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Under The Surface

The River Great Stour: a SmartRivers case study

The River Great Stour: a SmartRivers case study

Immy O'Keeffe, Development Manager
28 July 2021

The second longest river in Kent, the River Great Stour, or "Kentish Stour' is is a major watercourse in the East of England and home to one of our SmartRivers hubs. We spoke to volunteer, Michael Bax, about the river and the pressures it faces. 

The River Great Stour. Photo: Michael Bax.

Tell us about the River Stour?

The River Great Stour or “Kentish Stour” as it is otherwise known, rises from springs at the foot of the greensand ridge on the south side of the M20 motorway at Lenham. The infant river then runs east to Ashford. The River East Stour rises within a mile of the sea to the north west of Hythe but runs away from the sea westwards to join the Great Stour close to Ashford town centre. The combined rivers continue as the Great Stour through Wye to Canterbury and thence through low lying arable land to the river’s mouth in Pegwell Bay near Sandwich.

The River Great Stour. Photo: Michael Bax.
The River Great Stour. Photo: Michael Bax.

What are the main challenges that the river faces?

The river receives a substantial influx of groundwater from chalk aquifers at Wye, downstream of Ashford and for the next Twelve miles has the character of a chalk stream with typical chalk stream biodiversity. Water is abstracted from these aquifers, affecting the health of the river and consequentially impacting flow. There are also issues with sewage farm effluent in the form of nitrates and phosphates, as well as an adverse affect on water temperature during hot weather.

What is special about the river?

Some mitigation of the pressures is beginning to be seen and the natural capital of the river means it is still capable of restoration.

Wild Brown Trout populations are still present with a proportion of those smolting and returning to the river as Sea Trout generally in the 5lb class. Recently we have also been recording salmon parr.

The Stour Fishery Association carries out regular work to improve breeding habitat as well as works in-channel to improve flow and provide cover for small fish. These projects work alongside the invertebrate monitoring that we carry out through the SmartRivers project.

To find out more about becoming a SmartRivers hub and the benefits it can bring in both local restoration projects and in shaping national policy, please visit the SmartRivers page or email smartrivers@salmon-trout.org