Watercress beds in Itchen Stoke going uncultivated for fear of pollution charges

Charles Ranald with the Marshalls earlier this year

Charles Ranald with the Marshalls earlier this year

First published in Winchester
Last updated
Andover Advertiser: Photograph of the Author by

THE threat of swingeing new charges looks set to kill off one of the most historic watercress beds in Hampshire.

Jon Marshall has ceased cultivating the beds at Itchen Stoke, near Alresford after the Environment Agency set a bill for £3,000 to cover the risk of pollution from his operation.

As a result the beds have not been cultivated this year.

Andover Advertiser:

Landowner Charles Ranald said: “It looks like a disaster area. Because of the threat of the charges no-one wants to rent it. I’m heartbroken that it’s like this after 150-200 years.”

The land is among the last to be farmed in a non-mechanised way, unlike the large beds run by the Watercress Company and Geest.

Mr Ranald said he still hopes other people may be interested in taking over the half-acre plot.

“I don’t want to abandon them, they have been going for 150 years. I very much want to carry on. They are a part of Hampshire heritage. The land is too small and very steep banks to have machines so it has to be done in a traditional way.”

Directives from the EU means farmers are looking at costs of around £1,500 to make the beds at Itchen Stoke ‘compliant’, including creating a settlement pond for filtering water before it’s discharged into the river. A licence is £900 and there is an annual fee for a permit to discharge the water of £620.

In a statement, the Environment Agency said: “We are working with local watercress farms in the River Itchen catchment to reduce the level of nutrients they discharge in order to improve water quality and protect the river, whilst not being over burdensome on businesses and the rural economy.

“Watercress farms that do not currently have a permit to discharge their waste water to the Itchen will be required to have one, including limits on their use of phosphates. Similarly, in cases where some watercress farms already have a permit we will modify those to introduce limits to their discharge of phosphates.”

The agency was asked to comment on how a tiny operation like that at Itchen Stoke could be harmful but a spokesman did not want to add to the statement.

Speaking earlier this year, Jon Marshall said: “Only three of us do it traditionally around here. It’s going to kill the trade. If we do not carry on, you won’t see bunches of watercress anymore, it will all be from massive farms.

“I feel like I’m being squeezed out of business. Big farms can afford this, I can’t.” 

Comments (4)

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5:11pm Wed 30 Jul 14

Grumpyaswell says...

Vote UKIP!
Vote UKIP! Grumpyaswell
  • Score: -3

10:57am Fri 1 Aug 14

wheresthemoneygone says...

This is ridiculous, our rivers need protection but we also need common sense and the protection of the small businessman/woman.It seems that this gentleman has been carrying out his work in an environmentally traditional method.He's been persecuted because he isn't a big operation.Big business and the EU go hand -in- hand and we don't seem to have any national or local control over this.Clearly this goes against common sense and democracy - clear evidence that we're being dictated to by Big Brother.The quicker the EU is reformed, and we revert to a trading block without fascistic impositions, the better.
This is ridiculous, our rivers need protection but we also need common sense and the protection of the small businessman/woman.It seems that this gentleman has been carrying out his work in an environmentally traditional method.He's been persecuted because he isn't a big operation.Big business and the EU go hand -in- hand and we don't seem to have any national or local control over this.Clearly this goes against common sense and democracy - clear evidence that we're being dictated to by Big Brother.The quicker the EU is reformed, and we revert to a trading block without fascistic impositions, the better. wheresthemoneygone
  • Score: 2

6:37pm Fri 1 Aug 14

Yves1977 says...

Interesing that the Environment Agency could not justify its stance and hid behind the bland statement!
Interesing that the Environment Agency could not justify its stance and hid behind the bland statement! Yves1977
  • Score: 2

12:03pm Sat 2 Aug 14

wheresthemoneygone says...

Jobsworths, they're part of the EU machine, clearly .They should be supporting Mr Marshall, I think they've got their priorities confused: " We create better places for people and wildlife, and support sustainable development."(websit
e heading slogan) but they also state that they, "work with businesses" - in this case, Big Business.Are they working with small owners? Unfortunately a sad, expected and intrinsic contradiction of aims - would they approach this differently without EU directives ? They certainly should and they probably would. Can they actually manage anything with foresight without being told what to do by the EU?
Jobsworths, they're part of the EU machine, clearly .They should be supporting Mr Marshall, I think they've got their priorities confused: " We create better places for people and wildlife, and support sustainable development."(websit e heading slogan) but they also state that they, "work with businesses" - in this case, Big Business.Are they working with small owners? Unfortunately a sad, expected and intrinsic contradiction of aims - would they approach this differently without EU directives ? They certainly should and they probably would. Can they actually manage anything with foresight without being told what to do by the EU? wheresthemoneygone
  • Score: 1

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