Living Waters in the New Forest

25th April 2017

Living Waters: a New Forest Catchment Partnership project to protect and restore freshwater wildlife in the River Beaulieu catchment

New Forest river by Dominic Longley cropped

The freshwaters of the New Forest – the rivers, small streams, ditches, mires and a multitude of ponds – is one of the most important freshwater areas in lowland England. These places support outstanding wildlife – there are eel and trout, Great Crested Newt, rare plants like Pillwort and Small Fleabane and a great diversity of invertebrates including the declining Medicinal Leech, Mud Snail and the Tadpole and Fairy Shrimps. In fact it is so important, we believe that we should help people enjoy it, celebrate it and, even more importantly, we should make sure we look after it well into the future. As part of Living Waters, we’re doing just that in the River Beaulieu catchment, working closely with the Beaulieu Estate and its tenants.

European Eels (c) Dominic Longley

The Living Waters project focuses on managing and creating freshwater habitats and connecting them up for plants and animals. We also aim to protect and improve water quality by addressing small sources of diffuse pollution from, mainly, agriculture and horse pastures.

Visitors are introduced to some the smaller Beaulieu River residents at the launch of the Living Waters project (c) Pascale Nicolet

Connecting with the local community is key for the development and success of Living Waters and we have been encouraged by the interest of the Beaulieu Estate and local residents. We now have a network of about 35 enthusiastic volunteers regularly collecting water quality data from 61 water bodies, using the same methods as our Clean Water for Wildlife survey. The quick and easy survey has been so popular that we have had to turn people away! Through our partnership with the Countryside Education Trust, we are also involving many school children who will get hands-on experience of testing for nutrient pollution and who will learn about freshwaters in a beautiful, inspiring setting. We hope this amazing set of data will show how effective our work to tackle pollution has been.

Tony Springett water sampling_web

So far the results show that 80% of the water bodies sampled in the Beaulieu catchment have clean water. This is outstanding compared to other catchments we’ve surveyed.

So why bother focusing on this area if it’s already good? The answer is that we need to protect the best of what we have left, and even a little bit of pollution is still too much pollution in a place like the New Forest.


Want to know more?

  • The Freshwater Habitats Trust is leading the Living Waters project on behalf of the New Forest Catchment Group. The Environment Agency is the other main partner
    in the project, and we are grateful for its financial and technical support.
  • Living Waters is one of 21 projects in ‘Our Past, Our Future’, the New Forest National Park Authority landscape partnership which is supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund.
  • We work with partners in several Catchment Partnerships to protect the best of our freshwater wildlife and create more clean water habitats.