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THE RIVER EMS AND ITS RELATED WATERCOURSES

The waterways of the River Ems are very complex and we must be grateful to David Rudkin for his painstaking research into its many twists and turns. Copies of David Rudkin's book "The River Ems and Related Watercourses" (1984) may still be found in the Emsworth Bookshop. The following is a summary based on Rudkin's research and some of my own observations. The course of the river can be traced using OS Explorer Map 120.

 

Stoughton to Walderton

According to Rudkin the River Ems has its source about a mile and a half east of Stoughton, at approximately grid ref SU808122. I have never tried to confirm this, but he seems pretty sure about it. Most maps trace the Ems up to Mitchamer Pond which is about half way between Stoughton and Walderton. The Ems then runs alongside the road through Walderton, behind the Barley Mow and under the B2146 road at Walderton Bridge. There is sometimes a small pond to the north of the bridge which appears to be fed from another stream.

The Ems then goes onto Walderton Pumping station where, Rudkin says, up to 8 million gallons of water a day may be extracted, though it is usually much less than this. From the pumping station the water from the Ems is raised to three reservoirs, two by the Racton Monument which supply the Havant area and one on the hillside opposite the pumping station which supplies Walderton.

 

Walderton to Broadwash Bridge

From the pumping station the Ems runs parallel to the road to Lordington where it widens into a pond. It passes under the B2146 just north of its junction with Hare's Lane and then goes under Hare's Lane and onto the meadows of Racton Park Farm. The Ems continues to flow along the eastern side of the road where it is enhanced by a tributary stream before it reaches Ell Bridge. Rudkin says the name Ell was probably derived from Eel, suggesting that Eels came up the Ems at least to this point. From Ell Bridge the river goes through more meadows to pass under Common Road at Broadwash Bridge. The old narrow bridge, which stands beside the new one, is useful as a lay-by to watch for a Little Owl. The area on the south side of the bridge was known as "Sheepwash" because farmers used to bring their sheep here in June for their annual wash before shearing.

 

Broadwash Bridge to Westbourne Millpond

The river meanders through the meadows until it reaches "Lord's Fishpond" which Rudkin says was shown on Richard Lumley's survey map of 1640. The pond is behind the old slaughterhouse, which was pulled down in 2000 in favour of new houses. Just below the pond the river passes through a small woodland referred to as "Racton Park Dell" by Rudkin where it is joined and reinforced by another stream. At this point Rudkin noticed a red deposit over the flints in the river which he had not seen before; these were subsequently identified as a red algae called Hildenbrandia rivularis. At the lower end of the Dell the Ems is crossed by an old and derelict footbridge which once gave access from Foxbury Lane to the inner meadows. The river and meadows can be easily viewed from Foxbury Lane. The river, having reached the open meadows, straightens and heads for Deep Springs. Here, there is a plentiful supply of water below the surface and, in certain conditions, the Portsmouth Water Company are required to discharge water into the Ems to compensate for the extraction at Walderton. Rudkin observes when he was there in the middle of November a pump was raising and discharging water into the Ems. At this point the Ems turns sharply to the right into a broad, straight canal. It then passes under River Street where it is joined by the stream that flows down from Aldsworth Pond and both feed water into Westbourne Millpond.

 

Diversion of the Ems above Westbourne

This canal, Rudkin thinks, was a deliberate diversion of the waterway to provide water for Westbourne millpond, and was constructed prior to 1640. The original course of the Ems would have continued alongside Foxbury Lane, through the village and along what was then appropriately called Water Lane, now called New Road, to the old watercress beds in Vicarage Meadow. There is also a fair-sized pond behind the houses on the south side of New Road. Rudkin thinks it is highly likely that the river still flows along this route below ground level to emerge at the head of the watercress beds.

 

Westbourne Millpond to Lumley Mill

From Westbourne Millpond the river and the millstream separate. The millstream keeps to the side of River Street and flows under North Street and down the bottom of the gardens on the west side of the village. This stream can be seen from the garden of the Good Intent pub. The Ems flows to the north of Norman House and under the hump-back bridge in North Street from where it crosses the fields and joins up with the millrace again at the bottom of King Street near the centre of the village.

A little further on behind Westbourne Church the millstream leaves the Ems in a sharp turn to the left from where it flows under Westbourne Road and into the brick-sided channel leading to Mill Lane. The millstream continues alongside Mill Lane at a much higher level than the river to the west. When the millstream floods water cascades westwards down the fields and into the old watercourse of the Ems (see details of this below); there are now several channels which have been created by this overflow from the millstream. The millstream then passes under the A27 and follows Mill Lane down to to Lumley Mill where falls to meet up again with the River Ems.

From its divergence from the millstream behind Westbourne Church the River Ems passes under Westbourne Road at the Hampshire Bridge and flows through the meadows to the east of Westbourne Avenue. Green Sandpipers can often be seen along this stretch of river in winter. To the west of the river is a ditch which forms the county boundary. With the construction of the A27 in 1989 (after Rudkin wrote his book) the River Ems was diverted to make it run alongside the northern embankment of the new road and through a culvert under the road. From there it flows towards Lumley Mill where it briefly meets up with the millstream before going through the garden of Constant Springs.

 

Diversion of the River Ems below Westbourne

After consulting old maps Rudkin concluded that the main course of the River Ems south of the Hampshire Bridge was different from what it is today. The original course of the river is shown on the Deposited Plan of 1875 which Rudkin reproduces on p.56 of his book. Then, the river used to have a more easterly course, but it was diverted by a dam about 50 yards below the Hampshire Bridge, probably to irrigate the water meadows. The original course of the Ems, flanked by trees and bushes, can clearly be seen today to the east of the main river.

The original watercourse of the Ems usually has a small flow of water which comes from two sources: (a) a small amount comes from the main river via a culvert which appears to go through the dam referred to above, just below the Hampshire Bridge; and (b), more vigorously, from a stream which runs down from the old watercress beds to the north east. This latter stream appears to originate from the large pond behind New Road in Westbourne from where it runs through the fields to the north of the Lumley Millstream and then passes beneath the Millstream and down through the old watercress beds to the meet the original watercourse of the Ems.

 

Lumley Mill to Emsworth Harbour

The Ems and the millstream come together briefly just below Lumley Mill and then almost immediately divide again into two branches below the footbridge. The eastern branch (the Lumley Stream) turns sharp left and then right before flowing in front of Constant Springs, under the railway and down Lumley Road into Peter Pond. There is a sluice near the footbridge at Lumley Mill which controls how much water goes down the Lumley Stream. The Lumley Stream is partly tidal, being influenced by the tides which come over the Slipper Millpond sluice gate and into Peter Pond.

Rudkin wondered whether the Lumley Stream was a natural overflow or a constructed watercourse. Although it is built up with retaining walls as it passes in front of the Lumley Road cottages, below that, where it skirts Brook Meadow, the stream is clearly a natural one. Rudkin thinks that long ago the estuary of the Ems was more expansive than it is today and reached further upstream. He refers to a coastal map of 1665 which shows the Ems estuary to include what are now Slipper Millpond and Peter Pond. The Lumley Road stream could have been one of the small channels left by the receding shoreline.

From Lumley Mill the western branch of River Ems flows under the footbridge and through the garden of Constant Springs, from where it turns sharp left to pass under the railway embankment through a tunnel and into Brook Meadow, from where it turns sharply to the right to flow alongside the railway embankment, before turning sharply to the left to flow down the western side of Brook Meadow. Rudkin shows how these sharp turns were created when the railway was constructed in the 1850s. See below for a detailed description of the diversion of the River Ems. The Ems then flows south through Brook Meadow, with industrial buildings to the west of the river and the meadow to the east. There is now a raised footpath alongside the river, allowing good views of the river and its inhabitants, including Water Voles. About 100 mature Crack Willow trees line the river along this stretch.

At the lower end its passage through Brook Meadow, Rudkin discovered that the Ems originally opened out into a millpond which provided a head of water for the old mill at the bottom of Queen Street. The mill's building has been converted into offices and workshops and is now called the The Old Flour Mill. From the mill the main river passes under Queen Street to exit into Dolphin Lake between Dolphin House and the Dolphin Boat Yard. However, there is a second exit point in the eastern corner of Dolphin Lake between the Lord Raglan pub and the the Chequers Quay housing development. This, says Rudkin, is an overflow from the millrace of the Flour Mill which also passes under Queen Street. There must be a gate in the mill preventing water from the harbour going up stream since, unlike the Lumley Stream, this branch of the Ems is not tidal.

 

Diversion of the River Ems at the railway

The sharp turns in the western branch of the river in the garden of Constant Springs and in Brook Meadow clearly indicate that yet another diversion was made during the construction of the railway in 1847. The Deposited Plan of 1844, (Plate 79 in Rudkin's book), shows the original course of the river continuing in a westerly direction through what is now what is now the garden of Constant Springs and curving round to the south. This original course of the river can still clearly be seen in the garden of Constant Springs where there is also a substantial pond. Rudkin thinks the railway company probably made this diversion to avoid having to make two tunnels under the railway. The Deposited Plan of 1875 (Plate 80 in Rudkin's book) shows the diversion of the Ems under the railway. This map also shows a dimunitive watercourse which branched south from the Ems near the Lumley Footbridge and ran down the east side of Brook Meadow to drain into Slipper Millpond at its head. Traces of this ditch, which marks the County boundary, can still be seen, though following the diversion of the river, no water runs in it.

 

How the River Ems divides at The Old Flour Mill

Following a conversation with Fred Portwin about Trout and how they get from the River Ems into the harbour I went into the car park behind The Old Flour Mill in Queen Street to have a look at the sluice mechanisms at the back of the car park. This is where the Ems divides into two channels to pass under the road and into Dolphin Lake. The eastern branch of the river, which comes out by the side of the Lord Raglan pub, is controlled by two sluice gates, which were open at the time. The western branch which enters Dolphin Lake beside Dolphin Quay goes through a grill with no obvious sluice mechanism to control its flow. What is quite clear is that fish are able to leave and enter the River Ems through these two points.

 

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