Background: Only 14% of British rivers are in a good condition, a proportion that has decreased in recent years and in some cases they are in danger of disappearing altogether. England possesses 160 of the 210 true chalk streams that exist in the world and are said to be ecologically England’s rainforests, but these are all in severe danger. They exist in, or emanating from, chalk hills from Kent in the south-east to Somerset and up to Yorkshire in the north and Norfolk in the east. 9 rivers drain the Chiltern Hills which have become my preoccupation on behalf of the Chiltern Society over the past 18 months.
Doug led action on rivers and wetlands for the Chiltern Society which led to the Chalk Streams In Crisis Conference in October 2019. DEFRA, the Environment Agency, OfWat, Thames Water, Affinity Water, The Chilterns AONB, The Chiltern Chalk Streams Project all committed to taking action to initiate the restoration of the chalk streams, so Doug set up the Chalk Rivers Action Group or CRAG to get things started.
For the next 12 months, CRAG supported new conversations between the main stakeholders at a senior level and persuaded the Minister of State at DEFRA Rebecca Pow MP to head up a Chalk Streams Summit in October 2020.
Although modest in size chalk streams can be very beautiful, flowing crystal-clear over a gravel bed and supporting rich ecologies. However since the mid twentieth century, they have been robbed of their water for the mains supplies, for farming and industry such that they are becoming dry for much of their lengths, and flows in what is left are severely depleted. In many places they are also used as drains, hidden in culverts or neglected.
The images below from the left show:
The CRAG logo; The 2019 Chalk Streams Conference panel; The River Chess; Trout in the River Chess; A dry chalk stream owing to over-extraction of water.