Chalk rivers are found in southern and eastern England and are of international importance for their special animal and plant communities, which include watercress. They are fed by groundwater springs, and so provide favourable conditions for watercress to be grown in beds constructed near their headwaters.
Watercress is an important salad leaf, stocked by the major supermarkets. Production is concentrated on rivers in Dorset, Hampshire and Wiltshire (33 of the 39 watercress farms are on Sites of Special Scientific Interest). We commissioned Jonathan Cox Associates to compile a report on the impact of the watercress industry on the ecological condition of these rivers.
This report is being published to help Natural England:
- set a baseline for knowledge of environmental effects of watercress farming as it is practiced today; and
- raise awareness in the watercress industry of the effects they may be having on chalk rivers.