Watercress and Winterbournes
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.
Upcoming online events
Winterbournes: Curious and Changeable
20 April, 7 - 8pm Book ticket
Tim Sykes examines the unusual qualities of our local winterbournes. Discover what causes their fluctuating flow, how wildlife has adapted to them, and how our own lives can impact their wellbeing.
Otters and Voles and Mink - Oh My!
6 May, 7 - 8.30pm Book ticket
Susan Simmonds explores the interactions between three chalk stream mammals: otters, water voles, and invasive American mink. Hear how each species adapts to life in our local streams - often in competition with each other.
Claws for Thought: The Plight of our Native Crayfish
13 May, 7.30 - 8.30pm Book ticket
Ben Rushbrook highlights the threats facing our native white-clawed crayfish. Learn about the decline of this species, its current status in Hampshire, and the efforts being taken to secure its future.
River Triffids: The Plants Invading our Chalk Streams
25 May, 7 - 8.30pm Book ticket
Maggie Shelton uncovers the invasive non-native plants in our local chalk streams, from Himalayan balsam to parrot's feather. Find out what makes a species invasive and what impact they have.
News and blogs
Camera Ready: How to Photograph our Chalk Streams
Love that feeling of taking an awesome photo? Our chalk streams are the ideal place to get inspired! Check out our top tips for…
Rock of Ages: Hampshire's Hidden Aquifer
What is it that makes our chalk streams special? Deep beneath our feet, an ancient behemoth controls the fate of the waters above.
Stopping Sediment at Stoke
The clear water and gravelly beds of chalk streams offer fantastic habitat for wildlife. At Stoke, the Watercress and Winterbournes…
New closing date for photo competition
Want to enter our chalk stream photography competition? In response to this year's Covid-19 restrictions, you now have more time to…
The importance of chalk streams
For World Action on Rivers Day we celebrate and explore our chalk streams, some of Hampshire's most special habitats.
Grant scheme offers funding for community chalk stream projects
Keen to take action for our chalk streams, but need help to make your idea a reality? The new Watercress and Winterbournes Community…
Helping Wild Fish at Hurstbourne Priors
Historic structures are important to our chalk stream heritage, but can pose a problem for migrating fish. At Hurstbourne Priors, the…
Photography competition captures our chalk streams
Feeling inspired by our splendid chalk streams? You could be a winner in our new Tales from the Riverbank Photography Competition.
Habitat Restoration at Little Ann
Chalk streams are fantastic places for wild fish, but only if they reach their full potential. The Watercress and Winterbournes partners…