The catchment of the River Ray is predominantly rural. From its headwaters near Quainton, the Ray flows slowly south-west to its confluence with the River Cherwell at Islip. The River Ray catchment is hosted by the Berks, Bucks & Oxon Wildlife Trust (BBOWT), with the support of the Environment Agency and The Rivers Trust. Kate Prudden is the catchment Project Officer for the Ray, Windrush and Cherwell.
The Ray is of particular significance as, despite heavy modifications to its channel, its floodplain includes areas of nationally rare species-rich meadow (including several SSSIs). BBOWT now manages a number of these sites, including Meadow Farm, a site of historical importance with medieval ridge-and-furrow farming techniques still visible today. BBOWT’s wider vision is to connect its nature reserves and the wider River Ray landscape through its Upper River Ray Floodplain Living Landscape project.
Further downstream, the RSPB manages a large nature reserve at Otmoor, famous for its bird life. Both the Ray and the Cherwell form part of the RSPB’s wide reaching Futurescapes project for the Upper Thames River Valleys, highlighting once again the national importance of this area.
Having recognised the value of the River Ray, BBOWT and other partners, including the Environment Agency, RSPB, National Farmers Union, Thames Water, Thames Rivers Restoration Trust and the Country Land and Business Association, have been involved in its management for a number of years.
The gradient of the Ray is among the lowest in the UK, which, combined with the clay soil type, makes the Ray particularly vulnerable to flooding.