About The Ver Valley Society
The Ver Valley Society exists to protect and promote all aspects of the River Ver and its valley. We have over 200 members and are always pleased to welcome new ones. The Society was originally founded in 1976 to promote the Ver/Colne Walk, but shortly thereafter the river, and its valuable water meadows, began to decline due to over abstraction of ground water and climate change.
In 1993 we were instrumental in having one of the many pumping stations put onto standby status, and in spring 2016 another pumping station at Bow Bridge was closed down. We anticipate further reductions by 2025 still, but over 20 million litres of water per day for local consumption are pumped out of deep boreholes in the chalk aquifer, so we have still have a long way to go to safeguard our river. We have a team of Volunteer Water Bailiffs who monitor the Ver regularly and an Action Group who do clearance work monthly along the river – details on separate pages.
Chalk Stream In The Ver Valley
The Ver Valley extends from Kensworth Lynch, north of Markyate, south via Redbourn, St. Albans and Park Street to join the River Colne near Bricket Wood. The Valley is formed on chalk covered by a thin layer of clay and flint in the hills with gravel and silt in the valley bottom.
Chalk streams, such as the Ver, are globally very rare and have habitats supporting a very special ecology. They have porous beds and rely on a high water table for existence. The springs which feed the valleys flow with mineral-rich, pure water which has been filtered through the chalk and remains at a constant temperature of about 8ºC. Such water is vital to the flora and fauna typifying a chalk stream. But now the very existence of such rivers, especially the Ver and its tributary the Red, are under threat.
The upper few kilometres of the River Ver have always been a winterbourne, flowing only at times of high rainfall usually in the winter, but until recent years, from Flamstead south, it was a permanent chalk stream. In the 19th and early 20th century the healthy river supported a dozen water mills. The pure, fast flowing, mineral-rich water, of relatively constant temperature, allowed a significant watercress industry to flourish until the natural supply of water diminished. The spring fed wetlands of the valley are slow to freeze, providing a temporary refuge for over wintering birds and support a variety of plants, animals and invertebrates and birds in summer.