2023 Chalkstream Headwaters Forum

2023 Chalkstream Headwaters Forum

The 2023 Forum opened with a statement from Gail Taylor, Chair

Vitacress Conservation Trust 2023 Chalk Stream Headwaters Forum

All good things must come to an end and certainly the Vitacress Conservation Trust has been a good thing, with much to celebrate and many outstanding successes, but the Trustees feel  that now is a good time to celebrate those achievements and bring the VCT to a glorious conclusion”.

So sadly, this was the last Chalk Stream Headwater’s Forum hosted by the Vitacress Conservation Trust. Gail went on to say “Since its inception in 2007- 16 years ago, with the first Forum- we have had a blast and achieved much. But I’d like to take you back to sixteen years  ago and remind ourselves of where we were- chalk streams in a poor ecological condition- no change there I hear you say!, but in bringing together all of the stakeholders into one room to discuss their different perspectives and how they valued chalk streams, we were doing something truly novel and innovative. Before the days of River Trusts, Catchment Management Plans and Citizen Science- we were the change makers and many of you have been part of that journey-so thank you to everyone who has been there with us for the past 16 years- you have truly made a difference and we are grateful for each and every contribution”.

We would like to express our gratitude to Pete Shaw from the University of Southampton who stepped in at short notice to Chair the 2023 Forum. Our guest speakers this year were Tim Hess, Emeritus Professor Cranfield University talking about “Future Water Resources: The Changing Nature of Supply and Demand”, and Heather Smith, Water Sciences Institute Cranfield University who gave a presentation entitled “Providing Additional Water Supplies through Recycling (and public perceptions thereof)”.

Graham Roberts and Pete Shaw gave their usual updates on the Upper Itchen and Bourne Rivulet Initiatives respectively. Graham also spoke about the People’s Assembly for Nature—a new approach to the crisis for biodiversity and nature in the UK.

Tim Hess
Heather Smith

Jen Ball, University of Southampton updated on her project  “Ecosystem Services in Chalk Streams” and Kieran Gething, Nottingham Trent University  did likewise for his research “Recognising and Protecting the Aquatic-terrestrial Biodiversity of Dynamic River Ecosystems”.

Pete Shaw and Anna Michalopoulou, also from the University of Southampton, outlined two new PhD research projects entitled “Understanding processes and impacts of pollutants in nutrient-sensitive headwater chalk streams” and “Effects of Aquaculture on Water Quality in the Test and Itchen” respectively. Vitacress will fund these going forward.

Previous Forums…

2023 Chalkstream Headwaters Forum

2023 Chalkstream Headwaters Forum

The 2023 Forum opened with a statement from Gail Taylor, Chair Vitacress Conservation Trust 2023 Chalk Stream Headwaters Forum “All good things must come to an end and certainly the Vitacress Conservation Trust has been a good thing, with much to celebrate and many...

read more
2022 Chalk Stream Headwaters Forum

2022 Chalk Stream Headwaters Forum

Our first post-pandemic forum with research updates Vitacress Conservation Trust 2022 Chalk Stream Headwaters Forum - 25 November The annual Vitacress Conservation Trust (VCT) Chalk Stream Headwaters Forum took place on 25 November at Sparsholt College, Winchester,...

read more
2018 Chalk Stream Headwaters Forum

2018 Chalk Stream Headwaters Forum

Managing and preserving Hampshire’s ecologically important chalk streams Vitacress Conservation Trust 2018 Chalk Stream Headwaters Forum - 23 November The importance of managing and preserving Hampshire’s ecologically important chalk streams was discussed at the 12th...

read more
2022 Chalk Stream Headwaters Forum

2022 Chalk Stream Headwaters Forum

Our first post-pandemic forum with research updates

Vitacress Conservation Trust 2022 Chalk Stream Headwaters Forum – 25 November

The annual Vitacress Conservation Trust (VCT) Chalk Stream Headwaters Forum took place on 25 November at Sparsholt College, Winchester, attracting 120 attendees with an interest in the health of the UK’s important chalk streams.

We were extremely fortunate to have Charles Rangeley-Wilson, broadcaster, filmmaker, author and journalist, Chair the event, particularly on the day that the CaBA Chalk Stream Restoration Strategy was published, giving Charles the opportunity to outline its content and answer questions.  This Plan will be used to drive progress by government and regulators, water companies, landowners, NGOs and river associations right down to the grass roots level of individuals who are passionate about their local river.

Kate Heppell, a Professor of Physical Geography specialising in water quality and hydrology and currently seconded from School of Geography in Queen Mary University of London to the Chilterns Chalk Streams Project gave a presentation on her work entitled “Tracking Water Quality—” A Co-designed Online Observatory for the River Chess”.

Kate’s research is focused on the transport and transformation of contaminants and pollutants as they move through lowland river catchments and undergo exchanges at the interface of land, water and atmosphere.

Kate Heppell
Martin de Retuerto

The other guest speaker was Martin de Retuerto, Strategic & Operational Director for Hampshire & Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust, supporting delivery of their Wilder 2030 strategy and striving to tip the balance in favour of nature’s recovery.

Building upon experience in project management of large, capital habitat restoration schemes and themes covering chalkstreams, river and floodplain restoration and freshwater systems, Martin’s focus includes the strategic development of programmes around expansion of the nature recovery network, protection of the nature reserve estate, rewilding, species reintroductions and nature based solutions.

Graham Roberts, Chair of the Upper Itchen Initiative reported on the numerous issues this group has been involved with since the last Forum, including ongoing concerns regarding sewage, abstraction and phosphorus levels. He also updated on the Riverfly Monitoring initiative, White-clawed Crayfish Conservation and the Southern Chalkstreams and Watercress & Winterbournes projects.

Finally, PhD students outlined their research progress in pre-recorded films:

  • Jen Ball (University of Southampton), one of the Vitacress Conservation Trust sponsored PhD researchers, gave a short update on her work “Ecosystem Services in Chalk Streams”. As part of her research Jen also led a workshop after the Forum which about 25 of the Forum delegates volunteered to attend. The workshop built on some of Jen’s previous research on drivers of change for chalk streams, with Jen leading a process to look at aspirations for the Test and Itchen, working through how these might be realised.
  • Another VCT part sponsored PhD researcher, Kieran Gething, Nottingham Trent University outlined his work which is focussed on recognising and protecting the aquatic-terrestrial biodiversity of dynamic river ecosystems.
  • Lauren Hibbert, a Vitacress sponsored PhD student studying molecular breeding of watercress at the University of Southampton and the University of California, Davis presented her project entitled “Developing watercress with improved phosphate use efficiency”.
Graham Roberts

Forum presentations available for download:

Chalk Stream Restoration
Charles Rangeley-Wilson – National Chalk Stream Restoration Group Chair

Tracking Water Quality – “A Co-designed Online Observatory for the River Chess”
Kate Heppell – Queen Mary University of London

Wilder Catchments – Shifting Status Quos
Martin de Retuerto – Hampshire & Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust

The Upper Itchen Initiative Update
Graham Roberts – UII Group Chair

PhD Updates:
Using the Ecosystem Services Concept to Improve Understanding and Management of Chalk Streams
Jen Ball – University of Southampton

Recognising and Protecting Aquatic-Terrestrial Biodiversity of Dynamic River Ecosystems
Kieran Gething – Nottingham Trent University

Developing Watercress with Improved Phosphate Efficiency
Lauren Hibbert – UC Davis

Previous Forums…

2023 Chalkstream Headwaters Forum

2023 Chalkstream Headwaters Forum

The 2023 Forum opened with a statement from Gail Taylor, Chair Vitacress Conservation Trust 2023 Chalk Stream Headwaters Forum “All good things must come to an end and certainly the Vitacress Conservation Trust has been a good thing, with much to celebrate and many...

read more
2022 Chalk Stream Headwaters Forum

2022 Chalk Stream Headwaters Forum

Our first post-pandemic forum with research updates Vitacress Conservation Trust 2022 Chalk Stream Headwaters Forum - 25 November The annual Vitacress Conservation Trust (VCT) Chalk Stream Headwaters Forum took place on 25 November at Sparsholt College, Winchester,...

read more
2018 Chalk Stream Headwaters Forum

2018 Chalk Stream Headwaters Forum

Managing and preserving Hampshire’s ecologically important chalk streams Vitacress Conservation Trust 2018 Chalk Stream Headwaters Forum - 23 November The importance of managing and preserving Hampshire’s ecologically important chalk streams was discussed at the 12th...

read more
2018 Chalk Stream Headwaters Forum

2018 Chalk Stream Headwaters Forum

Managing and preserving Hampshire’s ecologically important chalk streams

Vitacress Conservation Trust 2018 Chalk Stream Headwaters Forum – 23 November

The importance of managing and preserving Hampshire’s ecologically important chalk streams was discussed at the 12th annual Chalk Stream Headwaters Forum.

The forum provides an annual focal point for discussion and new ideas for the management of the wellsprings of some of Europe’s most ecologically important rivers. This year’s forum comes ahead of a new Environment Bill intended to set out a legal framework for the government’s promise to leave the environment in a better state over the next 25 years.

The forum at Sparsholt College brought together a diverse range of stakeholders including the Environment Agency, Natural England, the University of Southampton, students, scientists, authors and local conservation groups.

Forum-2018

We are once again grateful to Merrick Denton-Thompson for Chairing the Forum. Merrick gave an overview of the successes of the VCT’s work to date, stating that the forum came at “an incredibly important moment in time” with enormous changes in rural policy.

During the day a number of speakers updated the delegates on various projects and PhD findings. VCT Trustee, Graham Roberts reported on the Upper Itchen Initiative Group, whilst Dr Pete Shaw updated delegates on the Bourne Rivulet initiative and gave a presentation on chalk stream restoration initiatives and their outcomes over time. Meanwhile, Jen Ball presented on her VCT/EA funded scientific research on ecosystem services associated with chalk streams whilst Professor Gail Taylor spoke on watercress genome sequencing as a tool to improve the crop and reduce its environmental impact.

Simon Duffield, from Natural England, addressed the impact of climate change on chalk streams. He said the rate of decline in flow rate by mid-summer this year indicates the fact climate change is happening, increasing the likelihood of further consecutive dry summers and further damaging declines in flow rate. Going forward, Dr Duffield said it will be important to build resilience to the pressure climate change places on the natural environment, implementing best conservation practice to combat adverse impacts and stressed the need for flexibility in order to support biodiversity in challenging climates.

Broadcaster, film-maker, author and journalist, Charles Rangeley-Wilson, spoke about the three key components of river restoration or recreation: water quality, water quantity, and the natural shape of the river. He said to achieve the full potential of all three, they must be addressed holistically. He also stressed the fundamental need to address the impact of historic dredging… “The floor of the river is the most hidden dimension but the most important one,” he stated, adding: “Without the floor, you’d disable the way the river naturally works.” He went on to show slides demonstrating the remarkable recovery of chalk streams once the impacts of dredging are mitigated.

The Forum was also an opportunity to recognise the work of others in the conservation of our chalk streams:

The winner of the 2018 VCT Conservation Award was naturalist Tim Sykes who works tirelessly through his role with the Environment Agency, and in his spare time with many other organisations and people including various Wildlife Trusts and educational establishments to ensure not only our chalk streams but the wider environment, are protected and enhanced.

As part of the charity’s continuing support of education, this year saw the first awards for the best Undergraduate / Masters Dissertations on research related to chalk streams. The worthy winners were:

Alex Kulczyk –  B.Sc. (Hons) Aquaculture and Fishery Management: Watercress derived isothiocyanates: A study to determine the impacts of trace levels of phenethyl isothiocyanate on early life stages of brown trout (Salmo trutta), and

Lisa Jones – Masters (MRes Advanced Biological Science) Thesis: Participatory Mapping of Cultural Ecosystem Services: Applying TESSA in Riverside Park, Southampton

Britain’s chalk streams are an important part of our environment and ecosystem and it’s vital that we work together as a community to ensure they are here for generations to come. We’re really proud of the dialogue that the VCT has built over the past 12 years and we look forward to continuing this work for decades to come.

Forum presentations available for download:

The Upper Itchen Initiative
Graham Roberts, VCT Trustee

P-Efficient Watercress Genomes Sequencing
Gail Taylor, University of Davis

Climate Change, Impacts and Adaption
Simon Duffield, Natural England

Chalk Streams: Perspectives on River Restoration
Pete Shaw, University of Southampton

Previous Forums…

2023 Chalkstream Headwaters Forum

2023 Chalkstream Headwaters Forum

The 2023 Forum opened with a statement from Gail Taylor, Chair Vitacress Conservation Trust 2023 Chalk Stream Headwaters Forum “All good things must come to an end and certainly the Vitacress Conservation Trust has been a good thing, with much to celebrate and many...

read more
2022 Chalk Stream Headwaters Forum

2022 Chalk Stream Headwaters Forum

Our first post-pandemic forum with research updates Vitacress Conservation Trust 2022 Chalk Stream Headwaters Forum - 25 November The annual Vitacress Conservation Trust (VCT) Chalk Stream Headwaters Forum took place on 25 November at Sparsholt College, Winchester,...

read more
2018 Chalk Stream Headwaters Forum

2018 Chalk Stream Headwaters Forum

Managing and preserving Hampshire’s ecologically important chalk streams Vitacress Conservation Trust 2018 Chalk Stream Headwaters Forum - 23 November The importance of managing and preserving Hampshire’s ecologically important chalk streams was discussed at the 12th...

read more

2017 Chalk Stream Headwaters Forum

2017 Chalk Stream Headwaters Forum

Progress on sponsored PhD research projects

Vitacress Conservation Trust 2017 Chalk Stream Headwaters Forum – 24 November

We were delighted that Merrick Denton-Thompson kindly agreed to Chair our 2017 Forum.

Our first guest speaker, David Sears (University of Southampton), talked about the “Response of Chalk Lake Sediment and Total Phosphorus Records to External Forcing”, whilst  Charles Tyler (University of Exeter), gave a presentation entitled “Feminisation of Freshwater Nature”.

Forum 2017

We also had our regular updates on the Bourne Rivulet and Upper Itchen Initiatives from Pete Shaw and Graham Roberts respectively, as well as hearing how the VCT sponsored PhD research projects are progressing with presentations from Asa White (University of Brighton) whose PhD is titled “Can Watercress Farming Directly Impact Fish Communities?” and Rob Holland (on behalf of Jen Ball) looking at “Ecosystem Services in Chalk Streams”.

It was also an opportunity for Ali Morse from the Test & Itchen Catchment Partnership to update on the Watercress and Winterbournes project lottery bid.

Forum presentations available for download:

The Upper Itchen Initiative
Graham Roberts, VCT Trustee

Watercress & Winterbournes
Ali Morse, Hampshire & Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust

The Bourne Rivulet Initiative
Pete Shaw, University of Southampton

Response of Chalk Lake Sediment and Total Phosphorus Records to External Forcing
David Sear, University of Southampton

Ecosystem Services in Chalk Streams
Rob Holland, University of Southampton

Can Watercress Farming Directly Impact Fish Communities?
Asa White, University of Brighton

Feminisation of Freshwater Nature
Charles Tyler, University of Exeter

Previous Forums…

2023 Chalkstream Headwaters Forum

2023 Chalkstream Headwaters Forum

The 2023 Forum opened with a statement from Gail Taylor, Chair Vitacress Conservation Trust 2023 Chalk Stream Headwaters Forum “All good things must come to an end and certainly the Vitacress Conservation Trust has been a good thing, with much to celebrate and many...

read more
2022 Chalk Stream Headwaters Forum

2022 Chalk Stream Headwaters Forum

Our first post-pandemic forum with research updates Vitacress Conservation Trust 2022 Chalk Stream Headwaters Forum - 25 November The annual Vitacress Conservation Trust (VCT) Chalk Stream Headwaters Forum took place on 25 November at Sparsholt College, Winchester,...

read more
2018 Chalk Stream Headwaters Forum

2018 Chalk Stream Headwaters Forum

Managing and preserving Hampshire’s ecologically important chalk streams Vitacress Conservation Trust 2018 Chalk Stream Headwaters Forum - 23 November The importance of managing and preserving Hampshire’s ecologically important chalk streams was discussed at the 12th...

read more

2016 Chalk Stream Headwaters Forum

2016 Chalk Stream Headwaters Forum

Celebrating our 10th anniversary!

Vitacress Conservation Trust 2016 Chalk Stream Headwaters Forum – 25 November

In celebration of the 10th anniversary of the Chalk Stream Headwaters Forum, we were delighted to welcome our founding Patron, Lord Selborne, to Chair the event.

Gail Taylor, the Chair of the Vitacress Conservation Trust, took the opportunity to look back at the highlights of the Vitacress Trust over the last 10 years, reviewing previous Forums, Environment Lectures, research and other sponsored projects.

10 Years - 2016 Forum

Pete Shaw and Graham Roberts, respective Chairs, updated the delegates on progress made through the Bourne Rivulet and Upper Itchen Initiatives.

Our guest speakers were John Fawell, who focused on the issues surrounding water quality, water resources and sustainable solutions, and Fran Davies, who gave an overview on Natural England’s work on chalk streams and conservation strategy.

The Open Forum provided a platform for some lively debate!

Previous Forums…

2023 Chalkstream Headwaters Forum

2023 Chalkstream Headwaters Forum

The 2023 Forum opened with a statement from Gail Taylor, Chair Vitacress Conservation Trust 2023 Chalk Stream Headwaters Forum “All good things must come to an end and certainly the Vitacress Conservation Trust has been a good thing, with much to celebrate and many...

read more
2022 Chalk Stream Headwaters Forum

2022 Chalk Stream Headwaters Forum

Our first post-pandemic forum with research updates Vitacress Conservation Trust 2022 Chalk Stream Headwaters Forum - 25 November The annual Vitacress Conservation Trust (VCT) Chalk Stream Headwaters Forum took place on 25 November at Sparsholt College, Winchester,...

read more
2018 Chalk Stream Headwaters Forum

2018 Chalk Stream Headwaters Forum

Managing and preserving Hampshire’s ecologically important chalk streams Vitacress Conservation Trust 2018 Chalk Stream Headwaters Forum - 23 November The importance of managing and preserving Hampshire’s ecologically important chalk streams was discussed at the 12th...

read more

2015 Chalk Stream Headwaters Forum

2015 Chalk Stream Headwaters Forum

The historical significance of chalk streams and their modern day management

Vitacress Conservation Trust 2015 Chalk Stream Headwaters Forum – 6 November

Vitacress Forum 2015

The theme of this year’s forum was the historical significance of chalk streams and their modern-day management in terms of conservation, fishing and watercress farming.

The Environment Agency outlined their aspirations for improving chalk stream headwaters in Hampshire and the audience heard about research aimed at ensuring sustainable watercress farming. The forum also provided an opportunity for regular updates on the Bourne Rivulet and Upper Itchen initiatives.

Previous Forums…

2023 Chalkstream Headwaters Forum

2023 Chalkstream Headwaters Forum

The 2023 Forum opened with a statement from Gail Taylor, Chair Vitacress Conservation Trust 2023 Chalk Stream Headwaters Forum “All good things must come to an end and certainly the Vitacress Conservation Trust has been a good thing, with much to celebrate and many...

read more
2022 Chalk Stream Headwaters Forum

2022 Chalk Stream Headwaters Forum

Our first post-pandemic forum with research updates Vitacress Conservation Trust 2022 Chalk Stream Headwaters Forum - 25 November The annual Vitacress Conservation Trust (VCT) Chalk Stream Headwaters Forum took place on 25 November at Sparsholt College, Winchester,...

read more
2018 Chalk Stream Headwaters Forum

2018 Chalk Stream Headwaters Forum

Managing and preserving Hampshire’s ecologically important chalk streams Vitacress Conservation Trust 2018 Chalk Stream Headwaters Forum - 23 November The importance of managing and preserving Hampshire’s ecologically important chalk streams was discussed at the 12th...

read more