2nd Annual Chalk Stream Headwaters Forum Sets its Sights on National Attention

Vitacress Conservation Trust and partners resolve to focus national attention on the plight of England’s globally significant chalk stream ecology.

Tuesday, September 2 2008 – At the second annual Chalk Stream Headwaters Forum, stakeholders involved in the conservation and restoration of the Hampshire chalk waters came together to share perspectives and knowledge on the critical environmental issues facing the famous chalk streams. The event, which was chaired by Lord Selborne, Patron of the Vitacress Conservation Trust (VCT), heard from experts from academia, business as well as local and national angling and environmental communities. The goal was to carve out a practical route forward for the benefit of this precious and quintessentially English resource.

This year’s Forum heard from speakers from the University of Southampton, The Environment Agency, the Test and Itchen Association and Cain Bio-Engineering on a range of scientific and environmental issues related to the mounting challenges facing the streams, as well as some best practice examples of how local farmers, business and landowners were collaborating with the Environment Agency and English Nature to help restore and protect some local rivers.

The Forum identified some highly pressing issues contributing to the threatened status of our chalk streams, including the urgent need to consolidate and analyse the large bank of disparate scientific data currently in play, in order to draw nationally significant conclusions from them. Therefore it was agreed by the VCT Board that this year’s activities would include work with the University of Southampton to begin collating and analysing the science informing this debate, in order to help solve issues facing the English Chalk Streams.

Chalk Waters Catchment Management Groups

Last year’s forum had resolved to explore the creation of a series of Chalk Waters Catchment Management Groups for the Rivers Test & Itchen and its sub-catchments. The first of these was the ‘Bourne Rivulet Initiative’, which was formed in November 2007 and its Chair, Professor Gail Taylor of the University of Southampton, reported to the Forum on the significant progress made in the intervening period.

Building Biodiversity

The role of this group has been be to interpret the body of scientific research being undertaken on the Stream and its ecology, and to translate and ultimately guide that research into practical solutions that can be implemented on the ground.

Practical outputs so far have included the completion of the river restoration at the Vitacress Salads site at St Mary Bourne, the engagement by local landowner Michael Malyon of the same experts to implement river restoration on a 700m stretch of the Bourne downstream of the Vitacress site, and the creation of a Bourne Rivulet Chalk Stream Knowledge Database housed at Southampton University. The intention is to complete the population of that database and then to transfer its contents to a public website which will be universally accessible.

In fact, the Management Group has been so successful it was resolved by the VCT to use its exemplar as a best practice model and create a similar group called the Upper Itchen Initiative to address the fast mounting concerns voiced at the Forum about this particular stretch of a historic chalk stream.

Lord Selborne, Patron of the Vitacress Conservation Trust and Chair of the Forum commented “The second Chalk Stream Headwaters Forum proved a lively meeting, with a number of positive messages as well as some concerns. The VCT will, I know, be following up on a number of very constructive proposals made in the discussion period”.

Professor Gail Taylor, Chair of the VCT said “We were delighted by the impressive turn out and spirit of co-operation from such a wide representation of interests in our chalk streams, and particularly proud that the model created by the Bourne Rivulet Initiative was considered a useful template for others to follow”.

Lawrence Talks from the Environment Agency comments, “Chalk streams are an irreplaceable part of England’s natural heritage. The environmental pressures they face are immense. The Vitacress Conservation Trust is an excellent example of how the scientific community, landowners, business interests, NGOs and statutory agencies are joining forces to protect these iconic rivers for future generations.”

Over 150 delegates attended the forum from across a broad spectrum of government, voluntary and business groups, as well as local landowners and community-based organizations.

Forum presentations and white papers available for download:

Chalk Headwaters Forum Proceedings 2008

The Quintessential Chalk Stream
Jim Glasspool, Test & Itchen Association

The Structure and Function of Chalk Streams
Pete Shaw, University of Southampton

Chalk Stream Malaise
Lawrence Talks, Environment Agency

Catchment Sensitive Farming
Nigel Thomas-Childs, Environment Agency

The Bourne Rivulet Initiative 2008
Gail Taylor, University of Southampton

Building Biodiversity
Simon Cain & Dominic Longley, Cain Bioengineering and Terry Lawon, Angling Consultant

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