Catchment area 52.3km2, length 28km, Not designated artificial or heavily modified.


Waterbody description

The River Coln is spring fed, rising north of Brockhampton, flows in a south-easterly direction (passing through villages of Withington, Fossebridge, Coln Rogers, Winson, Abington, Bibury, and Quenington) to join the Thames between Fairford and Lechlade. The underlying geology is limestone and the river has a gravel base. Stretches of the river have been modified, there are on-line lakes and ponds, mill buildings and a trout farm. Point source pollution arises from wastewater treatment works at Andoversford, Withington, Bibury, and Fairford.

A River habitat survey was undertaken from Fairford parish to Lechlade April 2014 (1).

Between Quenington and Fairford stretches have good meandering but it is modified through Fairford, damned by a mill, creating an online lake and split and straightened for a stretch reaching a weir before reconnecting. Further downstream the channel has been modified and is wider, shallower and straighter than natural. Banks have been damaged by public access and vehicle crossings. More natural meandering stretches have been managed to improve the ecology but there is overshading in areas. As the river approaches Lechlade it has good morphology with frequent meanders and the surrounding farming is well buffered. The main detrimental impacts here are from dense shading from non-native tree plantations and dense Himalayan Balsam growth.


Land use and designations

Through Fairford and Kempsford parishes and around Lechlade the land use next to the river is largely grazing for cattle and sheep with some arable, woodland planting, holiday homes, recreation facilities, sailing and walking. Numerous fishing clubs and access result in it being a heavily fished river.

There is a high level of public access around Lechlade including gardens, pubs, the Riverside Country Park and footpaths.


Flora identified from a walk over assessment of in Spring 2014 (1)

Margin species - Reed Sweet-grass, Fools Water Cress, Common Reed, Lesser pond-sedge, Water mint, Meadow Sweet, Butterbur, Water Forget-me-not, Marsh Marigold and Flag Iris.

Bank vegetation - nettles, Great willowherb, and Common comfrey.

Aquatic vegetation - some Water-starwort.

Thick stands of Himalayan balsam is a major problem on the Coln through Kempford and Lechlade parishes, excluding native vegetation and exposing soil to erosion.

Fauna identified from a walk over assessment of in Spring 2014 (1)

Signal crayfish are present in high numbers on the River Coln, undermining banks.

Known to have a range of fish species including stocked Brown trout

Typical species of hedgerows and woodland birds (including song thrush) and riparian birds. Reed bunting, reed warbler sighted, and Kingfishers are known in the area.

Signs of otter and water vole in Fairford to Lechlade section of the Coln, work has been undertaken by Cotswold Water Park and Gloucestershire Wildlife Trust on conservation and habitat improvement.


Main conclusions from Parish WILD reports (1)

The River Coln through Fairford to the Thames is of significant ecological value despite the modification and the detrimental impact some river uses and management of trees. The ecology of the river habitat could be improved but requires significant landowner co-operation.


Identified issues

Flood risk; Fairford is in flood zone 3 due to its location (1 in 100 or greater chance each year). There is no risk to Kempsford or the village of Whelford. There is relatively low-level risk of flooding to the town of Lechlade however, parish land is in Flood Zones 2 and 3.

The invasive signal crayfish and mimalayan balsam are both established in this waterbody.

  1. WILD Project, Rivers Management Plans for Fairford Parish, Kempsford Parish and Lechlade Parish (May 2016)


Water Framework Directive 

For 2016 the WFD overall status ‘Poor’ for ecological elements – Fish (poor), macrophytes and phytobenthos (moderate) owing to physical modifications and land drainage (probably due to changes in monitoring points and updated data).   In 2013 the WFD status for the Coln to Leach waterbody was ‘Good’. 

It is worth noting pre-2013 Coln (source to Thames) was one water body 29990.


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