Good news from the Test and Itchen Catchment! The trickling headwater streams of the Test and Itchen are set to receive a flood of funding from the National Heritage Lottery Fund.
The Watercress & Winterbournes Landscape Partnership project funding bid has been successful, meaning that the delivery phase of the project has been approved. The project will be delivered between 2020-2025 and includes seven Test & Itchen headwater streams, including the Arle, Candover Brook, Cheriton Stream, Bourne Rivulet, Pillhill Brook, Anton (Upper), and the Upper Test. These unique winterbourne headwater chalk streams boast a wealth of biodiversity and an abundance of built and cultural heritage features resulting from centuries of human management (and mismanagement!)
A great deal of hard work from project leads Hampshire and Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust, co-leads Wessex Rivers Trust, a large group of partner organisations, as well a huge effort from an army of volunteers, went into the development phase of the project. Over the past two years, seven community catchment groups have been formed and these organisations of local volunteers have been vital in forming the proposals for each catchment. Volunteer efforts ranging from invasive non-native species surveys to audits of access opportunities were augmented by a range of professional monitoring and walkovers to get a clear picture of the challenges and opportunities within the catchments. Examples of the challenges include historic modification of streams, urbanisation, water abstraction, invasive species, land management and farming, and water pollution. Opportunities to address all these issues were identified plus chances to increase education and access and restore and highlight cultural and built heritage features.
Whilst the current coronavirus restrictions have caused a slight delay to the start of the delivery phase, a line-up of year 1 (2020) projects are being prepared to go! These include easements for fish passage on the Bourne and Anton and projects to restore chalk stream habitat, prevent sediment pollution and encourage natural flood management on the Pillhill, Bourne, Candover Brook, and Arle. Projects with a focus on education, engagement and built/cultural heritage will get into full swing later in the year as restrictions on volunteer and public engagement are gradually lifted.
The Watercress & Winterbournes scheme provides and incredibly exciting opportunity to protect and enhance these unique habitats whilst giving local communities the skills needed to safeguard them well into the future.