The River Bourne
Return to the River: Action Day Report
Timeline Saturday Oct 1st
Nine members of the MAPG spent an energetic morning clearing the River Bourne and island below the medieval bridge on Milford Mill Road.
The river had become clogged with weed, the banks overgrown, the water channels narrowed with detritus and silt – flooding a real and present risk. We waded the cold water, hacked, and dragged the choking weed away.
Overhanging boughs restricted the flight of Kingfishers. The crack willows, left unpollarded, had sprouted wild and threatening to the roadway. The island had fattened and grown dark with hemlock and meadowsweet. We thinned, cut, and gathered – we let in the light.
There was a Roman ford here before the first stone bridge spanned the Bourne a thousand years ago. The route is clearer now, the green pathway to the river scythed of nettles and underbrush.
It was a good and satisfying morning’s work. To keep the river running free, the work must be done again next year, and the year after that, and for as long as England has rivers and places we cherish.
A family of ducks waste no time in exploring this wider part of the river.
Members of MAPG set to work thinning-out weeds and widening the water channels.
Repair work (again…) on the island below Milford Mill Bridge Saturday June 19th
Restoration of the River Bourne and Island Area at Milford Mill Bridge, Salisbury
As many residents will know, the Milford Preservation Group (MPG) has been working hard to raise the profile of the Grade 1 Listed medieval Milford Mill Bridge and to introduce measures to protect it.
Residents may have seen the poor state of the riverbanks at the bridge. The island in the middle of the river immediately below the bridge has some large willows and had a significant accumulation of underbrush and litter.
The River Bourne and Island restoration project is intended in the first phase to clear the island of waste and cut back the undergrowth on the western bank, and in the second phase to restore the Bourne riverbank and create wildlife havens. The work is undertaken by MPG volunteers supervised by the Wiltshire Wildlife Trust.
The first phase of the project was completed over a weekend in mid-July. A dozen volunteers, working in difficult conditions, cleared the island and the riverbanks on either side of it. We also freed the flow of water under one of the blocked 15th century bridge arches. Nine ‘hippo’ bags were filled to brimming, and we left plenty of felled timber to rot down as a benefit to beetles and other nameless creatures. The MPG team is grateful to the WWT’s Nick Wilson for his patient expertise, and for revealing to us the extraordinary variety of life that scuttled about in the merest scrape of water.
The second phase in planned for mid-September. It is hoped that we can hold the MPG annual general meeting before then, and we will invite Nick to talk to members on the importance of the project to the River Bourne and to our corner of rural England.
The project in its entirety will cost around £4,500. The MPG is grateful for the financial support received from Barchester Homes, the Southern Wiltshire Area Board, the Salisbury Area Board, and from our own Laverstock & Ford Parish Council.
What is so special about the
The River Bourne forms one of the 5 rivers of Salisbury. Rising just south of the village of Burbage, it winds its way for 47km before joining the Hampshire Avon in the eastern outskirts of Salisbury.
Chalk streams like the River Bourne are a rare and fragile habitat, and the most biodiverse habitat in England. There are only about 200 in the world, and 85 per cent of these are found here.
The Bourne, like all chalk streams, is groundwater fed from chalk aquifers and therefore exhibits very high-water quality. This enables the Bourne, like other chalk streams, to support highly diverse communities including many rare specialist species found nowhere else.
The River's Inhabitants
The river plants are dominated by water crowfoot (Ranunculus aquatilis), starwort (Callitriche stagnalis) and water moss (Fontinalis antipyretica). They provide habitat for an array of fish species including Grayling (Thymallus thymallus) and Brown Trout (Salmo trutta). These feed on the wealth of invertebrates found living in the river. Soft margins provide the perfect habitat for Water Voles (Arvicola amphibious) and overhanging branches provide an ideal spot for kingfishers (Alcedo atthis) to perch.
Otters in the River Bourne
A number of Milford residents have reported seeing an otter swimming in the river, scampering across gardens and stealing fish from garden ponds. Healthy chalk rivers and streams provide a perfect habitat for otters and it is wonderful that after an absence of many years, and fear of extinction, they have now returned to over two thirds of English chalk streams. Fish makes up 80% of their diet and they also eat snails, frogs, large beetles, worms, injured waterfowl or chicks, bird eggs, fish eggs, snakes and snake eggs.
After noticing that fish were disappearing from their netted pond, one local resident set up a wildlife camera to work out who the culprits were. As you can see on the video, with a more robust defence now in place, the otter does not want to give up too easily
Flood Warden's Report
In the pre-Christmas period and throughout much of January this year, we have experienced some very heavy rainfall. Some of you may be also aware that in Salisbury and throughout South and Central Wiltshire we came very close to property flooding. The rivers in our area all had flood alerts as well as groundwater alerts for Salisbury Plain. There were some 20 groundwater flood warnings for the Wiltshire and Dorset region over the Christmas period alone.
The River Wylye and the River Bourne were the subject of Flood Warnings for a short period. Residents may have noticed significant flooding in Elizabeth Gardens, Churchill Gardens and the flood plain south of the A36.
In terms of preparedness for flooding events, Salisbury City Council continues to be extremely proactive with a city-wide flood plan and response structure in place. The co-ordinator for our Flood Zone, Colin Froude, keeps all Flood Wardens up to date with both local and wider flood-related issues. The Environment Agency, working with Wiltshire Council, Salisbury City Council, Natural England and other stakeholders, is progressing measures to reduce flood risk and provide green infrastructure in Salisbury.
Local information on flooding, including photos, times and description of flooding are vital in helping the Authorities understand how our community has been affected and what they can do in the future. If you have any relevant information or photographs, please forward them to me.
For further Flooding information and advice you can access: http://www.wiltshire.gov.uk/civil-emergencies-flooding.
For specific flooding or related issues you can report these via My Wiltshire: http://www.wiltshire.gov.uk/mywiltshire-online-reporting.
Andy Howard, MPG Flood Warden