Chalk Rivers, The State of Englands Chalk Rivers

Chalk rivers - an agenda for action

Chalk rivers are a unique and irreplaceable part of our heritage and the landscape of England. They face mounting pressures which threaten to damage them for ever. To make sure we tackle these problems, the UK Biodiversity Action Plan Steering Group for Chalk Rivers has produced the first ever report on The State of Englands Chalk Rivers. The report sets out how we can act to protect and enhance this precious resource. This leaflet is a summary of the reports main findings.

Chalk rivers and their underground water stores (aquifers) provide significant quantities of water for drinking, industry, effluent dilution and agriculture. They are very important for wildlife. Many chalk rivers are world-famous for their fly-fishing and they are part of our cultural heritage. Their present appearance and character reflects a long history of human intervention from urban development, agriculture, industry and fisheries.

Today these most English of rivers are in a fragile state. They are under increasing pressure from water abstraction, urban and infrastructure development, effluent discharges, agriculture, land drainage and flood defences. Without careful management, these activities threaten the chalk river resources upon which so much wildlife and many people depend.

Our vision is that: Chalk rivers should be protected or restored to a quality which sustains the high conservation value of their wildlife, healthy water supplies, recreation opportunities and their place in the character and cultural history of the landscape.

(c) Dennis Bright
Youngsters discover the wealth of aquatic chalk river life

River habitat improvement using hazel faggots

To make this vision a reality, we need to:

  • maintain and enhance the characteristic habitats, plants and animals of chalk rivers, including winterbourne stretches;
  • restore water quality, flows and habitat diversity;
  • identify cost-effective means of restoring damaged river reaches.

(c) Natural Image, Bob Gibbons
Grazing meadows by the River Frome

There are many people and organisations with a part to play in this. Policy-makers, environmental regulators, businesses and local communities all have a key role in meeting these objectives. Many who live and work alongside chalk rivers - farmers, fishermen and members of the public - are already working to protect our chalk rivers. But more needs to be done.

Despite ever increasing threats, there is optimism for the future: more and more local people are becoming involved in protecting and enhancing their chalk rivers.

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