The priority habitat map of English chalk streams

Another of the key recommendations in the CaBA Chalk stream restoration strategy was for a definitive working map of all the English chalk streams. This was something Natural England had started to work on some time ago subsequent to the publication of a list I had prepared for WWF and their State of England’s chalk streams report in 2011: this in itself being based on a NE priority habitat map from around 2006 or so. I had added a number of smaller streams which I knew of, especially some of the headwater and scarp-face streams. When I read about the forthcoming NE update I got in touch with Chris Mainstone who had been leading on this and offered to help. In addition, we received via the CaBA consultation process a number of really useful maps and river names and general pointers which have been added to the map.

I’m delighted to say that all that work has come to fruition in the online publication of the latest NE priority habitat chalk stream map.

The data display page on the priority habitats website has now been updated.

Click on ‘Display river/stream’ types. The top-level display for chalkstreams shows both high and low certainty sections – if you click on the arrow to the right of the chalkstream entry on the map legend you can toggle the high and low certainty components on and off.

The explanation of the work (including intentions for future local refinements) can be found under the about priority habitats tab – scroll down to ‘Mapping types’.

We will be working on a facility whereby additions and deletions can be made via local partnership leads in order to refine the map yet further over time.

I should add that in addition to Chris, both Fraser Elliott at Natural England and Grant McMellin at the Environment Agency deserve huge credit for the many hours of work they have put into this.

The map will be updated to the CaBA Chalk stream hub as soon as possible.

Chalk stream teaser: the photo gallery above features 16 chalk streams, one from every English county that has a chalk stream: Yorkshire, Lincolnshire, Norfolk, Suffolk, Cambridgeshire, Hertfordshire, Buckinghamshire, Berkshire, Oxfordshire, Wiltshire, Hampshire, Dorset, Sussex, Kent, Greater London and the Isle of Wight too. I’ll send a signed copy of my chalk stream anthology (Medlar Press 2006) to anyone (the first if there’s more than one!) who can name all the featured chalk streams in the order in which they appear. (Many thanks to Carol Walker, Bogbumper/wikimedia-commons and Chris Hamer whose pictures of streams in the Isle of Wight, Suffolk and Sussex I had to pinch off the internet)

1st Feb 2022 … after a week no one has even started on my mapping teaser (and I just realised I had posted two from one county!), so it must be far too tricky. Okay. I’ll name the counties top to bottom, left to right and so now name the streams: Hants, Oxon, Bucks, Cambs, Suffolk, Berks, Norfolk, Herts, Greater London, Yorks, Lincs, Kent, Wilts, Dorset, Sussex, Isle of Wight.

8 thoughts on “The priority habitat map of English chalk streams

      1. Perhaps you meant that I hadn’t included Oxfordshire in the list above … now amended. I meant to and there is indeed an Oxfordshire chalk stream already in the gallery.


    1. Hi there, I’m pretty sure the Bournemouth Bourne is not on chalk. Your nearest chalk stream would be the Allen, north of Wimborne. Also the upper end of the Crane.


      1. I do not know if you received my other reply? Are you absolutely sure that the little Bourne Stream,which runs through Talbot Heath,in Dorset,is not a Chalk Stream,please? It mentions that there is chalk there somewhere. Is there any way of checking,or rechecking the Stream? Warm wishes Katerina.


      2. Dear Katerina, I’m sorry but I really don’t think that the little Bourne is a chalk stream. If you go to this link below you’ll see the bedrock is Branksome sand. The nearest chalk is north and west of Wimborne, meaning the nearest true chalk stream is the Allen. Most places with heath in the name are off the chalk and onto sandstones of various sorts. You can see it in the vegetation too: broom, bracken, rhododendron, silver birch etc. When you say “it mentions” what is “it”? And can I ask why it matters? The Bourne is still a sweet little stream as I remember it (I used to work nearby at Canford). V best wishes, Charles.


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