Wilding the Chess
We are extraordinarily fortunate to be living where we are but quite how
special our landscape is not always so evident. After all, we just live
here: work, play, go to school and college and (when we can) worship, shop
and go to the pub(s)! But, in fact, the River Chess is one of only 250
chalk rivers in the world; that makes our beautiful countryside of world
importance as such rivers are not only rare but highly vulnerable.
We’ve had a sense of the vulnerability in the last couple of years with
the regular polluting of the river by raw sewage outflow from Chesham
sewage works: this destroyed a local business, our wonderful, and almost
unique, watercress farm and sadly continues to this day; the most recent
outflow of filth was on the 21st of January this year. This is pretty shocking
and, to be fair for a nanosecond, Thames Water have recognised that this
is unacceptable and are making proposals and finding money to rectify that
specific problem. But, I would argue, Thames Water’s attitude is but a
microcosm of a more general problem whereby we take from nature and then
leave it to nature to clean-up the mess. For those of us who have watched
Sir David Attenborough’s ‘A Perfect Planet’, with awe, wonder and deep concern, this idea will not be new. The rather startling truth is that we have so engineered it that we now have two major ecological crises to contend with: Climate Change, as a result of 250 years of industrialization; and the destruction of our natural environment to the point where whole ecosystems may collapse – and that includes us.
So what? Well, whilst we cannot solve all the world’s problems in Sarratt, there are things that we can do and one, very interesting, suggestion is that we ‘wild the Chess’! We start to give nature a bit more slack to do what it can do: absorb our carbon and support the diversity and luxuriant variety that our countryside needs. That doesn’t mean lynxes roaming the riverbanks snaffling pampered pooches from Loudwater but it could mean a countryside that, dare I say it, looked a bit scruffier; a river that meandered more and, if we were ever graced with beavers (and why not) would create pools instead of fast-flowing water in some parts of the river.
Some local landowners have already started to think on these lines and there are also various groups, from local councils to the Chiltern Chalk Stream Project who are edging towards this. This is good news but it’s going to affect all of us so we all have to be thinking what this might mean.
As a starter for 10, if you would like to know more about the River Chess,
have a look at this excellent presentation:
and, if you want to have a sense of just how extraordinarily exciting a rewilding project can be, try Isabella Tree’s wonderful book, ‘Wilding’.
If this has piqued your interest, then please do get in touch.
With best wishes