Hampshire chalk stream restoration.

Rare habitats often conjure up thoughts of polar landscapes or tropical climates, but Hampshire has a unique habitat of its own, the Hampshire Chalk streams. With only 220 chalk streams in the world (85% of which are located in the  UK).

The River Test is very local to Hildon, famed for its amazing fly fishing, and outstanding beauty. Much of Hampshire’s bedrock is chalk – a calcium rich rock created by the remains of marine plankton. The chalk, perforated with tiny holes, creates an excellent water-storing aquifer for Hildon Water. Rainfall falls and soaks into the porous chalk, with very little rainfall flows into the streams from the land, keeping sediment levels low and the rivers crystal clear. Rivers are the arteries of the planet delivering lifeblood to the land. The water mineral-rich and naturally filtered of impurities, is a great place for nature to thrive. Animals and people have always made use of this local resource, with the area renown for fly-fishing and Hampshire watercress.

However, like many of our rivers, there are some serious ecological issues here. Hildon are delighted to sponsor The Hampshire and IOW Wildlife Trust and Wessex Rivers Trust charities, who have worked hard with dedicated local volunteers to restore the habitat, tackle invasive non-native species in the Test Invasive species can have devastating impacts, upsetting local eco systems. Himalayan Balsam and American Skunk Cabbage has been weeded out. Alongside the rivers, mink once breed in capacity in the area have devastated the water vole population.

Habitat restoration and species reintroductions, like the White-Clawed Crayfish, significantly enhances river ecosystems. By rejuvenating degraded habitats and bringing back native species, we can boost biodiversity, improve water quality, and restore the natural balance of river ecosystems. Restoring ecosystems offers numerous benefits, including increased resilience to climate change, enhanced flood protection, and improved recreational opportunities for local communities.

In Hampshire chalk streams, this restoration is achieved through several key initiatives. We focus on removing barriers to fish migration, replanting native vegetation, and controlling invasive species. Additionally, efforts are made to restore natural river flows and structures, which support a diverse range of aquatic life. These actions help maintain the unique characteristics of chalk streams, known for their clear waters and rich biodiversity, ensuring they continue to thrive for generations to come.


What has caused these problems in our rivers? Currently all of England’s waterways are suffering from poor health. Rivers are like arteries carrying vital resources and supporting ecosystems.

Pollution from fertilisers, pesticides, medical waste entering our waterways, this cocktail of toxic chemicals is less visible than the rubbish, the litter and the sewage that is destroying our rivers. Despite been a Site of Specific Scientific Interest only 17% of the Test River demonstrates favourable standards. The freshwater ecosystems are the fastest declining ecosystem, so clearly, action was and is urgently needed.  Whilst farmers are generally using less chemicals in agriculture, that damage done has long lasting consequences. The fertilisers that over stimulated aquatic plants, smothering other plant species, causing a drop in oxygen levels which also impacts on invertebrates, amphibians, and therefore animals further up the food chain. Low water levels caused by global warming can starve the eco system of oxygen, stop certain fish from migrating. At the 2023 Wilder Conference, the water companies did not come off well. Clearly this emergency hasn’t a single cause, there are a build-up of factors that need to be addressed and rebalanced. The Hampshire & IoW Wildlife Trust and of the Wessex Rivers Trust are working hard to repair the damage and get local ecosystems thriving again, with a number of successful initiatives. The HIWWT Nutrient Reduction programme is demonstrating a way of mitigating and reducing the impact of phosphates and nitrates from new housing developments, Industrial waste and farmland. The Rivers trust has carried out tree works along the river sensitively to enhance the penetration of light into the channel. The resulting timber and brash has been strategically recycled within the river to narrow and reshape the channel through a process referred to as 're-wiggling.' These actions are imperative for the restoration of the river's natural flow and morphology, leading to a significant enhancement of its overall health. The ensuing rise in habitat complexity will prove advantageous for a diverse ecological community, benefiting aquatic invertebrates in the river and providing support for nocturnal foragers such as otters and bats along the riverbanks. Additionally, measures will be implemented to prevent erosion, safeguarding the riverbanks and ensuring the long-term viability of the adjacent navigation footpath.

 Hildon is delighted to offer its wholehearted support to the vital initiatives undertaken by the Wessex Rivers Trust and the Hampshire and Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust (HIWWT). Recognising the crucial significance of their work, Hildon is committed to contributing to the efforts aimed at the restoration of our rivers. This commitment is driven by a shared vision of preserving these waterways, ensuring they remain a source of joy and natural beauty for generations to come. By aligning with the missions of the Wessex Rivers Trust and the HIWWT, Hildon aims to play a meaningful role in the collective responsibility of safeguarding the local area, because this is part of our local heritage, and too ensure that it is are still there for future generations to enjoy. You can find out more, support  or get involved this  by visiting their respective sites.