Winterbourne streams on our chalk soil traditionally run after seasonal rains have percolated through the chalk (which holds the water underground as an aquifer or sponge). As the water table rises, the water starts to flow steadily through fissures in the chalk which we know as springs.
In East Garston we are about five miles from the source of the River Lambourn in Upper Lambourn. Along this part of the Lambourn Valley the stream usually dries up completely around July (although some years the stream doesn’t flow at all; some years it doesn’t stop).
This year the river sprung back to life as normal mid-February in just over one week. It was very similar to the rising last year:
From Great Shefford eastwards the river flows continually year round and feeds into the River Kennet just south of the Thatcham Discovery Centre (according to Wikipedia it was in the triangle where the two rivers met that Charles I took up a defensive position in the Second Battle of Newbury 1644).
As the springs start feeding the river bed west of Great Shefford wildlife quickly take advantage of the extended water course. According to local wildlife author Nicola Chester, ducks fly along streams and will quickly spot water starting to flow as the spring head moves upstream. Two pairs landed within hours of the water starting to flow past our house.
It’s only the mammals that are phased by the arrival of the water: our two kittens and a friendly muntjac that visits the garden on the opposite riverbank looked most perplexed this morning.