Summer Update 2020

The banks of the brook are suddenly looking very lush and are attracting all sorts of insect life.  You might notice the tall purple spires of purple loosestrife which is a real magnet for bees and butterflies.  Look out for ringlets and meadow brown and perhaps even the odd marbled white at this time of year.  Keep an eye out for two species of damselflies – the banded and beautiful demoiselle that use the brook – see pics below.  The beautiful demoiselle is less common but this year I have seen them out near Letcombe, right in the middle of Wantage at Smiths Wharf and Willow Walk and downstream of Grove.

Today I got a glimpse of two kingfisher – one was perched on the stone footbridge at Grove Green and the other was down towards East Hanney.  They have almost certainly fledged young now and the juveniles can be a bit more obliging for a closer view but they so often spot me before I spot them resulting in only a brief glimpse of these beautiful birds.

Himalayan balsam

The hard work the volunteers and I have put in targeting the invasive Himalayan balsam is now starting to pay dividends, there was a lot less to pull this year.  Spots that were once full of balsam now have purple loosestrife, water figwort and water forget-me-not and will be less vulnerable to erosion during the winter months.  If you do see any balsam, please pull it out or let me know where it is as we don’t want the seed travelling down the brook and re-seeding areas we have cleared.

Future Projects

One of the main issues affecting the brook is the many obstructions to fish passage along it.  Some of these are large structures like sluices at the various mills and the very large dam at Letcombe Valley but many are “ornamental waterfalls” in peoples gardens.  They all make it difficult for fish to travel upstream and for that reason Letcombe Brook Project will be working with the Environment Agency (EA) to see if we can remove, modify or bypass some of these structures so that the fish population in the brook can increase.  If you do have such a structure in your garden, I might be in contact soon to see if we can improve things for the fish. 

We are fortunate to have received funding from the EA to create fish passage around Lower Mill in East Hanney this year.  We hope to be able to start construction work this Autumn and start getting a few more fish upstream.  This work will nicely supplement the fish pass put in at Venn Mill recently thanks to funding from Thames Water.  Fish will be able to come up from the Thames via the Ock, into Childrey Brook and on up Letcombe Brook as far as Dandridges Mill, East Hanney once this work has been completed.

This Autumn/Winter we will also be launching our “Love the Letcombe Brook” Project.  Thanks again to EA funding we will be reducing shade on some sections of the brook by pollarding and coppicing trees, this work will also prolong their life and reduce flood risk so a real win-win.  Follow up work will involve encouraging the growth of riparian vegetation and increasing flow diversity that will improve habitat for brown trout, water voles and the many other species using the brook.  Areas where we have already carried out similar work have recovered well – see pics below.

There has been a lot of talk during lockdown about how much people have valued their community green spaces.  As Letcombe brook makes up such an important green corridor through our communities LBP hope you enjoy using them over the summer.  As always please help us look after them by taking your litter home and do let us know what wildlife you spot along the beautiful Letcombe Brook!  Don’t forget to download one of our Letcombe Brook Walks if you fancy getting to know one of your local areas better – available on the website homepage.