We have a rare river right on our doorstep – and it’s so easy to take it for granted. The River Chess is one of 224 chalk streams in the world of which 95% are in England. But, like all of our chalk streams the Chess is under threat and it’s up to us to help conserve our precious river.
“Our chalk streams are rarer than rainforests as far as habitat is concerned” says Paul Jennings, Chairman of River Chess Association, “The fresh water is extremely clean and alkaline because it is filtered through the chalk and it’s a haven for lot of species – Brown trout, May fly and Grayling flourish as do mammals like water vole, the Chess is one of two rivers in Buckinghgamshire with a thriving colony. The Water Crowsfoot (Ranunculus) really thrive – the verdant fronds swaying in the current with white buttercup flowers bobbing on the surface of the water. “
But the Chess, like all our chalk streams is in poor health. The chalk aquifer (water-bearing permeable rock) makes up of 70% of the water supply for the south of England. Most of our water for domestic consumption comes from boreholes below the Chilterns and this is water that doesn’t go into the river so the flow is badly affected. And with a decline in flow rates comes a loss of habitat, fish and invertebrates.
Added to this we have drainage issues – especially prevalent on the steep hills of Stony Lane and Bell Lane which act as a conduit for sediment in heavy rainfall ending up in the river and discolouring the water. In 2014 sewage was a massive problem, being discharged over four months into the Chess at Chesham caused by prolonged rainfall and a high water table. Invasive species such as mink and Japanese knotweed and climate change are also a concern
“In 2011 we saw the start of an extended drought and came close to having standpipes installed but this was followed by the wettest summer in 2012 and the aquifer was recharged. The general feeling was that if we had to queue with buckets for our water supply we would value our water more.”
And we are amongst the worst culprits – in our the Chess Catchment ( PAUL WHAT IS THE AREA ??) we consume 186 litres of water per head a day, the highest volume in the UK and Europe .. all through watering gardens, washing cars, filling swimming pools, using multiple domestic appliances and bathrooms.
“ We are working on number of projects with the Environment Agency and water companies to reduce consumption, improve drainage and sewage systems and improve the quality of the water.” adds Paul,
“Once there were at least 12 water mills on the Chess harnessing the energy of the river for processing timber and paper making as well as a flourishing trout farm and many watercress farms – one still survives.
Our aim is to get the Chess back to the river it was. We need Chorleywood to help.”
How to help
* Make a conscious effort to reduce our water consumption
* Volunteer to help maintain the quality of the river –
River Rangers, Flow and level monitors, Water Vole Monitors, Project workers and Data Administrators needed