All Winsham's watercourses are on private land and there are few public viewing sites. The river is unsuitable for boating although it has been tried by canoe.

The River Axe, from the Cheddington area to Seaton, forms the southernmost boundary of the parish. It has a large catchment area and a fall of only about fifty feet over three miles. The Jurassic soils through which it flows are very soft and variable which makes for much meandering. South of the Wild Flower Nursery this almost forms an ox-bow as it turns back on itself. The river is subject to rapid flash-flooding, especially over the road below Winsham bridge.

Trout used to be regularly seen underneath this road bridge and salmon have been released further up. Carp have been washed out of the main lake, as have goldfish out of garden ponds. Minnows are at times plentiful and lampreys have been seen. The many small brooks and streams that join the river throughout its length must carry the usual population of small fish. Growing along the river banks are some fine plants of angelica, Indian Balsom and hemlock.

The main parish stream system cuts diagonally NE/SW. Starting from the springs beside the road, the Purtington stream flows under the road and to the old water mill pond below Purtington House. This pond, now overgrown, was used for the water wheel that powered a saw for timber cutting. From here it flows into a boggy ten acre area called Water Mead, now an SSSI (Site of Special Scientific Interest). Here the marsh orchids grow to over two feet tall over the peat and a great number of water plants, from marigolds to mares tails and great willow herb, supports numbers of birds, amphibians and insects. At its lower end is an interesting area of greater tussock sedge. Piped underneath this section is the channel that took another stream to the top pond at Cricket that was used to power the main hydraulic ram for the estate.

This second stream rises below Windwhistle Farmhouse. It flows through a small, soggy area known as 'the weir' that once powered another ram. This area was noted for its golden saxifrage, marsh marigolds, figwort and mares tails. Willow tits nested there. Also seen here is the freshwater shrimp and eels. Then it entered a magnificent ancient woodland, now replanted, known as pool Copse. The pond was a home for mallard, teal and moorhens as well as frogs, toads and eels. Thirty years ago an escaped beaver caused havoc by blocking the exit so that Purtington Lane was repeatedly flooded. The old piping is now destroyed so that both streams join to form the lake system for the Cricket Wildlife Park.

Emerging from the park below the old heavy horse centre the stream crosses underneath the private road (public footpath) between Chalkway and Hollowells. Then under the bridge at Hollowells and down past the old mill, under the road at Whatley Bottom, on to the bridge in Leigh Lane, at the lower end of a watery meadow. On to another bridge below Ammerham and down to the Axe.

Amongst the other streams that join the Axe in the Court Street brook that starts from a spring near the pond below Stuckeys Farm off High Street. It flows down near the nursery, gathering some unusual plants, until it 'disappears' down a sink near the Malthouse. It resurfaces further along the road to flow under the garden at 'Wings', down parallel with Wynyards Lane, under the road to the Axe.



KEY & Explanation
   Black Arrows indicate direction of fall of land-Numbers (e.g.250)-Height above sea level

Green Areas indicate Woodland; blue lines indicate approx. position of Rivers and Waterways.

Areas of Interest:

  1. Pool Copse. Badgers, Mallard, Eels, Golden Saxifrage, Hemlock, Deepwort, Figwort, Marsh Marigold, Bull Rush, Watercress, Mares Tales, Wild Thyme
  2. Water Mead. Marsh Orchid, Green Willow Herb, Mares Tails, Great Tussock, Yellow Flag, Dragon Flys, Frogs
  3. Chalkway. Stream flows in deep woodland over stony bottom. Jays frequently heard.
  4. Hollowells. Many Wood Anemones.
  5. Leigh Lane. Butterbur, Marsh Thistle, Marigold
  6. Forde Bridge. Hemlock
  7. River Axe. Alder Trees, Willow, Trout, Lamprey, Kingfishers
  8. Cricket St.Thomas Estate. Wide range of mammals, wild fowl and plants. Large Trout.

Mallard ducks

Common frog

Marsh Marigold


Golden saxifrage

Marsh Orchid


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This page revised 03 October 2019