature reserve and 17th century duck decoy have been cared for by the National Trust since 1980.

Flora and Fauna

The nature reserve is rich with a diversity species including bluebells and lords and ladies, which are indicators of ancient woodland. There are also a variety of reeds and native trees, including some rare species. Wildfowl known to visit the lake at Boarstall include the wild teal and mallards. Studies of waterfowl ringed at the site have tracked the ducks to Oxfordshire, Holland, Belgium, Turkey and the Murmansk on the Arctic coast of Russia. Within the woodland great-spotted woodpeckers, green woodpeckers, blackcap and chiff chaff are among the species recorded.

Conservation Management

Important conservation work undertaken at Boarstall Duck Decoy Nature Reserve includes woodland management, such as coppicing and felling selected trees to thin the forest and protecting the stalls from deer using brash from the trees. These tasks ensure structural suitability of the habitats for birds and insects, whilst also allowing dappled sunlight to reach the woodland floor thus increasing the biodiversity of the site. Once coppiced trees have re-grown sufficiently to withstand the attention from mammals, the protective layer of brash is removed in order to allow nature back in. Coppiced wood is used to create habitat piles to encourage invertebrates and amphibians.

Scrub clearance is another important task undertaken at the site in order to increase the biodiversity of the habitats and ensure that invasive plants do not smother delicate flora and fauna. The paths also need to be maintained to allow public access and ensure that the public stick to the paths rather than potentially trampling on the woodland floor.


Boarstall Duck Decoy is thought to have been constructed betweem 1691 and 1697 by the Aubrey family on their Boarstall estate to attract and catch wild ducks for the estate kitchen, with the surplus sold in neighbouring markets and London. Shortly after the outbreak of World War II the decoy stopped being used. Once common in England, Boarstall contains one of only four surviving duck decoys in the country. Nowadays the duck decoy is only used to collect wildfowl to be ringed for ornithological study.


From Oxford, leave the ring road by taking the B4027 (Bayswater Road) to Barton at the Headington roundabout to the east of Oxford. Continue on this road though Horton-cum-Studley and into Boarstall. In Boarstall, take a left through the farmyard of Manor Farm and follow the track across a field to Boarstall Duck Decoy.