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.