This site is part of the floodplain of the River Great Ouse, north of the river opposite Emberton Country Park. It is mainly a mix of improved and unimproved grassland, with ungrazed river edge and drainage ditch habitats, a seasonal pond and the river bluff of lightly grazed limestone. Goosey Bridge is an ancient bridge of great but simple beauty linking the mainland to an island in the river.
There are two main routes to walk in these meadows. The first route crosses Goosey Bridge and forms a loop around the island on the inside bank of the main river and a backwater channel. The centre of this area is fenced off for sheep grazing but the river edge is increasingly rich in vegetation and the quiet backwater is frequented by many species of wildlife. The going is flat but there are two lowish stiles to cross. Due to the sheep grazing in summer, dogs must be kept under control. Views are lovely back to Olney church.
The second route turns right before Goosey Bridge and follows along the north bank of the river through several fields before tracking right towards the river bluff or escarpment. The route then turns left, and a traverse leads up to the top left-hand corner of the field. You can then either walk back along the road to Olney or retrace your steps.
Wildlife interest includes many typical riverside species of bird and a variety of damselflies and dragonflies. Fish may be seen in the river and otters are known to visit; they have even bred locally. The escarpment is floristically rich in limestone species.
What to look for
As you walk along the river, look out for birds such as Kingfisher, Goosander, Common Tern, Reed Bunting, Sedge and Reed Warbler, Great Crested Grebe, Snipe, Oystercatcher, Curlew, Barnacle Goose and Mute Swan. Kestrel and Buzzard may be seen overhead and you may hear the cronking of the local Ravens which are thought to be nesting at the nearby quarry at Ravenstone. Barn Owls have been seen and the Cuckoo can be heard in spring.
The river bank is also a good place to observe Banded Demoiselle and other damselflies, for example the Red-eyed, Azure, Common Blue, Blue- tailed and White-legged damselflies and dragonflies such as the Hairy, Brown and Migrant Hawker, Broad-bodied and Four-spotted Chaser and Common Darter.
Plants that may be seen along the river bank include Yellow Iris, Bulrush, Greater Pond Sedge and Yellow Water-lily. On the escarpment a range of limestone grassland species can be found such as Upright Brome, Downy Oat-grass, Crested Dog’s-tail, Musk Thistle, Greater Knapweed, Lady’s Bedstraw, Salad Burnet, Yellow Rattle and Common Spotted-orchid.
Large Carp can be seen in the river when it is hot.
Olney Meadows species glossary
The scientific names of all the species mentioned for Olney Meadows can be found in order of appearance in this species glossary.
How to get there
The grid Reference for Goosey Bridge is SP885510.
By car: turn off the A509 in Olney towards Weston Underwood, up Weston Road. Park in Dagnall Road on the right, half way up the hill. To get to Goosey Bridge, walk back across Weston Road and downhill until you come to a track leading off to the right. Follow this down to Goosey Bridge.
The nearest public transport
Arriva bus service number 1 Milton Keynes to Lavendon runs every hour from Milton Keynes to the Bull Hotel in Olney via Newport Pagnell, Monday–Saturday until 6.30pm.
Places of interest nearby
Olney is a historic market town equidistant from Northampton, Bedford and Milton Keynes. It has a history as a lace-making centre but is perhaps best known for the Olney Pancake Race held every year in the High Street. It is also known through the ‘Olney Hymns’ by William Cowper and John Newton. The Cowper and Newton Museum off the Market Square has interesting displays on the history and natural history of Olney and its literary connections.
There are other river meadow walks including one across the river meadows to Clifton Reynes.