Crystal clear chalk streams intertwine and weave throughout the counties of Dorset and Hampshire in Southern England, close to my home. I began making the Chalk Streams series in 2020, tracing these rivers from networks of small steams and tributaries to the wide fast-flowing rivers of the Frome, the Piddle, the Itchen and the Test.
David Attenborough recently described chalk streams as ‘one of the rarest habitats on Earth’. There are just over 200 chalk streams globally, 85% of which are found in the UK. Rain falls on highly permeable chalk, percolating into the ground where the chalk layer acts as an aquifer, filtering the groundwater as it flows through the bedrock to emerge lower down the slope as crystal clear mineral rich water which is often described as ‘gin clear’.
Chalk Streams are typically wide and shallow, their cool clear waters emerging from underground sources to flow across flinty gravel beds, maintaining a stable temperature year round. They are a unique ecosystem supporting a high biodiversity of wild creatures and have been likened to rainforests and coral reefs in their ecological importance.
In this series light from the surface of the sea is overlaid onto these rivers, representing an ingress on these important ecosystems by the destructive human impacts of climate change, rising sea levels, pollution, water abstraction, farm runoff - the list goes on. The beguiling sparkles hint at the insidious nature of these pressures, the relentless altering and damaging of wild places and the need to protect them. They are a call for change, and although they reflect a sense of deep concern about the urgencies of the climate crisis, they hold a strong and enduring hope for the future.