Didcot's oaks and other notable trees
Estates east of Abingdon Road – Oakend Lea, Marsh site, Furlongs, Long Wittenham path
OAKEND LEA + TESCO Oakend Lea, east of Tesco and south of the A4130 road to Wallingford, contains perhaps Didcot's largest concentration of mature oak trees – 28 of them. The original site was quite marshy, so the housing development has been built on raised land, leaving the trees to occupy their original areas below estate level. The oaks are certainly something to marvel at, but if you go to the southernmost end of Oakend Lea, nearest the railway, and venture into a wooded group of trees, you may encounter the dis-spiriting remains of mature trees that were felled as part of the development because they had been damaged by storms and/or affected by disease. Some of the tree depressions are surrounded by steep banks, so can be difficult to get into, and beware that they still retain their marshy character – a ready supply of water is of course what has helped these oaks to grow to such good sizes. Finally, in the north-east corner of Tesco car park, is a fairly mature oak.
THE MARSH 'The Marsh' is the large roughly triangular field to the north of the A4130 opposite Hadden Hill retail park and east of the B4016 Abingdon Road, sometimes referred to as Ladygrove East. On old maps the site is named East Hagbourne Marsh. The site is reserved for housing and a Planning Application from Bloor Homes for 750 homes is being determined in 2021. Most of the field is flat and marshy, but there are two mature oaks. Although both are protected by TPOs, at least one is under threat to make way for a planned access road. READ MORE ABOUT THE TREE AT RISK
FURLONGS The Furlongs estate, east of the B4016 Abingdon Road and built around 2000, contains a few mature trees, but few of them are accessible. To its north, the western part of Furlong Wood is at risk from the 'Marsh' / Ladygrove Eastplanning application, as this includes the final extension of the Northern Perimeter Road (A4130) which will provide the main access to the new site as well as relieving traffic congestion around Tesco and the roundabout to the west by Marsh Bridge.
LONG WITTENHAM PATH North of the Furlongs estate, and to the east of the B4016 Abingdon Road opposite Willowbrook Park is a large area of fields incorporating 88 protected oaks in the east-west field boundaries – a haven of wildlife and a reminder of how our landscape must have looked hundreds of years ago. Much of this area is private agricultural land, but there is one important public footpath (Oxfordshire 189 then 354) which passes adjacent to 50 medium-to-large oak trees. As there is no parking on the B4016, the best option is to park in Willowbrook Park's Franklin Gardens, follow footpath 287 which leads over a stile through the grounds of early 17th century Ladygrove Farmhouse (Grade II Listed), then out along its gravel drive passing four large oaks. Taking care when crossing the B4016, you will see a footpath sign diagonally opposite and this is the start of footpath 189 to Long Wittenham. The first rectangular field is bordered by 21 oaks – all with TPOs. At the top of the hill is the border to the North Wessex Downs Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) which confers legal protection on trees and hedgerows under the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000. The path curves left and soon a row of very large oaks comes into view, the obviously largest of which dates from about 1795. While footpath 354 peels off south (adjacent to the golf course pines but no large trees) and footpath 287 later heads north near Willington Farm, continue east to encounter dozens more oaks. After passing Long Wittenham Wood (inaccessible) the path ends at Long Wittenham Road / Sires Hill.
MANOR OAKS DEVELOPMENT, SEPTEMBER 2021 As you walk up the hill in the first rectangular field, the area on your right beyond the trees is thought to be part of Didcot's ancient 16th century wood. A planning application P20/S1577/O here was refused by SODC, their report citing a number reasons, including intrusion into the countryide and threat to mature trees. However the developer, Manor Oak Homes appealed the refusal, and won on a technicality – that SODC did not have the 5.33 years of land supply which it had claimed, but because other developments have been slower to come to fruition, the land supply was only 4.95 years. The appeal decision mentioned that as this was below the target of 5 years which planning authorites are expected to have, the Planning Inspector was able to overturn the SODC refusal, and found in favour of Manor Oak Homes, granting them planning permission to proceed with 150 homes. All the valid objections made by SODC have thus been overruled. Those on social media who share my view that trees should be protected are incandescent. I have written to the Leader of SODC, pointing out that this is not the first time that a planning refusal has been overturned because of the land supply being found to be less than 5 years, and the precedent now visible to developers is that any planning refusal can be overturned as long as the situation exists, which places trees at risk. I've asked the Leader what is being done to rectify the situation, and may post some of the reply here.
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Public access Private / inaccessible
First right after Tesco roundabout
N of the A4130, E of the B4016
East of the B4016 Abingdon Road
Opposite Willowbrook, E of the B4016