Written by Graeme Davis
I have spoken of the many reserves in Andover, although not a reserve, the River Anton that runs through our town is equally important. It is fed by 3 freshwater springs which arise just above Anton Lakes Nature Reserve, making the water very clean and clear. These waters and the constantly warm aquifers give rise to diverse flora and fauna.
The Anton is filtered through the chalk aquifers. The clarity of the water allows plants like water crowfoot, water starwart and parsnips to grow providing refuge and food for fish and invertebrates. Chalk rivers are incredibly important for wildlife. Globally they are quite rare with the UK having around 85% of all chalk rivers.
Chalk rivers like the Anton are very good for fish like bullheads, salmon and trout, as we all know from the reputation of the River Test. These fish can only thrive though if the rivers are well maintained and the vegetation allowed to grow providing habitats for the invertebrates. Abstraction is a major threat the river and its tributaries.
The health of the river can be monitored by observing what insects are in the river and in what numbers. Groups like TARCA do regular monthly surveys called Riverfly surveys. These involve finding out what species of mayfly, stonefly, caddisfly and water shrimp are in the samples, and in what numbers. If the numbers and species fall between a certain number then an incident is reported to the Environment Agency. This could be pollution (including sewage), water levels or even the amount of vegetation or light within a stretch of river.
Our river has never been more important, not just for its beauty. It is homes to rare watervoles, eels, otters and riverfly, as well as wading birds, herons, egrets, even crayfish, moths and bats.