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New Length of Chalk Stream Created in Hampshire

By Terry Lawton

For nearly 100 years watercress has been farmed on the headwaters of the Bourne Rivulet at St Mary Bourne, Hampshire. The watercress farm was developed by Eliza Fleet, who was known in London as The Watercress Queen, and trademarked the name Vitacress in 1929. The growth of the watercress farm has, over many years, had an effect on the Bourne, particularly above the famous viaduct.

The Bourne Rivulet and its trout fishing was immortalised by Harry Plunket Greene in his classic book Where The Bright Waters Meet. The Bourne Rivulet is the uppermost tributary of the river Test. The "bright waters" of the book's title are the confluence of the Test and the Bourne.

Lower Link Farm, which is owned by Vitacress Salads Ltd, is sited at the perennial headwaters of the Bourne. Spring water is used to irrigate the watercress beds and use to be returned to the Bourne, along with wash-water from the packing plant, through a series of pipes and enclosed culverts which have always held a population of wild brown trout. At the start of 2007 the company removed these pipes and culverts and employed Cain Bio-Engineering, the specialist river restoration company, to convert them into new miniature chalk streams which has added to the fishable waters on the Bourne, populated as they are by some impressive trout.

The basic channels produced by removing the underground pipes and culverts which Cain Bio-Engineering converted into new miniature high-quality chalk streams. This photograph was taken at the end of February, 2007.

The work, which involved the creation of completely new features within an excavated channel, was a rare opportunity to create ideal trout habitat from the stream bed up. The habitat with its pools, glides and riffles is now home to the resident population of trout. These streams have been colonised by trout of all year classes and even young bullheads – an important indicator of water quality - are present. Other fish from down stream have moved up into the new waters where they have the right geomorphology – physical features – and biological features such as weeds and macro-invertebrates to flourish and thrive.

Kick sampling in the new streams has shown that there are large numbers of Gammarus available to the fish, along with many varieties of Caddis and Ephemerids.

Local landowner Michael Malyon fishing the left-hand of the two channels in the photograph of the start of the project. This photograph was taken in June, 2007 and the new plantings and sowings can be seen to be growing well.

By creating the key physical features for the four life stages of trout, most of the main habitat requirements for other trout food species will be created by default. Logs and brushwood have been incorporated into the new banks and margins at key locations. This woody debris will provide key egg-laying sites for Ephemerids and good nursery habitat for nymphs and invertebrates. Low-level banks that can easily over-top during periods of high water have also been included.

For further information please contact Dr Steve Rothwell, Vitacress Salads Ltd, Lower Link Farm, St Mary Bourne, Hampshire SP11 6DB, telephone +44 (0)1264-732009 or e-mail:

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