Looking after the River Test at Mottisfont

Thatched fishing hut on a path beside a river in autumn

The famous River Test flows through our grounds. It has shaped the estate through the centuries, binding the history of the house and its people to the landscape. The crystal-clear waters provide vital habitats for many species.

The River Test is a fantastic example of a chalk stream. The water enters the river through chalk springs, giving us beautifully pure, clean water, that maintains relatively stable temperatures and flow rates.

Managing habitats

To tend the river that surrounds our property we have a specialist River Keeper, the only role of its kind within the National Trust.

Our river keeper can be found in the water during weed cut season
River Keeper at Mottisfont, Hampshire
Our river keeper can be found in the water during weed cut season

Providing that they are well managed, chalk streams provide wonderful habitats for a huge variety of species. Lush marginal fringes provide habitat for all manner of terrestrial insects and are vital in the reproductive cycle of river flies, which in turn provide food for the fish.

Abundant weed growth in the river itself gives young fish a safe place to hide and overhanging trees and bushes provide cover for larger fish.

The results of the work are clear to see both on the banks and in the river; otters, water voles, kingfishers, grebes and the rare southern damselfly all thrive here.

Numbers of juvenile salmon have increased dramatically, alongside a stable population of wild brown trout and at least 11 other freshwater fish species from tiny minnows and bullheads to huge pike.