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You are here : At Home > Sustainability > River restoration > River Misbourne Restoration
The River Misbourne is a chalk stream that flows from its source just north of Great Missenden through several Buckinghamshire towns including Little Missenden, Old Amersham, Chalfont St Giles and Chalfont St Peter, to where it enters the River Colne downstream of Denham. Chalk streams are globally rare habitats. Of the 260 chalk streams in the world, 224 of them are in England and 10% of those are located within our supply area.
Chalk streams are rivers that receive most of their water from the underground chalk aquifer (water bearing rock). This water is known as groundwater, and it bubbles up through the riverbed. As it has been naturally filtered by the chalk it is often described as being ‘gin clear’ and is full of dissolved minerals that support many species of plants and animals.
Over the centuries, chalk streams have been altered for many reasons. These include moving them from the lowest point on the landscape to higher up to work with field boundaries or create a bigger area for agriculture, being straightened to act as mill races for industry, or relocated for housing development. These changes mean that the rivers are less resilient to extreme climatic conditions such as flood and drought, as they no longer operate in a natural way.
We are working with the support of the Environment Agency and others to Revitalise Chalk Rivers. The aim is to make chalk rivers in our supply area more natural again so that they are less likely to suffer from low flows and have a good variety of habitats for wildlife.
We have recently completed a river restoration project on the River Misbourne as part of our Revitalising Chalk Rivers programme. Work was undertaken to improve a 1.14 km stretch of river just south of Amersham.
The existing channel between Amersham Bypass and Quarrendon Mill was straight, overwide and historically diverted from its original course in the natural valley bottom, to provide the power for Quarrendon Mill. The channel was perched, with the riverbed above the valley bottom and the chalk groundwater table.
A large section of the channel has now been moved to be more closely aligned to its original course, through the creation of a new 500 m meandering stream to replace the over-straightened channel. A wetland area was also established as part of the new channel to create a feature for local wildlife to thrive, as well as additional flood storage capacity in the winter months. This feature is bordered by an earth bund to prevent any potential increase in downstream flood risk as you can see in the photos below of the site on a sunny afternoon in July, post construction.
Left: Example of one of the gravel berms in the existing channel, Right: Cattle crossing point
Left: Section of the new re-aligned channel with outside bend, Right: Newly meandering channel captured from the stock fencing in the background
Gravels exposed on the riverbed at the upstream end of the new channel
Aerial image of the newly constructed channel
To assess the changes from the restoration works, we started to monitor the hydrology and ecology in and around the river restoration site prior to construction, and will continue doing so after construction. It will take some time for aquatic animals and plants to become established at the site and to be reflected in our environmental monitoring results, however a number of bird species have already been using the wetland area, such as the white and yellow wagtail and the ringed plover, with sightings tracked by the Bucks Bird Club. Eventually we will expect fish species including brown trout to migrate to the new re-aligned channel and to also spot kingfishers by the banks of the river.
This project is expected to help the River Misbourne reach the Water Framework Directive objectives of Good Ecological Status or Potential.
We have been working with Five Rivers to develop and construct a river restoration project on the River Misbourne, a globally rare chalk stream. From working with landowners, the Environment Agency, and local groups, we were able to identify that the stretch of river passing through Barn Meadow and Pondwicks Meadow in Old Amersham has a potential for river improvements.
This river restoration project was completed in October 2023 as a part of our Revitalising Chalk Rivers programme. The work was undertaken to improve chalk stream characteristics on the River Misbourne at both Barn Meadow and Pondwicks Meadow in Old Amersham. Prior to the construction, the river at Barn Meadow was straight, over-wide and heavily silted due to low flow velocities. At Pondwicks Meadow, the river was heavily vegetated, silted and was confined to a straight course against the existing brick wall acting as the right bank.
Left: Feb 2023 – Willow Pollarding (& tree removal), Right: July 2023 – Willow Growth
August and September 2023:
Left and middle: straight silted channel and heavy silt deposition caused by low flows, Right: small meanders and clear gravels
Left: Pondwicks Meadow before construction, Middle: During backwater construction, Right: After connecting the backwater to the River Misbourne
For more information please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.