The Cherwell and Ray Catchment

The Cherwell and Ray catchment encompasses the two ‘Operational Catchments’ of the River Cherwell and the River Ray (the Cherwell’s largest tributary). It comprises an area of 943km2 and crosses multiple county and local authority boundaries.

From its headwaters near the village of Charwelton (Northamptonshire), the River Cherwell flows southwards, passing through Banbury and Kidlington before flowing into the Thames at New Hinksey (Oxford). The River Ray has its headwaters near Quainton, from which it flows slowly south-west past Bicester to its confluence with the River Cherwell at Islip. Other than these key urban areas, the Cherwell catchment is very rural, with a high proportion of arable land.

Like many other lowland rivers in the country, the Cherwell and Ray suffer from pollution from farmland, sewage and domestic wastewater, and are also affected by invasive non-native species and over-development. The rivers are not as healthy as they could be: neither are classed as in “Good” ecological status.

However, these rivers are also home to rare invertebrate species such as the Fine-lined Pea Mussel, and the banks and reedbeds host numerous bird species such as Kingfishers and Reed Buntings. Otters have returned to the Cherwell and are found throughout the catchment.

The Catchment Partnership was set up in 2014 by the Berks, Bucks & Oxon Wildlife Trust (BBOWT), as the catchment ‘host’ organisation and Thames21 joined to co-host in 2022.

Our partnership vision for the catchment

We aim to bring together all the interested parties in the Cherwell and Ray Catchment to collaboratively protect, enhance and improve its water environment through a shared vision:

“To ensure the catchment is clean, healthy and full of wildlife, that it is enjoyed, valued, and managed sustainably by all for the long-term.”

A catchment plan is viewable in this storymap.

Click here to read the Terms of Reference of the Cherwell and Ray Catchment Partnership

Catchment Partners

We are an inclusive partnership including local authorities, government agencies, environmental NGOs, community groups, businesses and academia. Our partnership brings together a range of sectoral interests. Some of the key catchment partners are:

Banbury Community Action Group

Berks, Bucks and Oxon Wildlife Trust (BBOWT)

Buckinghamshire Council

Canal and Rivers Trust

Cherwell District Council

Cotswold Rivers Trust

Environment Agency

#endsewagepollution Mid-Thames Group

Freshwater Habitats Trust

Forestry Commission

Islip Wildlife Group

Launton Parish Council

Natural England


Oxford University Conservation Society

Oxford University Wild Swimmers


Thames Rivers Trust

Thames Water


Wendlebury Parish Council

Wild Oxfordshire

We are keen to ensure that everyone who wants to work together to improve the rivers in the Cherwell and Ray Catchment can do so.

Do you have questions or project ideas? Get in touch with us.

Contact us

The Cherwell and Ray Catchment Partnership is jointly hosted by BBOWT and Thames21.

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