So why such a love of chalkstreams ? Rare. Special. Unique. Sparkling, clear water tumbling over bright gravel. Brown trout hanging in the eddies. Bright green weed wafting gently with the current. Kingfishers streaking momentarily into view. Idle cows, front feet planted in the stream, sucking down the chilled water. Mayflies dancing. Water voles keeping busy. Secretive otters curled up on couches of dried reeds for a day of rest in the sun. This, and much more, is the life in the day of a chalkstream.
Southern England is blessed with these streams that are part of the weft and weave of the Hampshire countryside. The River Test is the supreme example of a type of river that only exists in England. There are no other chalkstreams anywhere else in the world. They are, in the best possible way, geological freaks of nature, the product of an ice age that left behind seam of chalk that goes deep beneath the downs which absorbs the winters rain, chilling and purifying it before slowly releasing the water through millions of springs that aggregate to create these perfect rivers.
It is easier than you might think to enjoy the Hampshire you see today, shaped as it is over the centuries by the chalkstreams.
At just about every turn there are quaint villages, the walls of the houses often built from rammed chalk and roofs thatched with reed. Country lanes pause at the slight bump for red-bricked humpbacked bridges, the perfect place to gaze at the river below. As far as the eye can see are the meadows in which the cattle and sheep graze. But these are no ordinary fields. These are water meadows, irrigated and fertilised by winter floods, with thousands of native species flowering in profusion. The yellow of flag irises. The purple of orchids. The smell of wild mint. Butterflies. Damselflies. Bumble bees. They, and many more, seek out the nectar, food and cover in what they call home.
So, next time you are travelling down this way do take time out to enjoy one of Britain’s most precious habitats.
Top 5 places to enjoy the chalkstreams
The wide high street on the banks of the River Test is the hub of a thriving market town with local shops, pubs and places to eat.
Mayfly Inn, Fullerton https://www.mayflyfullerton.co.uk/
Enjoy a drink and a meal whilst feeding the trout crisps!
44 mile walking and cycling route from source to sea.
Chibolton Cow Common http://www.chilboltonandwherwell.info/index.php/open-spaces-new/chilbolton-cow-common
The perfect spot to sit by, and paddle in, a chalkstream. Take your trunks!
Leckford Eel Traps
One of the most iconic views of a fascinating bit of now the redundant eel fishing industry.
Simon Cooper is a professional fly fishing guide, naturalist and author of the best-selling Life of a Chalkstream published by William Collins. He hosts summer River Walks in the Test valley.
This guest blog was provided by https://fishingbreaks.co.uk/riverwalk.htm
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