Ewelme Watercress Beds & Nature Reserve The Chiltern Society

Natural benefits

Water voleThe faster-flowing bypass channel, alongside the beds and the beds themselves, provide the perfect habitat for water voles. The environment is much to their liking and there is a thriving population.

Top Meadow, on the other side of the channel, reached via Nellie Bridge, was once a market garden and with a range of habitats including water meadow, meadow, blackthorn thicket, mature trees, etc., it supports a wide range of wildlife.

Situated below the road bridge alongside Benson Road, the butterfly meadow is cut annually to encourage less common grasses and wild flowers. Cuttings are heaped to provide even more habitat for additional species, like grass snakes for example, which benefit from the warmth created by the grass breaking down.

Most pictures in this website © Chiltern Society Photo Library unless stated otherwise.

About the Beds

Ewelme Watercress Beds & Local Nature Reserve is owned by The Chiltern Society who also support its conservation.

Ewelme, from the Old English 'Ae-whylme' (meaning 'waters whelming'), is situated at the western end of the Chilterns Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty on the north east catchment of the Thames valley. The 2.5 ha (6.5 acre) site extends the entire length of the village where the watercress industry once thrived, with product going to, among other places, Covent Garden Market in London.

Ewelme Brook, the source of water for the beds, once powered a mill in the village and at least two more a couple of miles downstream at Benson, before flowing into the Thames there.

Local Nature Reserves (LNRs) are designed to be of importance for wildlife, geology, education and public enjoyment. To find out more about them, visit the LNR pages in Natural England's website.



The original Nellie Bridge – a basic boardwalk used for taking watercress barrows to and from the beds – is gone, but an eponymous replica (above), built near the Watercress Beds Centre (main picture), can be used on open days. Sadly, we can only now guess who Nellie was.

Next to the High Street is a ford, which probably sits on an outcrop of harder rock. It used to give access to what is shown on old maps as Brownings Barn – now part of a private house.

The road bridge (Green Lane) spans what was once part of the mill pond. Four brick culverts there are set at different heights. The highest carries water only when the stream is in full flow, the lowest always has a flow unless the stream is completely dry.