The Watercress & Winterbournes project is a major programme of works funded by the National Heritage Lottery Fund (NHLF) to be delivered across the headwaters of the Test & Itchen catchments.
Following three years of project development, the NHLF awarded a grant of over £1.9 million to fund delivery of the scheme from over 5 years - from spring 2020 until 2025. The Wessex Rivers Trust, alongside project co-hosts Hampshire and Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust and a wide range of dedicated partner organisations will deliver a programme of approximately 20 natural and cultural heritage projects including: Chalk Stream Habitat Restoration, Education Programme, Natural Flood Management, Spawning Gravels (Fish Passage), Stopping Sediments, Tackling Invasives, and Restoring Our Chalk Stream Structures.
Winterbourne chalk streams boast a wealth of biodiversity, built and cultural heritage features. Upper winterbourne reaches of these headwater streams have unusual and characteristic plant and invertebrate communities which reflect the seasonal patterns of wetting and drying, whilst lower reaches boast chalk stream characteristics often better than larger chalk stream rivers. However, many historic modification and current pressures are impacting upon these unique systems, including:
- Modification of channel structure and morphology
- Urbanisation and 'gardenisation'
- Non-native invasive species
- Groundwater and surfacewater abstraction
- Farming practices and land management
- Ground and surface water pollution
A number of dedicated staff are employed by the project, two of which are hosted by Wessex Rivers Trust; a Community Catchment Officer and a Community Education Officer. These officers work closely with partner organisations and local communities to develop and deliver projects for the benefit of the local environment and the people that live there.