Watercress and Winterbournes

Watercress and Winterbournes

River Itchen © Linda Pitkin/2020VISION

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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 16 organisations to restore and celebrate the Bourne Rivulet, Candover Brook, Cheriton Stream, Pillhill Brook, River Arle, Upper Anton, and Upper Test.

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Flooded path at Hockley on the River Itchen

© Jon Milliken

Support flooding research

Living near a river or stream has many advantages, from employment and recreation to opportunities for wildlife-spotting. But for some residents the proximity has another, less positive outcome: a risk of localised flooding.

As the human impact upon the streams increases, so does the need for us to help them cope with times of high flow. We're researching nature-based solutions to the issue of flooding, and want to hear the views of Hampshire residents and landowners.

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Photography © Ross Hoddinott/2020VISION

Photography © Ross Hoddinott/2020VISION

Capture the streams

Feeling inspired by our splendid streams and their curious winterbournes? We're looking for photos that showcase the special qualities of these spaces and the people who call them home. If you're a Hampshire resident with photos of the scheme area, you could be a winner in our Tales from the Riverbank Photography Competition!

Find out more

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

Teenager surveying for species at Milton Locks nature reserve

© Paul Gonella

Shape local conservation

If you live within the scheme area then a great way to get involved is to join one of our Community Catchment Groups. We work closely with these groups to develop partnership projects addressing the unique needs of their areas, and to shape conservation activities in their local patch and beyond. To join your local group, or for more information, get in touch via email or contact Maggie Shelton on 07741 572366.

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