Watlington Environment Group & RTCT investigate the Chalgrove Brook Headwaters

The second group of volunteer trainee samplers on a day of snow, rain and freezing temperatures – but still pleased to be out of isolation!

The Watlington Environment Group (WEG) Watercourses Project has been loaned two sets of water quality monitoring instruments by the River Thame Conservation Trust (RTCT), to examine the quality of the springs that feed the headwaters of the Chalgrove Brook. The instruments and test strips cover a basic suite of water quality determinands: dissolved oxygen, temperature, pH, conductivity, total dissolved solids, turbidity, hardness, phosphate and nitrate. The headwaters and springs to be investigated arise in Watlington, Lewknor, Shirburn, Pyrton and Britwell Salome.

This investigation of the headwaters and their associated springs is part of a focus RTCT has on improving the Chalgrove Brook; it also links to a major project called ‘Water in a Dry Landscape’ that the Chilterns AONB has been running, to find out more about the value of the springs arising along the base of the Chilterns Escarpment. Relatively little is known about their ecological value and it is hoped this project will raise awareness of the springs and guide their future protection and improvement. It is equipment from Phase 1 of this project that has been kindly lent to RTCT / WEG for their investigations.

In Phase 1 of the Water in a Dry Landscape project, volunteers took four seasonal samples at more than 40 springs between Ashton Rowant and Wendover during 2019/20. This year, in Phase 2, professional ecologists will be examining the plant and animal life downstream from 10-15 springs selected from the original sites surveyed. Any data the RTCT / WEG project collect over the next year will add to this baseline knowledge of Chiltern springs. In the future we should also be able to learn from the Chilterns’ ecological survey, which should help inform us about which unique and important plants and animals we could look out for locally.

To start the WEG Chalgrove headwaters project, Hilary Phillips from RTCT, and Iain Naismith from WEG, ran introductory sessions for 8 WEG volunteers (adhering to the rule of 6). Hilary and Iain are now deciding on sampling locations, seeking landowner permission to access for testing where necessary, and setting out a programme.

WEG will also make use of the kits for more detailed local water quality investigations, around the watercourses in the parish of Watlington.

Iain Naismith