From the centuries-old bridge opposite her home in the Hampshire village of Stoke Charity, Ruth Guy surveys the bare bones of the River Dever. Since July she has watched this precious chalk stream, a tributary of the River Test, dwindle to nothing but white rubble. When she first moved here 21 years ago, the 67-year-old tells me, the water was deep enough for her then 12-year-old son to paddle a canoe under the bridge. She points out the watermarks, which show how high it should run. Now only a smattering of aquatic plants – water mint and forget-me-not – are all that are left of this unique habitat (nearly 90 per cent of the world's chalk streams are in England). Across the other side of the bridge the water has shrunk to a few turquoise pools skimmed by circling swallows. On recent evenings, Guy says, herons and egrets have gathered round for a "feeding frenzy" upon the last remaining fish unable to seek shelter. "This has never, ever, happened before," she says. "Even apparently in 1976 there was still a tiny trickle. I just fear what has happened to all the fish and wildlife." Similarly parched scenes can be found… Read full this story
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