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Cambridgeshire's chalk streams

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Cambridgeshire's Chalk Streams: Burwell Brook

Burwell Brook rises near St Mary's church, in the field that contains Burwell Castle, in a series of crystal-clear chalk springs.

However what could be a pretty stream and a great amenity to the village is treated much like a ditch for most of its 1 mile length until it becomes Burwell Lode. Nevertheless the brook shows several distinct stages. Below the spring is a watercress bed: the watercress here flowers but appears to set no seed, so it is a Nasturtium x sterile, cross between the two types of watercress, Nasturtium officinale and Nasturtium microphyllum.

In autumn 2016 the brook was 'ditched' where it runs through farmland. This was unnecessary as it had been ditched a couple of years earlier and the vegetation was only just recovering. However this section of the stream was the site of an apparently large water vole colony. I had thought there were water voles present as, walking alongside the brook in the summer of 2016 I had heard a plop, characteristic of voles. The 'ditching' has laid bare many of their runs.

The photos, taken January 31st 2017, clearly show that the holes have been cleared of debris from the ditching so the colony is very active. I just hoped that the razing of the banks has not completely cleared their food source away.

3rd April 2017. It seems the ditching work has had a severe impact. Most of the holes that were photographed are now partially blocked by falling dirt so are clearly not active. Lots of the vole tracks have disappeared. However there are still some holes that are still active.

23rd April 2017. A walk along the brook today revealed no real evidence of any vole activity. Almost all holes are partially blocked by falling dirt.

Click on a thumbnail for an enlarged view (with comments). Clicking on the enlarged view will download the full size original photo.

Burwell brooks lower reaches

From the watercress bed to Priory Wood the brook flows quite fast through arable fields where the main water plants are watercress (Nasturtium officinale rather than Nasturtium x sterile which is present below the spring) and Fool's watercress (apium nodiflorum). But the brook slows and deepens where it runs adjacent to Priory wood and here Starwort (Calotriche sp.), Brooklime (Veronica beccabunga), Blue water-speedwell (Veronica anagallis-aquatica) and similar plants abound. There is however a lot of algal growth in this area - evidence of probable fertilizer run-off from the arable fields.

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Page first published Wednesday the 11th of January, 2017.
Last modified: July 15 2017 12:36:01.
Written by and © Richard Torrens
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