Improving Access at Millennium Green Pond

Volunteer collecting a sediment sample from Millennium Green Pond © Emma Healey

Our chalk streams are amazing places to experience nature. The Watercress and Winterbournes partners have been helping the people of Laverstoke and Freefolk to get closer to theirs.

Nestled between the villages of Laverstoke and Freefolk sits a hidden gem known as the Millennium Green. A public recreation space managed by its own charitable trust, the site includes an old watercress bed which now provides a home for wildlife such as dragonflies and waterfowl.

Although wide enough at its source to be considered a pond, this body of water is essentially a chalk stream habitat. Fed directly from the chalk aquifer - those with eagle eyes might spot the bubbling of underwater springs - it has a noticeable flow even at its broadest point. At its lower end it tapers into a stretch of stream, which then joins with the nearby main channel of the Upper Test.

This part of the Millennium Green is much loved by local people, but could previously be a tricky place to visit. The land around the water was boggy and overgrown, making for a difficult walk even in wellies, and the village communities were keen to improve access to the area. After extensive consultation, we delivered this through Watercress and Winterbournes in May 2021.

While putting together our plans, we noticed that an invasive non-native plant called parrot's feather had established itself on one side of the pond. This fast-growing species would take over if left to its own devices, so our amazing volunteers leapt into action and removed it.

With this pressing issue addressed, we then installed 140m of footpath along the length of the pond and stream. This path connects two entrances to the Millennium Green, and has the width and textured surface needed for pushchairs and wheelchair users.

The site has been further enhanced with the addition of a platform that extends out over the water. From this new vantage point, visitors can get up-close-and-personal with the freshwater habitat and wildlife - the local primary school are keen to use it for pond dipping!

The final addition is a bench overlooking the pond, which offers a peaceful place to rest and enjoy the view. This end of the path is only a stone's throw from a bus stop, allowing school students and commuters to more easily have a moment in nature after a long day.

Millennium Green Pond access works celebration event © Emma Healey

Community members celebrate access improvement works at Millennium Green Pond © Emma Healey

With these improvements completed, the people of Laverstoke and Freefolk are looking to the future. Our volunteers continue to do invertebrate surveys and are finalising a plan for long-term management of the habitat. They also hope to add pollinator-friendly native plants, both in the pond and around its edges.

We're so pleased to have made these plans a reality, and want to thank the village communities for all their support. These improvements form part of two Watercress and Winterbournes projects: Roaming by the River, which is expanding access to our local chalk streams, and Tackling Invasives, which is curbing the spread of invasive species in these precious places.

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