Eynsham Abbey Fishponds circa 1216: interpretation panel © Peter Lorimer. Main image available as a limited editon print via Eynsham Arts Group
The Abbey Fishponds are the only remnants of this great foundation to survive in their original setting. They were created in 1217, by diverting the road and stream (and incidentally much enlarging the Abbey precinct). Access from Station Road: see location map. The Parish Council is restoring the area with a variety of partners, to protect its past and enhance its biodiversity. This slideshow covers work on Phase 3 and aftercare in 2008-9. The detailed plan was drawn up following a series of specialist reports (below).
In the third phase of the Fishponds regeneration we planned to excavate one of the medieval ponds for both biodiversity and archaeological reasons. However, as the water flow and channel construction turned out to be more complex than anticipated and the ponds quite large, we decided to find another way of achieving open water and leave the medieval ponds for a later date.
We applied to TOE (Trust for Oxfordshire’s Environment) for a grant to clear the sedges and weeds from what is considered to be the old Chilbrook, at the point where it forms the north side of the moat of Harvey’s House mound. This area has a maximum width of 20m by a length of 60m. The profile has a very gradual drop to a depth of no more than half a metre at the centre.
By removing the vegetation a relatively large area of open, shallow water would be exposed. This would be edged with the sedges which would form a barrier between the dry land and the water: see plan.
The application included funding for Graham Keevill, the archaeologist involved with the Abbey excavations and the Thames Water pipeline across Harvey’s House, to keep a watching brief. This included preparing a specification for the archaeological work, for submission to Hugh Coddington of Oxfordshire's county archaeological service for approval, taking environmental samples if necessary, and writing a report on the results.
Such an open piece of water would provide a much improved habitat for various invertebrates, amphibians and bird life. It would also be visually pleasing whilst reinstating part of the historical landscape. The application also included funding for two interpretation panels, one at Station Road entrance and another at the playing fields entrance, and for two log benches for Monk’s Green.
Volunteers are always welcome - please get in touch.
|11/02/2014 Fishponds Bird Count|
|04/09/2013 Work Schedule 2013-14|
|15/08/2013 Abbey Fishponds Proposed Wheelchair Route|
|27/03/2012 Abbey Fishponds Location Map|
|01/10/2006 Proposed Dredging Works|
|map and notes on Phase 3 of the Fishponds Management Plan|
|01/01/2005 Bat Surveys|
|report by Oxfordshire Bat Group covering May-August 2004|
|01/01/2005 Ecological Survey|
|by the Ponds Conservation Trust - samples taken in May and July 2004|
|01/01/2005 Fishponds Bird Survey|
|short report by Ray Edwards on monthly visits to Eynsham Fishponds in 2004|
|01/10/2004 Abbey Fishponds Proposed Management Strategy|
|joint report by the Play Area Committee with Eynsham History Group and Wychwood Project|
|01/10/2004 Archaeological Appraisal|
|by Keevill Heritage Consultancy - also covers history and future management|
|01/09/2004 Botanical Survey|
|by Cotswold Rare Plants Group|
|01/07/2004 Small mammal trapping|
|report by Oxford Brookes University|
|01/01/2004 Landscape and Visual Assessment|
|by the Wychwood Project|
|03/01/1992 The Fishponds of Eynsham Abbey|
|archaeological report by James Bond|
|01/09/1991 Higher Plants|
|report by BBONT Environmental Services|
This open area was formally named Monk's Green at the Parish Council meeting on 6 June 2006. The two 'new' logs for seating came from 200-year old oak trees from Buren Estate.
The two diggers negotiated a path into Station Road car park and through the trees, then on to remove silt from the moat round Harvey’s House Mound, and from part of the bed of the old Chilbrook, revealing the mediaeval landscape.
Ian Hutt and Graham Podbery took immense care with the digging, while John Richards of Phototechniques recorded the event for a future screening in the Village Hall.
Paul Hughes helped direct operations.
Graham Keevill, the archaeologist who has been involved with the Abbey excavations and the Thames Water pipeline across Harvey’s House, has kept a watching brief on the entire project.
Looking west from the log seats and Monk's Green. The area will be filled over time by water that still finds its way along the old river bed and by the stream which flows from the spring in Abbey Field.
The diggers excavated a drainage channel too. We have also built a small dam, which will be adjusted if necessary to retain a depth of water.
A view of the new pond on 20 July 2007, just before the flood that engulfed the area.
A photo taken from the playing fields a little later on the same day, showing the entire area under water.
View from the car park on Station Road
This panel in the car park off Station Road shows how the area might have looked before 1217.
A second panel was installed on Monk's Green, looking north towards the former Abbey and visualising the scene after the Abbot decided to extend the Abbey precinct and build the fishponds - see top of the Fishponds introductory page.
An unexpected grouping of stones, unearthed very near the surface while installing the second interpretation board, prompted some interesting speculations.
A big thank you to the 16 members of Atkins Ltd Water & Environment Department, from Oasis Business Park, who spent a day of their annual holiday working on the Fishponds.
They tackled a crack willow which formed a bridge to an island between the ‘new’ pond and the recently excavated ditch; first damming the ditch either side of it to lower the water level and silt, then clearing the silt and removing the boughs.
We now have an island which should be secure enough to encourage ground nesting birds.
The Atkins team also cleared one of the ancient fishpond irrigation channels illustrated in the abbey interpretation board.
Last, but by no means least, they used their surveying equipment to provide a levels survey which should help us understand the water flow in the fishpond irrigation channels
A small excavation on Monk's Green exposed what has been identified as the road to Stanton Harcourt, closed in 1217.
Walls and other features were also discovered. These were left exposed so that people could see them, but have since been covered over because they were being vandalised.
The Parish Council has carried out some major work on the board walks on the north path to make them safer and to make them more secure in times of flood.
The path into the blackthorn clump has been reinstated and the stream bank cleared. One quarter of the bramble patch near the car park has been cut, to provided a series of different habitats. The cherry trees have been thinned in the north east corner too.
Gravel to resurface the car park is expected in the next few weeks.
A detailed work schedule has been approved for the coming year. Volunteers are always welcome. If you would like to help in any way please phone Verity Hughes on 01865 880243.