Watercress and Winterbournes

Watercress and Winterbournes

River Itchen at Winnall Moors Nature Reserve © HIWWT

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The Rivers Test and Itchen are iconic features of the Hampshire landscape, but the chalk streams that give them life are some of the greatest hidden treasures in the county. These beautiful waters go by many names in our area, from brooks and rivulets to sources and headwaters. Those that only flow during the wet winter months have another name again - winterbournes.

With only around 200 existing worldwide, and most of those in England, chalk streams provide an ecologically rare home for a whole host of wonderful wildlife. Here in Hampshire their cool, oxygenated, alkaline waters provide a uniquely perfect habitat for species like water vole, brown trout, southern damselfly, water crowfoot, and endangered white-clawed crayfish.

Our streams also have another story to tell: that of a landscape shaped by centuries of human activity. Adjacent fields are marked with patterns from old water meadows, while mysterious riverside structures speak of trades ranging from gin distilling to paper production. Today many of these historic industries continue, with our area being famous for watercress growing and fly fishing.

With support from the National Lottery Heritage Fund, Watercress and Winterbournes is telling the story of this vibrant past and building a bright future. This five-year Landscape Partnership Scheme brings together local communities and 14 organisations to restore and celebrate seven special chalk streams: the Bourne Rivulet, Candover Brook, Cheriton Stream, Pillhill Brook, River Arle, Upper Anton, and Upper Test.

Kingfisher © Malcolm Brown

Kingfisher © Malcolm Brown

Meet our partners

Watercress and Winterbournes brings together the knowledge and passion of 15 organisations, including ourselves. We're honoured to be co-ordinating the partnership and collaborating with:

Cheriton Conservation Group | Country Land and Business Association | Environment Agency | Hampshire Buildings Preservation Trust | Hampshire County Council | NFU Watercress Association | Natural England | Salmon and Trout Conservation UK | South Downs National Park Authority | Southern Water | Test and Itchen Association | Vitacress | Wessex Chalk Streams and River Trust | Wild Trout Trust

Water vole feeding

© Tom Marshall

Explore our plans

You can now read our Landscape Conservation Action Plan, which outlines our work so far and our aims for the future. It includes a look at the value of our chalk streams, they pressures they face, and the projects we're proposing to protect them.

Over five exciting years we’ll improve habitats, protect vulnerable species, and address key pressures like pollution and flooding. We’ll celebrate the ways in which our chalk streams have inspired people past and present, and raise awareness about the incredible wildlife that calls them home.

Read the Landscape Conservation Action Plan

Get involved

As Watercress and Winterbournes develops there will be lots of ways to get involved, whether you live by our chalk streams or come from elsewhere to enjoy these special places.

At the moment, if you live in any of our catchment areas then a great way to get involved is to take our survey or join one of our community groups. We work closely with these groups to develop partnership projects addressing the unique needs of their areas, from restoring historic structures to improving water efficiency and tackling invasive non-native species.

Check the map below (click to enlarge) to see which of our catchment areas you fit into. To join your local group or for more information please contact Maggie on Maggie.Shelton@hiwwt.org.uk or 07741 572366.