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Poetry competition and literature festival celebrate Hampshire’s chalk streams

Hampshire’s chalk streams are some of its most precious wild places. These globally rare habitats are home to iconic species like the otter, water vole, brown trout, and kingfisher.

With their serene beauty and vibrant wildlife, it’s no surprise that chalk streams have inspired authors such as Jane Austen, Thomas Hardy, Richard Adams (Watership Down), and Charles Kingsley (The Water Babies).

This year, local residents have the chance to celebrate their chalk streams through a poetry competition and literature festival. The Watercress and Winterbournes Landscape Partnership Scheme protects, enhances, and celebrates seven of these streams, through support from The National Lottery Heritage Fund. This year’s literary activities are a collaboration between the scheme partners and Hampshire Library Service.  

The Tales from the Riverbank Poetry Competition which is free to enter, asks 7-18 year olds to write a short poem inspired by the wonderful world of chalk streams. Winners will receive National Book Tokens worth up to £75, and have their poems published in a commemorative booklet. Entrants must live within the scheme area, which includes Andover, Whitchurch, Overton, and Alresford. The competition closes at midnight on 31st July 2024.

Further inspiration is being provided by the Tales from the Riverbank Literature Festival, which will be held this June in Andover, Whitchurch, Overton, and Alresford. Attendees will be treated to talks by prominent nature writers like Amy-Jane Beer and Tom Moorhouse, as well as chalk stream-themed writing workshops for children and adults. All the festival events are free to attend.

For more information on the competition and festival, visit

Kathryn Boler, Watercress and Winterbournes Partnership Manager, said: “Our local chalk streams are perfect places for creative inspiration. Their cool, clear water makes them some of our most biodiverse habitats, and they are central to so much local history. By holding this competition and festival, we aim to give local people a chance to join a creative tradition that spans hundreds of years.”.

Literature festival webpage

Poetry competition webpage

Details of the events in Andover

Chalk Stream Writing Workshop

Saturday 8th June, 1-4pm

Andover Library

Ages 12+

Are you keen to try creative writing? Would you like to explore the wonderful world of chalk streams? Join us for this story walk and nature writing workshop!

We’ll start by taking a walk along the Upper Anton, hearing stories about this special habitat. Then, we’ll head indoors to turn our inspiration into creative writing.

The walk and workshop will be led by Dawn Nelson – a performance storyteller and author based within the beautiful South Downs. Her passion is landscape, heritage and nature connection through the wonder of story, in all its forms.

Rivers of Myth with Lisa Schneidau

Wednesday 19th June, 7-9pm

Andover Guildhall

Ages 12+


Join us for an evening with celebrated author and storyteller Lisa Schneidau – author of the acclaimed book ‘River Folk Tales of Britain and Ireland’. A dive into the realm of the fantastical, the book weaves stories of ghosts, monsters, and goddesses into a spellbinding tapestry. At this event, Lisa will perform some of her favourite folk tales, and explore how they reflect our relationship with rivers.

Lisa is a performance storyteller, author, and environmentalist living in Devon. After training as an ecologist, she spent 25 years working with Wildlife Trusts all over the country as a river surveyor, lobbyist, farm advisor, and conservation director. She now specialises in using traditional stories about land, sea, and sky to explore our connections with the natural world. She is the bestselling author of ‘River Folk Tales of Britain and Ireland’, ‘Botanical Folk Tales’,

Children’s Poetry Workshop

Saturday 22nd June, 1-4pm

Andover Library

Ages 7-11


Are you aged 7-11 and fascinated by nature? Would you like to try creative writing? Join us for a chalk stream walk followed by a poetry workshop!

We’ll start by taking a walk along the Upper Anton, using our senses to explore this special habitat. Then, we’ll head indoors to turn what we’ve learned into a poem.

The walk and workshop will be led by Amanda Kane-Smith of Merry-Go-Round Storytelling. Amanda is a professional storyteller and author with a passion for the natural world.