When The Stour Polluted Our Coastal Waters - Benjamin Pond - Longshoreman

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When The Stour Polluted Our Coastal Waters

Published Articles

Poole Herald, 10th July 1969 (Magazine Section)
A reproduction of the original article by Benjamin Pond

Surprised, dismayed, I certainly was on returning to the Stour in 1942 for a second spell as riverkeeper. Last week I wrote about my early years on this water from 1908 to 1915.

But how things had changed since those days; I had come back to a polluted river and poaching was rife.

Help had to be obtained. I contacted Mr. Mooring Aldridge, who was secretary of the Board of Conservators.

With his help, and that of the board’s analyst, Mr. Read, I was given more authority by being made bailiff to patrol banks between Tuckton Bridge and Canford.

Mr. Read informed that they had already reduced much of the poisonous matter which flowed into the Stour from farm yards, garages, sewers, and small factories as far up as Sturminster Newton. Also they were still investigating other offenders.

So gradually we believed we were winning the day against pollution.

But a year or two later I was to be shocked at what I beheld in my water – hundreds of dead fish were everywhere, including four huge salmon.

With Mr. Read I spent four days searching for the source of the trouble. At last we found it in a ditch draining from the Bear Cross area. Here we confronted the offenders, but did not claim damages as they rectified  matters.

But already several dogs had died, also many water-fowl, and children who had been paddling had sores on their legs.

I took out 26 salmon and buried them, also over 1,000 other fish.

Onwards from about 1920 there have been increasing amounts of pollution entering the Stour. Like all rivers it flows for 24 hours each day into the sea, only to accumulate in local waters.

You may think the tide takes the filth away; it does, but it brings it back again. Our tides flow mainly in a south-west direction when ebbing, for six hours, at a speed of between two and three knots, thus our local sea-water gets no further than Durlston Head.

Rising Tide

Then comes the hours of rising tide which brings 90 per cent of the SAME water back to the shores of Poole Bay.

If you study the set of the tide you will realise that the powerful ebb coming out through The Solent prevents much of the water in our bay from going very far offshore, while the “spread” of the rising tide tends to return local volume of water back into Poole Harbour and along our shores.

The living thing most sensitive to foul water is the razor-fish. In 1924 I placed six batches, each of 400, on the Middle Sands in Poole Harbour, and all died within a week. Yet those I introduced to the seaward end of Milkmaid Bank in Studland Bay lived and multiplied.

Poole, being a port, is bound to cause some pollution to it’s harbour. So do 1,000 motor boats, so do the bait diggers who do not fill in the trenches they make.

What happens when the tide flows back? It brings any filth, oil, and this settles in these hollows left by the diggers and remains there. No ebb can shift it and thus many forms of marine life perish, so today we have a scarcity of fish, prawns, shrimps, and bait.

Modern ways of life, the ever increasing population, all mean death to many natural forms of life both inland an along our all our coastline.

More and more detergents, tar, oil and pesticides go down our drains which terminate in either river or sea. Only 12,000,000 cars on our roads? That means 48,000,000 tyres – without the spare ones – all wearing their treads out as they go along, thus millions of particles of  rubber are washed into our drains.

Go to any harbour and look at the gaily painted yachts. All along their waterline may be a coating of black slime. We can and we must improve things, as we did by 1949 when we reduced pollution on the Stour by 90 per cent.

Also, aided by our Board of Conservators, we wiped out poaching, after having several prosecutions.

Perhaps our most serious case was when the 5th Commandos, billeted in the hotels on Boscombe Cliffs, detonated the Throop Weir Pool, killing hundreds of fish, including nine salmon. These men were fined – also the receiver of the salmon, a local trader.

We even had to proceed against a policeman who took a salmon. We did not press the charge, but left it for the chief constable to deal with. He sent the fellow to a place where there was no river!

End of poaching

By introducing a day ticket for fishing it at last brought poaching to an end.

By the way, an angler is no longer obliged to give up the first salmon to be caught each season; if he prefers he can forfeit 10gns. instead.

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