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The River Ems

Locally precious and globally unique, the Ems is a chalk stream, a rare and special habitat to cherish.

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Unique and invaluable, the Ems is a chalk stream, a rare and special habitat teeming with wildlife and free for everyone to enjoy. 

This six mile long river starts its life near the tranquil village of Stoughton, before travelling through the peaceful villages of Walderton and Westbourne, then flowing into Emsworth and out to sea through Chichester Harbour. 

Offering a place for people to relax, the crystal clear waters of the Ems offer a home to a multitude of wildlife such as water voles, fish and dragonflies, while its banks provide a sanctuary for a variety of birds. 

Dragonfly nymph - copyright Derek Middleton

Watering a range of trees and shrubs along its length, the shaded footpaths running adjacent to the Ems offer a quiet place to escape busy life, soak up the sounds of the water and enjoy some wildlife spotting.  

However, water levels in this pretty stream have depleted over the years and most summers parts of the river dry up. This can have devastating effects on a number of fish species, as well as affecting land-dwelling creatures who rely on the stream for water in the hotter months.

Historically we know this wasn’t always the case as a number of water mills, watercress beds and water meadows used to exist along this waterway. Increased abstraction with our rising population and climate change both play their part.

Chalk streams have been described as our equivalent of the Great Barrier Reef, a natural resource which needs to be protected and cared for. The River Ems is one such river and is a vital resource which needs our help.  

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Action for our riverscapes