The Course of the River Dever in Micheldever Parish
Possible River Sources
1. Springs. Bubbling out of the ground to form a flow. Also springs from the sides of the river from the A33 to Micheldever have typically eroded a scoop shape in the grass bank, with a flatter wet boggy area leading to the river.
2. The Water Table. After wet weather, the water table rises. If it does so above the level of the riverbed the water will flow down the river. This can be seen just north of Bilberry Lane where ponds form and flow into the Dever across the Lane. Initial flow soon after wet periods can be from the water table; whereas it can take months for the water to reappear from the aquifer into springs – the classic constant temperature chalk stream.
3. Surface run off. After very severe wet periods the water just runs direct from the fields.
To West Stratton - path with causeway and Culvert
The River Dever or ‘The Brook’ – Milner, or the North Brook rises in Stratton Park near the Bothy, and is channelled in a ditch along and then under the M3 and A33.
After severe wet weather it can flow in the dip in the fields just north of Whiteways Cottage, flooding along the surface across the road and the Park to join the main source. Whether there are springs is for investigation; but it is characteristically surface run off and water table from a large water catchment area from the watershed at the Woodmancott Down and Lone Barn crests. There is no winterbourne watercourse or ditch in the fields or Park, nor culvert across the East Stratton - Woodmancott road.
See scrolling photographs below at end taken February 2020. One is of the water flooding over the Stratton to Woodmancott lane, just north of the lane to Whiteways Farm, and the other is of the water flowing through Stratton Park west of the Stratton to Woodmancott lane, and you can just make out the portico of Stratton House. Further east up the valley, and past Whiteways Farm, the last field before you enter the woodland, on the north side of the track, is known as Water Dell. In 2020 there was a huge lake in it which remained until mid summer, providing a habitat for a flock of a dozen wild ducks!
Oral history records that this was an annual event until the bore hole and pumping station were put in at Totford in the 1950s which significantly lowered the water table. This was also when Stratton went on to mains water. Crossing the ford on the Stratton to Woodmancott lane the farm horses were up to their bellies in water!
It was indeed 'much water' as in ‘Micheldever’, until five large boreholes were made to abstract water to supply Eastleigh; and at various periods there has been higher rainfall, with melt water after the last Ice Age, it is reckoned, producing ten times the current flow and carving out and laying down the alluvial basin which is much wider than the present watercourse.
From the A33 it flows in a ditch along the West Stratton Road to a pond; then in the field there are several scooped spring areas.
West Stratton to Micheldever
Below the West Stratton causeway it flows through a long field until it gets level with the wood. Here in the bushy area the OS 1:25,000 marks ‘Water Jump’: Lord Rank had one of the best shoots in southern England and field trials of the dogs were held here. It was said to be a wonderful place but there was nowhere to test the dogs retrieving across water; so Lord Rank had one dug – a widening and damming of the river.
The river then flows into the long meadow leading to Northbrook There are several scooped spring areas in this field, and the first watermeadow, shown by the lateral low banks and gaps for former sluices.
Half way along this field just into the arable field to the north was the site of the Roman villa (farmstead), the subject of the Northbrook Dig in the 90s and the founding of the now Dever Valley Local History Society. The river goes into a hedged area with a former pond above the current cress beds. This looks like livestock pounds; and a later - Saxon? - farm was the knoll just north of the foot bridge.
Continuing down the river past the footbridge, we come to the watercress beds, now a fish farm, the top part being erstwhile ‘Chaldwell springs’ on the Milner map. The lower part was the pond for the Manor and former manor farm - ruins of the latter in the field by Waterloo Cottages/Barron Close.
By the lane off Bilberry lane to the watercress beds, is the ford beside which the Northbrook/Dever is joined by the Southbrook.
Its winterbourne goes from the field by Highways Farm going along the dip north of Cowdown Cottages. It becomes apparent entering the Lord Rank Playing Field as a ditch which looks to have been moved from a direct course across to the Duck Pond (vide Milner) now the Lord Rank Playing Field Car Park. It then goes alongside the footpath to the Coffin Walk. From its further course from the Rook Lane bridge by Barron Close it looks to have been diverted for the sewage farm.
From Barron Close to the Bilberry Lane Ford the course is now direct, but formerly the waterways and ponds were more complex with one just north of Waterloo Cottage lane. The fire station for the horse drawn village fire engine was at the end of the lane on its north side past the stables, now compost heaps. In this area and to and below the Ford, picture these horses drinking with often the cart going into the water (Constable’s Haywain), in order to re-expand the dried out wooden wheels in their iron rings. Wheels originally from No 90 Church St - Twin Pillars Cottage – the carpenter’s, rings from the Smithy at the Crease.
The Ford to Weston Colley and Below
From the Ford, a track led beside the river to Weston Mill vestiges which can be seen downstream of Northbrook bridge along the right bank. Collateral for this is that on the Milner map this field is Causeway Field. Weston is in the Domesday Book - all the estate took corn there for grinding – the money went to the Abbey when the Abbey owned the area.
On our route to Weston Mill, in 1733 Thomas Day of Sheephouse Farm (Northbrook House). was entitled to water sheep in Water Lane in Northbrook. Below Northbrook bridge on the left side was Hyde Abbey fish pond, a cut out loop from the river, traces of which can be seen in wet weather.
Just below it at the start of the wood is the Sheepdip – concrete vertical siding to the narrowed stream: presumably the sheep were run up it and perhaps scrubbed before sale or shearing.
The wood was previously a watermeadow – remnants are still there; but it was dug out and planted to make a duck pond for the Rank shoot.
Jumping to beyond the railway, the river having passed under the railway and the causeway being blocked by it, the Dever splits to form the bypass and the headrace for the Mill. Below the Mill it flows to Trivetts Bridge then into the woods of Northbrook House, leaving the Parish there. The two lakes are modern. The course of the river below Trivetts Bridge is the Parish Boundary with several BS - boundary stones - on the map. (The Dever then flows on down the valley to Sutton Scotney, and Bullington, and joins the Test at Newton Stacey).
By Hugh Sandars Oct 2020