The water in the streams around the Hinksey Meadows, the Seacourt, Hinksey and Bulstake Streams, are now back at their normal levels following the floods. They are popular with canoeists, kayakists, swimmers and anglers. During the summer they can become very shallow.
If a channel is to be built through these meadows, the water will have to come from somewhere. This will inevitably leave less water for the streams which may well dry out. When they dry out the seeds and other plant life in the streams will fill up the water courses blocking the streams further.
If the expected proposal is unchanged, water levels in the channel below North Hinksey will be up to 1 metre lower.
It is possible at the moment to kayak all the length of the Bulstake stream and along the Hinksey stream from Seacourt, through North Hinksey as far as the electric road, but only during spring and early summer. During winter these streams are 1-2m deep and fast flowing, but in late summer they are heavily overgrown and less than 10cm deep in places making them impassable.
Some routes are maintained free of fallen willows by members of the Kayak Club with a chainsaw. A drop of 1m would mean they are empty for several months in the summer. Once they stop flowing, there could easily be enough organic matter for the resultant pools to go anaerobic. This will quickly kill off our familiar freshwater fauna. If a new channel is created it might take a hundred years to accumulate wildlife equivalent to the existing channels. With no fish to eat them, mosquitoes will thrive in the summer, making the area generally unappealing for recreation.
This is a further reason why HOEG is proposing a better scheme to address Oxford’s flood problems. Recreational use is important, certainly with lockdown, and potentially long term.