2012 – August – Off we go again!

2012 – August – Off we go again!

When we first got together late in 2008, the end of flow in the Misbourne had been stuck above Mill Lane for some time and it hadn’t been seen in Chalfont St Giles (except for storm run-off) for several years.  With hard work and gentle coaxing, together with no more than reasonable but erratic rainfall, regular flow gradually extended down the valley towards Chalfont St Peter and we really thought we were winning.  But the drought – much reported and hyped early this year, but really the result of 2 years generally below average rainfall – proved irresistible and, very quickly, a year ago, the gains were lost and flow retreated all the way back above Quarrendon Mill.  By comparison with some earlier ebbs, recovery has perhaps been somewhat more rapid – possibly we’ve helped? – and so, now, we have flow back to where we started – see below:

extent of flow.jpg

At the same time, ground water levels took a serious dive to exceptionally low levels but are generally (unseasonably) recovering as shown by this plot of levels at Misbourne Farm.

Mis Farm Aug 12.jpg

More details of these movements and observations can be viewed at the Facts and Figures and Quick View areas of the website.  We also look forward to explaining and discussing them to all comers at the Chalfont St Giles Show on 08 September and, hopefully, to seeing you there.  Thanks to those who have already volunteered some time on the stand – additional support, even for half an hour or so – would be much appreciated: please let me know if you can help.

Recently, we have been talking with Chalfont St Peter Parish Council about some ideas for improving the concrete area in front of the Greyhound where the old ford used to be.  Here coaches used to cross the river just before they  pulled in to the covered entry to The Greyhound for a break on their journey from London, along the old road (Lower Road), before setting off up Gravel Hill on their way to Aylesbury.  Now  reverting to being an eyesore very rapidly after we tidy it, this space could/should be a key feature of the village.  Watch this space!

HS2 is never far from the news.  Controversially, I often wonder what we would all have said if we had lived in the area when the brick viaducts over the A413 and M25 and the massive cuttings through Gerrard’s Cross for the Chiltern Line, which we now take for granted and regularly use, were first proposed.   I don’t believe that MRA has a role in being “for” or “against” HS2.  However, we do most certainly have a part to play in ensuring that, should it ever proceed,  any damaging consequences to the aquifer, the extent of flow or the river corridor environment are thoroughly investigated and fully mitigated plus maximising the benefit to be obtained from compensation.  To this end, we are delighted to have been invited to join the Chalfonts and Amersham (Mitigation and Compensation) Forum which is one of 25 set up by HS2 Limited to enable communication with local stakeholders.  I’m not sure how much work this may lead to, but, if anyone with some relevant expertise is interested in helping develop our representations, we would be pleased to hear from them.

As you know, the Chiltern Society Application for Lottery funding towards the our proposed lining project was unsuccessful.  However, work is now well advanced in reformatting the application and submitting it for funding through the Colne Catchment Fund administered by the Environment Agency. Personally, I feel this may be more appropriate as the fund has a more relevant and tighter focus without the additional, complicating Heritage/Educational requirements of the Lottery Fund and it would be really good to be working on something directly with our Environment Agency friends.  (Of course, MRA does have a heritage and educational agenda: its just that the Heritage Lottery application seemed to be trying to cover all the bases at once).

You may recall that, last August (2011), just as the drought was beginning to reverse our apparent success, Veolia Water undertook various trials with reduced abstraction and even injection of water back into the river at Amersham.  (these show up as a little blip on the “Extent of Flows” graph above – temporarily arresting the retreat up the valley).  This was all associated with consultancy studies they are obliged to undertake as part of their Asset Management Plan (AMP) 2010 – 2014.  In turn, the results of these studies, and no doubt much debate, will lead to a requirement from Offwat for something (or nothing??) to be done in the next AMP 2015-2019 by way of reduction of abstraction, or other measure to improve flows in Chalk Streams.  We were promised that the results of these tests and the consultants’ report would be made available to us in March this year but, to date, we are still chasing.

So, as I hope you can see, despite the lack of a river through the Chalfonts this summer, there is lots going on and no shortage of reasons to be optimistic for the (long-term) future of the valley for our children and grandchildren.  In the short term though, now the Olympics are over and holidays are behind us, its time to get back to work and prepare the river corridor once more ready for the likely autumn/winter replenishment so that chances of flows back through the valley next year are as high as we can make them.  We now have over 300 people reading these ramblings (or maybe just junking them!).  Please can we have a bumper turnout for our next Working Party on Saturday 15 September and please also note now the one after on Sunday 21st October.  If you can help, even if just for an hour, do let me know and I will send further briefing notes before hand.

Finally, we will have a “not a meeting” over a pint at The Greyhound on Tuesday 11th September at 7.45 p.m. – I look forward to seeing the “regulars” and anyone else who would like to come for a drink and a natter.



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