Revitalising the Hamble Brook

Revitalising the Hamble Brook

For the first time in more than 140 years, Buckinghamshire’s Hamble Brook has a new wetland site, encompassing over 2,500 square metres of new wildlife habitat, thanks to the Chilterns Chalk Streams Project.

The project also re-naturalised over 1km of the brook, over 16% of its length, by reinstating natural wiggles in the channel, creating new backwaters, removing embankments, and planting trees to help with temperature control; this restored the natural character of the stream and better connected it to its landscape. Wetlands and meanders provide refuges for threatened native plants, insects, fish and mammals.

“Working with the natural undulations of the landscape, we created lowered areas which will be wetter for longer, providing a valuable habitat for plants, birds, insects and small mammals,” said Adrian Porter, rivers officer at the Chilterns National Landscape.

With three landowners on board, backed by support from the National Trust and the government’s Farming in Protected Landscapes initiative, along with funding from the Green Recovery Challenge Fund administered by the Environment Agency, the Chilterns Chalk Streams Project formed an effective partnership to create the wetlands and bring about the improvements to the brook.

“The wetland areas provide refuges during the main channel’s temporary dry phases in the summer months. While in wetter times, they also help absorb floodwater,” said Pippa Tucker, catchment coordinator at the Environment Agency.

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The Hamble Brook is an especially rare type of chalk stream that only flows periodically – a winterbourne. Sometimes dry along its entire length, it is currently benefitting from high groundwater and is flowing from just below Turville to Mill End where it joins the Thames at Hambleden Lock.

Although many think of the countryside as a natural landscape, it has been shaped by the actions of people over centuries, and the Hamble Brook is no exception. Its natural function and ecology has suffered the ill effects of channel straightening and agricultural pollution.

“Chalk streams are globally rare and fragile habitats that require sensitive management,” said Elaine King, CEO of the Chilterns National Landscape. “We were delighted to carry out this important piece of work, and it’s fantastic to see the site already showing significant promise.”

Several more landowners have expressed an interest in restoring their parts of the brook, which could bring a further 2km into the project.

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“It’s a great example of what can be achieved through a successful partnership,” said King. “We hope this will pave the way for similar restoration projects along the brook and throughout the wider Chilterns landscape.”

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