ITS VILE smell has nauseated residents and baffled officials.

But nobody has claimed responsibility for the foul stench that swept across Oxford, said to be like cheesy Wotsits, feet, mouldy milk, manure and raw sewage.

It came as the warm weather prompted many to open their windows on Monday night, but then straight away to regret it.

Last night, Oxfordshire’s local authorities could not explain where it had come from and a Thames Water spokeswoman said that sewage was not the cause.

Sarah Sharpe said: “I’ve spoken to the teams at Oxford sewage treatment works and all our equipment is working as usual and there have been no operational problems.”

The firm could not say how many calls it had received about the matter, she added.

Meanwhile, Oxford City Council spokesman Chris Lee said 12 reports had come in about the smell and that the situation was being monitored.

He said: “We have received reports of manure or a sewage-type odour.

“If residents continue to experience foul odour, we will investigate further to establish whether it is causing a statutory nuisance.”

No further complaints were received yesterday, he added, and it was suspected that it could have come from farming activity near to the city.

A spokeswoman for the Met Office said winds, which could have been carrying the smell, had been blowing from the north-west at speeds of 3mph on Monday night and yesterday morning.

She said: “It was a very gentle breeze, which did calm down early in the morning at about 6am.”

But suggestions that muck-spreading may have been the cause were met with scepticism from some farmers. Sally Walker of Warren Farm, in Holton, said she knew of no farmers who had been fertilising in the last few days and that it was not the right time of year for that activity.

The Environment Agency said it also did not know where the odour had come from. Spokesman Ash Dobson said: “We have checked and there are no reports of this problem coming from any of the sites we regulate in the South East.”

People speculated the stench could even be coming from the BMW Cowley plant, but spokeswoman Rebecca Baxter said this was not the case.

Almost 150 readers yesterday contacted the Oxford Mail to say they smelt the odour in areas including Old Marston, Headington, Risinghurst, Wood Farm, East Oxford and Cowley, as well as Blackbird Leys, Littlemore, Botley, Jericho and Osney. Reports even came from Berinsfield, Banbury and Wallingford.

Headington Quarry resident Marie Vickers said she first noticed the smell when she went outside late at night on Monday.

Mrs Vickers, of Trinity Road, said: “I suddenly remembered I hadn’t put the rubbish out that evening and when I went out to my front gate with the bags, there was this dreadful stench.

“At first we thought it might have been coming from our food waste bins, because it is so hot.

“But it was in the back garden too and because we had the door open, it got into the house as well.

“It actually made me feel nauseous.

But when an engineer from Thames Water came round in the morning he said there was no fault and, of course, you could not smell it by then,” she added.

Mrs Vickers’s son Gerry, 44, was visiting her coming from Manchester. He said the smell had made it “impossible to go out of the house”.

He added: “My sister also returned from London late at night and said that the smell was at the Green Road Roundabout as well.

“I am glad we were not the only ones to have noticed this and I will be interested to find out the reason."

On Facebook, residents described the smell as “like manure”, “foul”, “vile” and “like mouldy milk”.

Commuter Lindsay Russell commented yesterday morning : “I’m on the 280 bus from Wheatley to Oxford and around Nielsen in Risinghurst [there is a] really strong smell of manure.”

Asked to comment on the cause of the foul smell, Oxfordshire County Council spokesman Martin Crabtree said: “It is not something we are aware of.”


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