Monktonmead Brook arises from springs at the foot of the chalk downs within Eaglehead and Bloodstone Copses Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI). These ancient semi-natural woods are managed by the Hampshire and Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust as a nature reserve.
The name of Bloodstone Copse is thought to be derived from the red colouration of the springs that issue from within the woodlands. There is a local legend that relates to a battle between the Saxons and Danes near Brading Haven, that refers to the reddish colour of the springs in Bloodstone Copse, this is said to be the blood of the Saxons and Danes which fought here. The truth behind the red colouring is red algae attached to pebbles and flints in the water.
Downstream of Bloodstone Copse the stream flows through an agricultural landscape. For much of its course it follows the Medieval parish boundaries of Newchurch and Brading and Newchurch and St Helens and seems to have retained its natural meandering course with only minor modification since that time. Flows in these upper reaches of the Brook are maintained by the spring flows arising from the chalk. The Brook in its upper reaches is however heavily shaded by large hedges and scrub.
At Whitefield Farm the Brook becomes more heavily wooded as it meanders through the ancient woodland of Swanpond Copse, another woodland nature reserve managed by the Hampshire and Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust. The Isle of Wight Steam Railway and Island Line railway tracks follow the course of the Brook from Swanpond Copse north to Ryde.
The course of the railway line along the flood plain of the Brook through the southern outskirts of Ryde creates an urban environment but this is still rich in wildlife habitats. The meadows on the western side of the valley, known as Pig Leg Lane Nature Reserve support important areas of species rich meadow grassland.
On its western side, a series of meadows have been allocated for housing development which will extend the urban edge of Ryde along the valley of the Brook to the south.
The stream itself remains heavily wooded up to the outskirts of Ryde from where it flows beside allotment gardens, patches of secondary woodland and some extensive areas of waste land.
The Brook enters the urban area of Ryde at Oakfield where it flows mostly along a concrete lined channel through industrial and business parks and to the north of these the closely mown grassland of Simeon Street recreation ground that occupies the flood plain of the Brook, but is separated from it by a flood bank.
A disappearing river
North of Simeon Street the Brook disappears underground and is pumped through the centre of Ryde to emerge into Ryde Harbour through a concrete outfall. The Strand area of Ryde has had a history of flooding since the estuary was reclaimed for building during the 1850s. Flooding can occur at Ryde when extreme rainfall coincides with high tides. The high sea level means that water from the Brook is unable to flow out to the sea, causing it to back up and flood.
Between June 1999 and November 2000 there were four incidences of flooding from Monktonmead Brook with up to 80 properties flooded on each occasion. The most severe event occurred at Christmas in 1999. To reduce the risk of flooding from the Brook improvements were made to the pumping station which can now been seen on the Esplanade.
The construction of Ryde Marina has acted as a large groyne that traps sand to its east. This has created a new strand, replacing that destroyed by the Victorians with the development of Ryde in the 19th century. The new strand has extended seawards in recent years, so that the original outfall of the Monktonmead Brook was in danger of being blocked with accumulated sand. A multi-million pound project took place in 2018 to move the outfall into the harbour.
Ryde has a history of flooding, but not all of it is directly attributable to the river or the sea. Ryde has a large amount of buildings and the flood plain has been built all over. In the past, in heavy rain, the existing drainage has been unable to cope. Southern Water have also been spending large amounts of dosh in Ryde to alleviate this problem, but one solution is that all new building should have sustainable drainage systems, allowing for percolation rather than run-off. This also helps improve water quality.
The technical bits
The Catchment Data Explorer is an Environment Agency tool which helps you explore and download information about the water environment. It supports and builds upon the data in their river basin management plans. Read about Monktonmead Brook here.
The Monkton Mead is currently classed as ‘Poor’ quality within the Water Framework Directive. This means it is failing, and the aim is to improve. The objective set are ‘Moderate’ by 2021, and optimistically ‘Good’ by 2027. Click details of the issues and possible remedies.
In 2014 we mapped all the issues we were aware of with regards to the rivers in Ryde. This map can be viewed here . Please let us know if you know of other issues.
More recently we’ve carried out a photographic survey of the brook which you can see below
For a fantastically interesting report on the history of Monktonmead Brook and Ryde Town The development of Ryde and the Monktonmead Brook
For details on this and other East Wight rivers East Wight Watercourses Report December 2012
For details on the historical landscape of the river Monktonmead Final Report
For ecology and possible restoration projects Blackbridge Brook and Monkton Mead River Restoration Scoping Report