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The Whispers Of Chalk Stream Project Launch

Our Chalk Stream

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On Wednesday 31st January 2024, the Whispers Of Chalk Stream Project was launched in the Village Hall, with organisers Dr. Helen Clarke and Dr. Sharon Witt (Attention2Place). 


Funded by the Watercress and Winterbourne Community Grant and National Lottery Heritage Funding, the project links with the work that Watercress and Winterbournes is doing with the village on the Chalk Stream and is a 'hyperlocal' community project to raise awareness of our chalk stream resource, and for the local community to participate in a creative and education experience.


We were delighted to welcome 40 people and Winnie the dog to Bishop’s Sutton Village Hall and to share chalk stream thinking with a curious and interested audience. 

People attended from Alresford, Beech nr Medstead, Bishop’s Sutton, Fareham, Gundleton, Kent, Kingston-upon-Thames, Ropley and Shedfield. It was lovely to see everyone. 


The session was split into two sections: a welcome and introduction to different chalk stream voices and workshop sessions- chat and scribble; explore and make marks.   


Local Voices

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Sophie Evingar –

Watercress and Winterbournes Communications and Events Officer 


Sophie talked about her work with Watercress and Winterbournes and the Hampshire and Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust. She spoke of the importance of focusing attention on the headwaters of the River Itchen and how precious the chalk stream is. Sophie said that it was good to see the interest and momentum within Bishop’s Sutton. 


Mark Allen

Parish Councillor 


Mark shared the following key messages:

The Parish Council are delighted to support the Whispers in Chalk Stream project as a way of bringing the community together. 


 ‘Our village stream is one of only about 200 to 220 of this type in the world and that makes it very, very special.’


‘It's important to support the stream because in a climate driven environment … there is real challenge.’


‘The stream is integral to this village as is the entire chalk ecosystem around it.’ 


A Historical Lens

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Michael and Aaron Clarke shared the writings on the history of Bishops Sutton for Garry Allam offering a local historian perspective.


Garry discussed the foundation of the village, local controversies regarding the naming of the river – Arle or Alre and where is the source of the River Itchen, and recalled childhood memories of the stream and fish tickling.   


 An excerpt from the talk is here: 


‘…As kids in the 60’s and 70’s most of our time was spent in and around the river. The river abounded with shrimps, Sticklebacks Minnows and Stone Gudgeons, Brown and Rainbow Trout. Frogs were numerous as were May and Damselflies. When little we would paddle in the Bighton Lane stretch or Mum would take us down to the corner of the field by the ruined garden where there was a little concrete bridge with a pipe running just under it. We could sit in the river hold the pipe and float on the water. When older we would put a rope over the branch of the Ash tree that stood in the corner near Pilgrims and swing out over the pond that  was  there, crawl under the old bridge in Bighton lane, stand at the footbridge at Water Lane waiting to get splashed by passing cars or skate about on the shiny concrete bit in the bottom of the ford or ride our bikes through getting soaked. Dive in the deeps between Bighton lane and the Mill and get into the back of the Mill Garden (where mum expressly forbid us to go), down a really steep bank and explore the old aqueducts and streams. Early morning raids on Mrs Fairbridge’s Pond which was full of Trout. Great days.’


Attention2Place perspectives

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Sharon and Helen considered the magic of the chalk stream and shared a found poem inspired by the Arle, the Waterlight project poetry and Jenni Bell’s blog post on the magic of chalk streams


The Spell of chalk stream


Conjured up from underground aquifers

The water shimmers

talking in silvery whispers over gravel beds

Clear and crystalline in its travels

Along ever-changing vistas

Dynamic flow patterns

twist and turn through reed beds

Trees arch over shady stretches

Fords and bridges interrupt

the permissive path that

keeps the water company

Past ancient watercress beds and

open agricultural land

cows roam

and cow parsley emerges each spring.


The water casts a spell

as the air fills with corvid calls

A flash of kingfisher blue

an exploring otter

the unmistakeable splash of water vole

adds to the enchantment

Chalk stream companions

assemble through the seasons

Trout laying their eggs

The iridescent wings of a damsel fly

Fae-like mayfly swarms appear in early summer

Swan, duck, moorhen, and egret

Crowfoot, starwort, and yellow flag iris

Alder and willow with feet in the water

A co-commotion of chalk stream community

A magical habitat on our doorstep.


Your Reactions...

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What people said to us in response to the question:


What has your encounter with watery thinking stirred you today?


‘Never knew chalk streams were so rare, clear and full of rare creatures.’

‘Didn't know about Winterbournes and we were the sources of the Arle. We need a gin event to celebrate the gin-ness of the water’.

‘The historical links, what are the views of local inhabitants- conflicts etc. Who has the biggest impact on the chalk store locally? What is the biggest threat?’

‘Memories of childhood. Connection with community’

‘Casual connections over a bit of chalk’.

‘Water brining a community together - wonderful camaraderie, inspiring experience!’

‘Stories…stories…stories’

‘Memories of childhood playing in streams’

‘Appreciation of the specialities of the place’

‘A thirst for learning more, finding out about the whole ecosystem, engaging with the community.’

‘Chance to meet up’.

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