Rivers Bulbourne and Gade

The River Gade rises in the Chilterns, near the hamlet of Hudnall. It flows south east for 15 miles through Great Gaddesden, Hemel Hempstead, Kings Langley, and Abbots Langley to join the Colne near Rickmansworth.
The River Bulbourne rises at Cow Roast, just north-west of Berkhamsted and flows for 6 miles to join the Gade at Hemel Hempstead.

Problems faced by the Bulbourne and Gade

The Gade suffers heavy modification where it flows through Hemel Hempstead. Downstream the river is impacted by road run-off, sewer misconnections and interactions with the canal, which all contribute to the variable water quality of the river. The river still manages to provide valuable habitat for a variety of wildlife and supports a coarse fishery.
The Bulbourne used to rise at Bulbourne Head, a short distance to the east of the present day village of Bulbourne. When the Grand Union Canal was first constructed in the 1790’s the river was diverted in the canal, eventually however, the canal was separated from the Bulbourne at Cowroast to maintain a flow in the river for the mills that were located in Berkhamsted.
Interactions with the canal has impacts on the water quality in both rivers, while physical structures such a weirs limit the free movement of fish. In places, unrestricted grazing of the banks of the rivers has added to erosion and left little vegetation growing along the banks which is vital for the health of the river.

Case Study: Box Moor - Channel Restoration

The River Bulbourne through Box Moor was suffering from historic modification which had left the river over wide, straightened and impounded. Additionally, unrestricted grazing had contributed to erosion of the banks seriously diminishing marginal vegetation. A project was developed to improve a 1km stretch of river between the Grand Union Canal and Two Waters Road, Hemel Hempstead.
The Box Moor project brought together the Box Moor Trust, Chilterns Chalk Streams Project, and the Environment Agency. Together, we worked to overcome the historic problems facing the River Bulbourne and restore the channel to a more natural chalk river.
Local material was used to narrow the channel and return it to a more natural winding course. The same material was used to make sloping river banks, reconnecting the river with its floodplain. In addition, wetland scrapes – shallow ponds of less than 1m depth – were created to provide additional habitats for wildlife. New fencing was installed to control grazing on the site, protecting the restored channel.
Since completion the project has won three awards including:

  • Highly Commended at Canal and Rivers Trust Living Waterway award
  • Best medium-scale habitat enhancement scheme – Wild Trout Conservation Awards 2017
  • Best Practise Award for Small Scale Practical Nature Conservation – The Chartered Institute for Ecology and Environment Management.

This project won “Best medium-scale habitat enhancement scheme”, recognised by the Wild Trout Trust Conservation Awards 2017 and “Best Practice Award for Small Scale Practical Nature Conservation” recognised by The Chartered Institute for Ecology & Environmental Management.


Watch the Canal & River Trust video: Living Waterways Awards - Bringing Back the Bulbourne

If you’d like to find out even more, follow the link to the Catchment Partnership website for the River Colne Catchment or view the management plan for the Rivers Bulbourne and Gade.

Bullbourne Before 360Channel through Box Moor before restoration works

Bullbourne After 360Channel through Box Moor after restoration works

Design by LTD Design Consultants and build by Garganey Consulting.