Latest News

Bunkers Hill solar farm

JBM Solar is proposing a photovoltaic solar farm on land at Bunker’s Hill Farm.  This is one of two current proposals for large solar farms in the Whitewater Valley, North-East Hampshire.

The proposal would cover approximately 200 acres of agricultural land.  The site runs alongside the River Whitewater, with solar panels for the next 35 years +.  We encourage you to look at the developer’s website to see the location of this proposal.

As a Society we are planning a proactive approach to this application to reflect our role as the voice of the valley.  We will communicate our plans to you as soon as possible.  In the short term, the developers are looking for responses, via their website by Friday, 25th September.

Whilst we will respond, as a Society, we would also urge you to email them, as an individual.  Please encourage those who you believe have an interest in the valley, as residents, business owners, walkers, anglers or cyclists etc. to do so themselves.  

Injured Cygnet in Whitewater Meadows

We have received a report of an injured young cygnet, apparently swimming alone on a stretch of the River Whitewater within the Whitewater Meadows ‘Suitable Alternative Natural Greenspace’ (SANG) area.  It seems to be swimming awkwardly and has lost some feathers/down.  Neither the Cob nor the Pen adults were seen nearby.
This may have been attacked by another older swan.  Unfortunately, it’s that time of year when young get sent off into the wider world by the parents and older birds start vying for territories.  We understand that Hart Countryside Operations see this every year at Fleet Pond. Likewise it may have been attacked by a fox or flown into powerlines.
What to do if you see this or any other injured swan or cygnet?
If the bird can be located please contact the Swan lifeline emergency helpline is telephone: 01753 859397.
Please see also the Swan lifeline website: www.swanlifeline.org.uk

Greywell Fen phase 2

Update from the Greywell Hill Estate

Alaska Ecological Contracting finished their part in the restoration of the Fen, leaving a large area of bare mud and a considerable amount of felled alder and poplar. Since when most of the mud has turned green and a lot of wetland birds have enjoyed their summer here.

In the meantime, Estate forester, Tom Elpelt, had to sort very random quality alder and has moved most of the alder either to Down Farm for chipping or into a considerable pile for sale to a wholesale firewood merchant. There was a bit of a delay as Down Farm had run out of room for any more timber.

The Estate has now started on the next phase of the restoration which is to restore the fencing so that cattle can be grazed on the Fen under the management of Hampshire and Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust. In order to get the fencing in, the Estate is coppicing the overstood hazel running along the side of the bridle path (route 703) and will cut back some of the growth encroaching onto the footpath (fp6) adjacent to the Mill Head. The hazel is on very strong stools and will grow again.

There is a cleared piece of ground at the top of the Mill Head and this is to be included in the grazed area, so the fenceline will cross the footpath in two places. There will be two kissing gates in the fence line and these to a standard that can be accessed in a wheelchair.

The first priority is to get cattle grazing as soon as possible, so we are pressing on with getting the Fen fenced. This means that the poplar will probably not be shifted until ground conditions permit in 2021. The current thinking is that it will be chipped on site and moved in bulk trailers to Down Farm. This has two advantages, firstly that chipping is very noisy and the site is a good distance from the nearest house. Secondly, grain trailers will carry more timber in chipped form than a conventional timber trailer and crane and so there will be less tractor movements and wear on the track.

The prime tool in all the work is the Estate’s 8 tonne excavator, driven by Joe Elpelt, which is equipped with tree shears (like a large pair of scissors), post thumper and a cone splitter to break the poplar down to a size that a chipper can handle.

Bidden Road solar farm

Clearstone Energy is proposing to develop a 50 MegaWatt photovoltaic solar farm, adjacent to the headwaters of the River Whitewater in North-East Hampshire.  The total site area is 143 hectares.

The site runs to the south east of Bidden Road and surrounds Chosley Farm.  It extends south to meet Alton Road.  It is positioned between North Warnborough to the north east; Odiham to the east; RAF Odiham to the south east; South Warnborough to the south; and Greywell to the west.  The site is within the Hart Downs landscape character area.  There are two public rights of way across it, and the Greywell Fen site of special scientific interest (SSSI) is located to the immediate north west of the site.

The applicant claims there is currently no intention to place panels on the land north west of the Bidden Road, not least as it forms the immediate valley side, facing broadly north.

This has been the subject of a pre-application (20/00180/PREAPP) consultation and an Environmental Impact Assessment screening opinion (20/01658/EIA).  Hart District Council responded to the pre-application consultation on 1st May with considerations for the full application.  The Whitewater Valley Preservation Society submitted comments on both the EIA screening opinion and pre-application raising the countryside and landscape impact of the proposal.

Greywell Fen restoration

Works at Greywell Fen

If you have walked up to Greywell Mill recently, you may have wondered what is happening on the area between the Broadwater and The Moors Nature Reserve (the Hampshire and Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust’s land). The simple answer is fen restoration.

The area is a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI).  It was designated for its fen habitat and associated flora including marsh helleborine, marsh valerian and marsh fern.  Once, grazing and coppicing would keep it open.  However, in recent years it has become overgrown and dominated by alder, thus reducing its biodiversity.  The work will enable the fen to return to “favourable condition”.  As Spring progresses, we hope to see it come alive with wildflowers.

Defra accepted the whole Greywell Hill Estate land into its Higher Tier Stewardship Scheme at the start of 2020.  This is a bureaucratic environmental land management scheme for farms and forestry.  It includes incentives to carry out major works, which would not otherwise be considered by landowners.  Natural England’s officer is keen that the Fen is restored.  Especially as the Wildlife Trust has undertaken similar work on the adjacent land several years ago.   Alaska Ecological Contracting, the same contractors as used by the Trust, are carrying out the works and the Trust’s local warden is overseeing it.

The contractor is felling all the alder and poplar.  These will be moved off site when ground conditions allow.  The end use of the timber will probably be for biomass production and it will be processed locally if possible, to minimise the haulage.  Wetlands are extremely efficient at carbon sequestration.  We believe that the work should have a positive impact on water levels in the River Whitewater and help to prevent the drying out of fen habitat which would otherwise be a cause for concern.

The contractors will clear the site completely.  The site will revert to grass and reeds and will be lightly grazed to control the return of alders.  The Wildlife Trust will help to manage the site.

Published with the kind permission of James Malmesbury

Storm Dennis causes flooding

Video

Storm Dennis, coming hard on the heels of storm Ciara last weekend, has caused flooding around Mill Corner in North Warnborough.

Mill Corner is under water.  Sewage is coming up from the manholes.  The pumping station on Hook Road is an island in a sea of sewage.  The sewage is now over flowing into the River Whitewater, an important chalk stream, which is a site of special scientific interest (SSSI).

Field water is running across the road to North Warnborough Greens. The ford gauge is 44 cm.
Thames Water have been called and the Environment Agency notified.

WVPS Autumn Reception

The Chairman and Committee of the Whitewater Valley Preservation Society invite you to an Autumn Reception on Sunday 15th September 2019 at 12 noon.

Please note! The Venue is now changed to:
Whitewater Mill, Poland Lane, Odiham, RG29 1JL

This is one of two meetings of the Society per year, which are included as part of membership.

Drinks and canapés will be available.

Members: Please R.S.V.P. as indicated on your invitation or by email ContactUs(at)Whitewatervalley.org.uk

Non-Members: You are more than welcome to join us. Please R.S.V.P. by email to ContactUs(at)Whitewatervalley.org.uk

Riverfly Census Report

Salmon & Trout Conservation issues report and conclusions from its three-year River Census project 

“The Riverfly Census Report has been central to S&TC’s work for the past three years. It coincides with the United Nations’ recent statement on the catastrophic state of the global environment. The results should worry everyone. Our message is simple; unless there is radical change our rivers will soon become lifeless. With ever increasing public interest in environmental health there is a desire for real change. Government must use this opportunity to incentivise businesses to place the protection of our rivers, wild fish and all other water-dependent life at the centre of what they do.”

Paul Knight, Chief Executive, Salmon & Trout Conservation

Milestone Salmon & Trout Conservation study reveals that sediment, sewage and commercial salad washing, are causing dramatic declines of keystone aquatic invertebrate life throughout England’s lifeblood rivers

Salmon & Trout Conservation (S&TC) initiated The Riverfly Census to collect high-resolution, scientifically robust data about the state of our rivers and the pressures facing them.

To download the full report: click here

The Riverfly Census highlights worrying declines of aquatic insects in English rivers as a direct consequence of industrial, agricultural and domestic pollution.  Aquatic insects are the equivalent of “the canary in the coal mine” when ascertaining the health of individual rivers. Declines of up to 58% in some species have been observed in the last thirty years, with no sign of the trend reversing.

Three-year high-resolution study, the Riverfly Census, employed standardised monitoring of aquatic invertebrate life in key English rivers to reveal dramatic changes in water quality and ecosystems

The Riverfly Census data provides an overview of how pollution affects a particular river. The aquatic insect community is shaped by the quality of the water at each sample point. Scientists then decode this bug-based information. Armed with these biological snapshots, we are able to zoom in on particular problems and if necessary, carry out further invertebrate or chemical sampling.

Lauren Mattingley, S&TC Scientific Officer, added:

“It is an often-overlooked fact that invertebrates essentially run our planet. They make up the majority of species on earth and sustain all life. Aquatic insects are invaluable in unlocking the true story of water quality in our rivers. Much of the pollution threatening our waters is subtle and invisible to the naked eye. By looking at what species were there, and which are missing, for the first time we have been able to truly quantify the invisible stressors deteriorating water quality throughout England.”

Urgent action from Government and the Environment Agency is required to protect keystone aquatic invertebrate life in English river ecosystems to prevent further declines.

S&TC attribute the root cause for the majority of aquatic insect declines to:

  • increased levels of Phosphorus (emanating predominantly from sewerage systems)
  • deposition of fine sediment (the result of poor management of agricultural soils) and
  • an overwhelming array of chemicals entering rivers (including flushing of pesticides from imported salad leaves)

Nick Measham, S&TC Freshwater Campaigns Manager, commented:

Much of the scientific work done by or on behalf of S&TC is complex, detailed and unspectacular.  The results can take years to collect and interpret – but this is the heart of what we do, as, without the evidence, those who damage our waters cannot be challenged.”

Exacerbating the crisis facing the health of our rivers is a framework of weak environmental regulations. Too often these fail to address real world issues, such as the concurrent release of chemicals and their cumulative effects. When combined with a long-standing culture of apparent light touch enforcement, the existing regulatory framework is wholly failing to offer adequate protection.

Diminished regulatory resources and outdated monitoring approaches are also likely to be hiding the true extent of harmful emissions in river ecosystems. Only with robust long-term monitoring in the mode of the Riverfly Census can we truly understand the changes occurring in our freshwater habitats. The Riverfly Census has started to address the lack of widespread, high resolution benchmarking but considerably more work now needs to be undertaken.

Dr. Janina Gray, S&TC Head of Science & Environmental Policy:

“The evidence is clear; our rivers urgently need our help. Current regulation and management are not managing to halt the frightening decline of aquatic insects, let alone reverse it. Our freshwater fish and invertebrates are being choked by fine sediments which should be on fields, not in rivers, and are subjected to chemical cocktails we don’t understand or monitor. If we want our children to be able to watch wild trout rising, a mayfly hatch emerging or a kingfisher feeding, the time to act is now.  This degradation is happening now, under our noses and on our watch. It is time for all of us to take action.”

Salmon & Trout Conservation is calling for action at the national level and is making a series of policy recommendations:

  • Further investigations into the biological impact of phosphorus spikes. Without this work, the validation that discharge permits, based on an annual average of monthly samples, are providing for the protection of our rivers is highly questionable.
  • Chalkstreams should have their own classification targets within the Water Framework Directive (WFD).
  • Establish a standardised approach to monitoring fine sediment in our rivers and set appropriate river specific standards.
  • Develop a national programme of species-level monitoring to provide the resolution required to detect pressures such as excess phosphates, sediment and damaging chemicals, and the benchmarking on which to make informed decisions.
  • Include SPEAR analysis in River Basin Management Planning within WFD, to allow the biological impacts of chemicals to be assessed alongside other pressures, and requirements for additional supplementary chemical monitoring prioritised where necessary.
  • Ensure the environmental protection offered by European legislation is transposed into and implemented through UK law, including the creation of Water Protection Zones where existing measures fail to protect water quality and river ecology.
  • A review of discharge permit guidance to include measures to assess the cumulative and legacy impacts of multiple chemicals within the discharge.
  • All chalkstreams to have bespoke invertebrate targets to drive forward improvements, whilst WFD classification targets are being developed.

Issued by Corin Smith comms@salmon-trout.org (07463 576892) on behalf of Salmon and Trout Conservation. For more information please contact janina@salmon-trout.organd nick@salmon-trout.org on 01425 652461

Reporting with a purpose

S&TC is a national organisation and we use evidence from local case studies to help instigate policy changes that will benefit UK wild fish populations. But, this is just part of the value. We are making all our Riverfly Census findings available so they can be used to inform local management and drive action.

Each individual river report is based on three years of surveying data. Where possible, we have linked up our findings with other existing literature and data. Using the available information we suggest where local fishing and/or conservation groups can focus their management efforts to achieve the best health outcomes for each of the 12 original Census rivers.

S&TC’s local reports can be found by visiting the Riverfly Census page and scroll down to the map.

North Warnborough objection

19/00543/FUL Albion Yard – Objection to proposal for development

Any development on this site must be sympathetic to the special nature of the environment, related as it is to sites of special scientific interest (SSSI).

The River Whitewater, a ‘Main River’, is a chalk stream, which is rare and important at international level.  The River Whitewater flows north of the proposed development site in a north easterly direction. An unnamed tributary of the River Whitewater flows in an easterly direction through the land to the west of the site. It turns to follow a northerly route approximately 70m north west of the site. It discharges into the River Whitewater near Mill Corner. The River Whitewater is a Site of Interest to Nature Conservation (SINC) throughout its length and includes stretches of SSSI. The Basingstoke Canal, which is also a SSSI, is located along the southern boundary of the site.

According to the findings of the Environment Agency, the River is failing to meet ‘Good Ecological Status’ as required under the Water Framework Directive.

The Flood Risk Assessment provided for this proposed development is out of date, despite the propensity of the site for flooding. Flood risk resulting from the loss of land to absorb and channel waters from the River Whitewater flood plain requires very careful and partial use of the site for development, as indicated in the Neighbourhood Plan. In addition, surface run-off from building infrastructure on this site would flow into the River Whitewater, likely to affect further the ecological status of the River.

The principle of biodiversity enhancement in the adjacent field is welcome.  However detailed input from a qualified ecologist is required to turn the proposed plan into practice that will deliver a net gain for biodiversity. This should be secured through a full Landscape and Ecological Management plan for the future, which includes a landscape buffer as indicated in the Odiham and North Warnborough Neighbourhood Plan.

The plans are not aligned with the Odiham and North Warnborough Neighbourhood Plan, which protects the setting of neighbouring listed properties by the provision of a significant open space at the North end of the field.

In summary, the proposed development affects the landscape characteristics of the North Warnborough Conservation area. The development as proposed does not adhere to the Odiham and North Warnborough Neighbourhood plan, specifically policies 2 iv, 7 and 12.

For and on behalf of the

Whitewater Valley Preservation Society