Nature Reserves

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Parsonage Moor, OxfordshireStreet MapGoogle MapPhotos

Parsonage Moor
Nature Reserve
Managed by:BBOWT
OS grid reference:SU 462 998
Nearest postcode:OX13 6JL
Usual work:Scrub clearance

Parsonage Moor is a lowland wilderness containing alkaline fen, marsh and swap habitats rich in botanical gems, moths, damselflies and dragonflies. This nature reserve, along with the adjoining Cothill Fen, has been designated as a Site of Special Scientific Interest since 1950 and is a Special Area of Conservation (SAC).


Parsonage Moor is a lowland spring-fed wetland. The springs drain into the River Ock. The base of Corallian Calcareous stone is covered with rich peat and marl over parts of the site.

Flora and Fauna

Parsonage Moor provides habitat for a diversity of flora and fauna including orchids (including the narrow-leaved marsh-orchid dactylorhiza traunsteineri and the fragment gymnadenia conopsea ssp. densiflora), grass-of-Parnassus, meadow thistle, butterwort, cotton grass, fen bedstraw, marsh louseworts, parsley water-dropwort, and fen pondweed. There are also a variety of sedges, rushes and reeds at the site including black bog rush and blunt-flowered rush. Parsonage Moor is rich with moths, damsonflies and dragonflies, including the scarlet tiger moth, southern damselfly, large red damselfly, keeled skimmer dragonfly, and four-spotted chasers dragonfly. Water voles have also been recorded at the site.

It is thought that up to 25% of the global population of the rare southern damselfly is within the UK, however numbers have been declining due to the removal of grazing animals and open wetland areas used as breeding sites by damsonflies and dragonflies. The female southern damselfly have a weak, low flight and so this species stays close to breeding sites and does not easily disperse to colonise new areas. The geology and conservation management at Parsonage Moor provides ideal habitat for this species, allowing their number to increase in recent years.

Conservation management

Invasive species of scrub are kept down at the site through scrub clearance, reed cutting, and the introduction of ponies to graze areas of the site. This encourages less invasive flora and fauna to flourish, and also provides greater access to open water for rare species such as the southern damselfly, whose numbers have been seen to increase since the implementation of these management techniques. Cutting of some of the reeds has also been found to make the site wetter, resulting in significant increases in the variety of flora species at the site. Due to the importance of this wetland site a significant aspect of the conservation management is that of maintaining of the hydrology at and around the site in order to retain the delicate balance.


Leave Oxford on the A420 towards Swindon. Before Bessels Leigh take a left turn (the turn is located near some electric pylons) towards Wooton and Dry Sandford. Go past the Wooton Business Park, turn right onto Lashford Lane and then right again onto Church Lane. When you reach a junction, turn right. You can park either in the Dry Sandford Pit car park immediately on your left and then walk towards the Merry Miller pub in Cothill Village, or park opposite the Merry Miller pub. When you reach the pub, turn right onto a public footpath. Continue walking on the footpath until you see a sign for Parsonage Moor nature reserve.