Saturday, 30 August 2014

How Green Is My Valley

Everyone who follows Countryfile will know what a rare and special beast a chalk stream is. And in the Misbourne Valley, we have our very own. This water source probably attracted the first settlers in this area, so we are here and our landscape has developed because of the River Misbourne.

In the past it generated industry; hard to believe, it once powered a corn mill (later a silk mill), providing employment for local residents and a name for the meadow which sweeps down to its edge in Chalfont St Peter. Nowadays the flow is observed and commented upon by many and we read the seasons by it. We walk along our river, pond dip, and bemoan its over-extraction – it was once deep enough for swimming, upstream of Mill Meadow.

Our chalk stream also provides a globally rare habitat to flora and fauna – fed by groundwater retained in the chalk aquifer, this unique environment is easily threatened by over-extraction, pollution and the possible impact of the construction and existence of HS2.

Last Sunday, a working party from the River Misbourne Action Group convened by the river, to help maintain the river bed and its banks. The Group regularly clears the river of detritus (mostly natural, but some human-generated) and monitors levels of aquatic invertebrates, a key method of establishing its health.

I am very much a fringe member, but I have to tell you that it was a great way to spend the morning. Working outside, sun shining, up to the tops of my wellies in water, was a lot of fun, and stresses and strains were washed down river. Straightening up to relieve my stiffening back and seeing that our work had made an obvious difference was the kind of instant gratification I rather enjoy.

As with anything voluntary, more can be done with more people, so please consider visiting the River Misbourne Action Group’s website or their stall at Feast day. We have to take care of our natural world, otherwise as Paul Weller says,

Paradise found down by the still waters
Joined in the race to the rainbow's end
No fears, no worries just a golden country
Woke at sunrise, went home at sunset

Now life is so critical, life is too cynical
We lose our innocence, we lose our very soul...

Tales from the Riverbank

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