Thu, 08 Oct 2020
The River Kennet is one of West Berkshire’s best-kept secrets – a clear chalk stream that runs parallel to the Kennet Canal and the river’s importance to the environment and to the ecological structure of the land around it cannot be underestimated.
Action for the River Kennet (ARK) is a Marlborough-based registered charity that oversees the conservation of the river, working with volunteers to maintain this important water source and is The Rivers Trust for the Kennet catchment.
ARK project officer Anna Forbes explains: “We take action on the ground – we run practical volunteering tasks, outreach and education, catchment-sensitive farming advice, SuDS projects (sustainable drainage systems) and lots more. We also campaign to protect and preserve the Kennet and its tributaries.”
The Kennet is a precious chalk stream. There are just over 200 chalk streams in the world and more than 160 of them are here in England, but they are under increasing pressures from pollution and a growing population.
Chalk streams have cool, clear water, because they are groundwater fed. The water supports a wealth of wildlife – water voles, fish, mayflies and kingfisher to name just a few.
Anna says: “All of these creatures need a healthy river – so lots of unpolluted flowing water. The habitat next to the river is equally important.”
Pollution is a big problem and not just in the oceans as highlighted by documentaries on television and national articles. It is also a problem in the Kennet catchment.
“Litter, including lots of single-use plastics, is finding its way into our rivers. Garden waste is another pollution problem. People often throw grass clippings and other garden waste into the river and sometimes riparian owners (living on the river banks) have compost heaps next to the river.”
None of these are good, as nutrients leach into the river from rotting down garden waste and cause algae. Algae reduces the oxygen levels in the river, which can kill invertebrates and fish.
“The Kennet suffers from abstraction – the more water we all use whether at home, school or at work, the less that is left to reach our river. While we all need water, it is really important that we don’t waste it. Although we’ve had a wet winter, we are having long dry periods and a river’s water levels can soon drop and even can dry up.”
Anna goes on to explain what ARK is doing to help preserve the river.
“We have trained volunteers checking on the health of the river throughout the catchment every month, including sites on the Lambourn in Newbury. There is a beautiful public stretch of the Lambourn close to the Riverside Community Centre, Rosemoor Gardens area and close to Almond Avenue, Newbury. Both sites are good places to try and spot wildlife and enjoy a riverbank walk.”
Dredging is another issue the rivers face, as people often think this is a good way to reduce flooding, when it is not.
“ARK are very happy to do on site visits to advise on good riparian management with landowners. Often people are really keen to look after their stretch of river, but are not sure what is good. We’ve helped transform both public and private stretches, working with the community to restore habitats.”
If you’d like to find out more about ARK and how you can help your river visit the ARK website www.riverkennet.org the ARK Facebook page www.facebook.com/riverkennet for volunteering or education projects email firstname.lastname@example.org