Ardley Wood Quarry is a small, sheltered, mostly wooded nature reserve a few miles North West of Bicester. It has public access and is open all the time.
Information on the BBOWT website.
The reserve is just outside Ardley on it’s western edge. So if you are coming from the North, East or South, for example Buckingham, Brackley or from Bicester, then you should get to Ardley and leave the village on the road to Somerton. About 30m after passing the small white sections of fence that indicate the edge of the village, turn left on a small road leading south-east. Go past 5 or 6 red-brick cottages on the right and park on the left side of the track about 30m further on and about 10m before you get to a railway bridge. The reserve is on the left of the road. If you are approaching from the West then you have probably come through Somerton and you should turn right just before you enter the village of Ardley. Drive past the cottages and park up as described above.
The reserve has for its south-western border the railway track and you can walk by the railway along a path at the top of the embankment. I did this first as I walked round the reserve in a clock-wise direction. The reserve is small and criss-crossed with paths so if you do miss your way you won’t stay lost for long! The paths are well defined and the volunteers have been working hard creating wooden steps for the public to walk on.
The reserve has a variety of habitats including the railway cutting, dense woodland and some open spaces with a sandy soil. There are also some areas such as the quarry itself which are boggy and were even under water when I visited in April. Whether open water would be present in Summer I am not sure as the pools I saw were very shallow.
Railway cuttings must be a very special environment as apart from the trains passing through (about 2 an hour) they must be quite undisturbed. The cutting at Ardley has some large trees on its south-west side and these were home to a pair of buzzards when I arrived. They made themselves scarce as I walked along by the track but I would be hoping to see them again the next time I visited. I do try and walk inconspicuously but buzzards do have quite good eyesight! The woodland is made of scrubby type trees which look to have been pollarded in the past and there were plenty of climbing plants covering them. The climbers didn’t look to me to be honey-suckle so I’m not sure what they were. I did see a blackcap which was nice. I could see that the open areas would be a real sun-trap in the summer and would be nice as a place for a packed lunch. These open expanses would be home to various grasses during the summer months and I would imagine that they would be a good habitat for butterflies. I was visiting in April so I was a bit on the early side for that. With the existence of some boggy patches and the warmth of the site I would expect a multitude of insects to be flying about in the summer including dragonflies so that would be something to look forward to when I next visit.
As I didn’t spot that many living candidates for photography I had to resort to the old favourite of dried seed heads. But when you think about it that isn’t so bad! The architectural teasel is always a good bet and I also found some other smaller seed heads nicely arranged with the railway track as a backdrop. By the entrance to the reserve is the railway bridge and at the time I was visiting there was some freshly emerged crab-apple blossom that I couldn’t resist taking a picture of. Pictures below.
What a lovely spot and I’m very much looking forward to returning on a warm summer’s day. I would be making sure that I had my macro lenses with me as I suspect the reserve will be teeming with insects. I won’t forget a nice packed lunch too!