Why Britain’s Chalk Rivers Are Under Threat

“On the banks of the River Itchen in Hampshire, dragonflies whir across the nettles and blossom. From a nearby copse of trees a chiffchaff and cetti’s warbler attempt to outdo one another in mid-morning song. A couple of ducks steer a meandering course through the gin-clear water. The odd trout flashes up and out in a glint of silver, snatching greedily at the hatching flies.”

There are a mere 210 chalk streams to be found in the world with 160 of them based in England. They are picturesque to say the least. So beautiful in fact that many famous authors have based their literature around them.

“Kenneth Grahame had Mole, Ratty, Badger and Toad lark about a chalk stream in Wind in the Willows. The poets Ted Hughes and Sir John Betjeman wrote of trout weaving their lazy path over the gravel beds and in 1820 John Constable captured the beauty of the Avon in front of Salisbury Cathedral.”

The Itchen, found running through Hampshire, has kept the same beauty it was characterised  by a century ago, however, the natural environment is no longer in tact. In fact, it is under huge threat.

“A new riverfly survey of England’s chalk streams has revealed some of the rivers are in an “abysmal” state. Of 120 sites sampled in the census commissioned by Salmon and Trout Conservation UK, only 14 were found to be unimpacted by human activity.”

The main sources causing a fast decline to the condition are agricultural and road run off, and poorly treated sewage. Additionally, the rise in fish farms have seen a depletion in fly life.

“Jeremy Paxman, the journalist and keen fly-fisherman, wrote a foreword to the 2015 Riverfly Census in which he described the situation as “depressing”.

“Something has gone very wrong and those who care about it are an eccentric minority,” he wrote. “Yet experience tells us that almost everything in nature is connected. A decline in fly life on rivers will have consequences.”

It is the fishermen who are leading the campaign to save England’s crystal clear chalk streams to ensure they are not lost forever. If actions are successfully made, they are then left with the hope that the rivers are able to regenerate.

“If our chalk streams vanish we face losing more than mere waterways; rather the tributaries that comprise our national consciousnes.”

For more information on this matter please visit The Telegraph.