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Composer Hania Rani, Eden from Esja, Interview with Russell J Biggs @chalkstreamsincrisis, Reading from ‘Rock of ages: how chalk made England’ by Helen Gordon, Made in Norfolk, The Ground Beneath Our Feet, Groundwork Gallery Summer Residency 2023


'85% of the 285 chalk-streams worldwide are in the UK. Primarily fed by spring water from the chalk aquifer ensures a constant flow of clear, cold water. It is this stable current across flinty gravel beds that make them a perfect source of clean water – ideal for a thriving biodiverse ecosystem.

'In the summer of 2023 I spent days attempting to follow the Nar, Gay & Bawsey from the centre of town out to the countryside on foot as I am car free and I thought it would be straightforward. I was shocked to discover how undervalued these unique waterways were in the town and was determined to discover more.

Many chalk aquifers – the source of chalk streams – are sadly polluted by nitrogen and phosphorus from fertilisers spread on farmland. The seemingly clear waters of chalk streams are often tainted with invisible contaminants as a result. As they flow downstream, water running off urban and rural areas bring pollutants, including fine sediments, pesticides and sewage.

The natural courses taken by many chalk streams have been straightened, dredged, rerouted and rebranded as ‘drains’ to make space for agricultural, urban and industrial land uses. The rivers dwindle as water companies cynically extract water from streams and aquifers.

These negative effects are compounded by climate change. As a result, the Environment Agency reports that not one of England’s rivers – chalk or otherwise – is in good overall health. The contrast between a thriving chalk stream and a denuded one is stark. We need to value these mercurial sources of pure water that are life giving and regenerative.

A strategy for restoring England’s chalk streams recommends granting chalk streams new statutory protection that reflects their globally unique value to ecology and culture. Radical action is needed to better protect our chalk streams and ensure these ecosystems remain worthy of their iconic status.'

Creta : a film by Kelly Hill

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