OXFORDSHIRE NATURE CONSERVATION FORUM

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The Cotswold Natural Area

The Cotswold Natural Area is an upland plateau, broken by sheltered valleys, drained by the River Cherwell and the Upper Thames tributaries including the Evenlode and the Windrush. The rocks in this area are mainly oolitic limestone giving way to ironstone in the north west. Stone walls are characteristic field boundaries on hill tops. These old walls support important communities of mosses and lichens. Limestone grassland persists in tiny fragments, supporting nationally important species such as meadow clary and downy woundwort. The Medieval Royal Forest of Wychwood covered much of the Oxfordshire Cotswolds 700 years ago and fragments of ancient woodland remain including the existing Wychwood. Important wet grasslands border the rivers and improving their value for breeding waders is a key aim of grants to farmers in the Environmentally Sensitive Area (ESA). This area is very important for wildlife, particularly for ancient woodlands, limestone grassland and river valleys. An exceptional number of scarce plants is present including annuals such as the Cotswold pennycress and the red hemp nettle.