Fiveways has been managed by Aston Rowant Parish Council since 2014, it is part of a network of footpaths in the parish and is located at an important medieval crossroads. The oldest road is the Lower Icknield Way, which runs along the base of the Chilterns and is thought to be pre-historic. It is crossed by Church Lane, the original Oxford to London Road, whose age is unknown. Both routes would have been used for livestock and carriages.
The Holbrook at Fiveways would have been a useful watering hole for drovers en route. There are such streams all along the Chilterns fed by the water table under the hills, where they emerge there are often lakes, useful in medieval times for stocking with fish. There is an impermeable layer at the base of the Chiltern hills so that it forms a reservoir. The level of the water table predicts which streams are running and whether there is a risk of flooding. These are minor chalk streams which produce excellent drinking water but the resulting abstraction reduces the flow and can lead to less clean streams.
Trout do run up the streams to spawn in the winter, but the main residents are sticklebacks and bullheads. There are plentiful numbers of water shrimps to eat. More recently we have seen an influx of American signal crayfish which have invaded the Thames and its tributaries. They can be seen in the water or on the land especially in wet weather. The running water is attractive to wild life , especially in the early morning. Fiveways is a low point locally and the water table is not far under the surface.
We have tried to increase the diversity of native wild flowers, trees and shrubs at Fiveways, with the hope that some would spread out of the area. The yellow toadflax is the best success story so far. Apart from December and January there are always some flowers out. It is a long-term project but we have seen an increase in butterflies and insects as a result. The snowdrops are thought to be escapees from the cottage garden on the site.
The area is noted for voles which are rarely seen in the daytime. There are field voles, bank voles and water voles. Some videos from a camera trap can be seen on the parish website. Voles, but not rats, are very partial to apples left along the stream. Water voles are good swimmers and will dive if scared.
Fiveways has been used as a rubbish dump for at least a century and during lockdown the wear has brought some objects to the surface for young enthusiasts to find.
In the 1800s there were houses on both sides going down Church Lane. If you continue straight on from Fiveways after the copse comes the lost hamlet of Penn. In the distance there is the Stadway, an ancient track, which is marked by trees on either side of the path. This is believed to be the location of the Pest Houses on church land. No trace remains of the houses. They were probably used for plague victims but it is unclear whether they were buried here or transported to Aston church yard.
Below are a number of downloadable movies and images showing the wildlife at Fiveways.