England is home to 85% of these often-pristine rivers – some running through our suburbs – but we may lose chalk streams unless we start protecting them now
The day before lockdown 2 in England, I’m walking alongside a stream on a frost-crisp morning, making the most of the winter sunshine before my movements are restricted for another month. To one side of the stream is a Sainsbury’s superstore that appears to be under siege, a queue already snaking around the block; to the other is a high street choked with traffic crawling up to Clapham.
As I make my way between the shoppers, a man wearing an anorak and a backpack steps off the footpath and pushes through the bushes to the riverbank. He is armed with a small fishing rod and casts a hook baited with bread into a channel of clear water running between two ribbons of ranunculus weed. I stop to ask him what he’s fishing for.