The Gade flows through a rural landscape in its upper reaches but has been heavily modified where it flows through Hemel Hempstead. In its upper reaches the Gade supports many pollution sensitive species typical of a high quality chalk stream such as mayfly, trout and grayling. 

Further downstream, the river is deeper and slower and suffers from variable water quality due to road run-off, sewer misconnections and the input of poorer quality water from the canal. Here though the river still provides valuable habitat for a variety of wildlife and supports a valuable coarse fishery.

At one time the Bulbourne rose close to the village which takes its name, until the Grand Union Canal was built in the 1790’s.  For much of its course, the Bulbourne and then the Gade runs alongside the canal and at various points the canal and the river run in the same channel.  The Bulbourne has one main tributary called the Bourne Gutter which joins the Bulbourne near Bourne End and only flows when groundwater levels are particularly high such as in 2014.

Like most of the Chalk stream tributaries of the Colne, the Bulbourne has a long history of use by man. The river was at one time used as part of the defences for Berkhamsted Castle and latterly to provide water for the canal. Its waters have also been used as a curative, for milling as well as for watercress growing.

The upper reaches of the Gade & Bulbourne suffer from low flows and have dried up completely in the recent past. A recent study has concluded that unsustainable levels of abstraction for public water supply are contributing to low flows and abstraction reductions have been proposed.

Explore your local river

There are many attractive walks along our rivers and other waterbodies in the Colne Catchment. The Misbourne Valley walk, Chess valley walk and the Gade Valley discovery walk can be found here.

Local organisations with an interest in preserving our rare chalk streams will be gathering at the Boxmoor Trust tomorrow to review progress, look at restoring flows to chalk streams, learn about the Colne Catchment Action Plan and the exciting River Fly partnership.

Design by LTD Design Consultants and build by Garganey Consulting. From an original concept by the Herts and Middlesex Wildlife Trust.