Update on River Chess Smarter Water Catchment

Update on River Chess Smarter Water Catchment

Find out how the River Chess Smarter Water Catchment project is progressing and how the team are working to create a place where people are working together to protect and improve the water environment for everyone.

Our vision

Our collective vision is that the chess catchment is a jewel in the heart of the Chilterns landscape. We want to create a place where people are working together to protect and improve the water environment for everyone. From the headwaters in Chesham to its confluence with the River Colne in Rickmansworth.

What is a catchment? 

A catchment includes both the river and all the land around it, from which the River Chess is formed.

Who are the partners?

At the core of smarter water catchment are a group of professionals who are passionate about water. We love studying it, protecting it and talking about it. We believe together we can achieve more.

The partnership approach, being employed by the Initiative, is a collaboration between Affinity Water, Buckinghamshire Council, Chilterns Conservation Board, Chiltern Society, Environment Agency, Hertfordshire & Middlesex Wildlife Trust, Thames Water and The River Chess Association. This mixed group from different sectors, provide a steering group and governance in the direction Smarter Water Catchments will take over the next 10 years.

What have we achieved this past year:

Throughout 2021/22 the delivery team has focused on collecting data to inform a baseline analysis of how to lead our approach and future strategies. This baseline helps us to develop where interventions will be best placed to achieve our key themes:

  1. Improving Water Quality
  2. Managing Flow
  3. Control of Invasive non-native species
  4. Improving wildlife corridors
  5. Involving people
  6. Working together

One such illustration of the type of baseline reporting the team is delivering is ‘The State of The River Chess’, a copy of which can be found here. This report summaries our improved understanding of the catchment and its pressures; it focuses on identifying how we can create a more resilient environment across the whole catchment.

We have successfully funded and recruited two new positions. Professor Kate Heppell, seconded to the Smarter Water Catchment and Chilterns Chalk Stream Project for two years from Queen Mary University,  and has provided unparalleled support and research capability in creating the baseline. Steph Horn, the new Partnership Coordinator, who’s key role is to ensure that all aspects of the project and its partners are working and engaging as a collective across the catchment.

The project has also funded 600m of fencing along a stretch of the Little Chess near Latimer. The aim of this fencing is to further improve the bank side vegetation along the river. Whilst grazing in the existing meadows has been hugely beneficial for wildflower diversity and meadow invertebrates, restricting grazing up to the edge of river will be beneficial to the expansion of water vole numbers by minimising bankside erosion and increasing vegetation cover.

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The photo above illustrates the area that will be fenced. The fenced off margin will be generous, in places up to 20m wide with 5 gated access points. This will allow footpaths to be mown and for access and maintenance equipment. The wildlife corridor will become an important feature of the charity work carried out by Restore Hope for underprivileged families, providing a close contact with nature in a stunning surrounding.

At the end of February, we held an online workshop to inform stakeholders and enhance the level of interest and engagement within the local community. This workshop was well received; Tom Beeston, Chief Officer at the Chilterns Society, said “how delighted he was to be involved in a partnership which will make a real difference to the River Chess” He reiterated the call out for others to get involved, be that personally using less water, becoming a volunteer, or even starting up a project to help save water in the Chess Catchment.

What can you do to help?

In the UK we are fortunate enough to have access  to fresh clean water, literally on tap. No wonder most of us take it for granted, but we need to be smarter. A small change can equal a big impact. The only way we are going to be able to ensure the River Chess is clean and sustainable for future generations is with the involvement of all of us  –  not only by the participation of farmers, land mangers, government and non-government organisations, but also local businesses and the public too. Do you or the business you work for have a smart water meter? Do you turn the tap off when you brush your teeth? Do you collect rain water to water your garden? These are all small changes you can make which will improve the amount of water that flows through the river, and therefore improves the quality of life for ecosystems in the Chess. There are lots of opportunities to volunteer your time on and around the Chess. For more information please email chesscs@chilterns.org.uk. Collective action can help protect and enhance the catchment that we value.

‘The health of our waters is the principal measure of how we live on the land’ ~ Luna Leopold, US geomorphologist and hydrologist.

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