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Eddington screening for Fugolburna, a Cambridge water crisis documentary





Fugolburna, a documentary film produced by Fulbourn Forum which looks at the crisis in the area’s iconic chalk streams, will be screened at 7.30pm on 18 July at Storeys Field Centre in Eddington.

Fugolburna is the Anglo Saxon name for Fulbourn – it means “stream frequented by birds”. The underlying chalk aquifer was one of the very early locations for abstraction to provide a reliable potable water source for an expanding Victorian Cambridge. The now redundant pumping station still exists in Cow Lane and is about to be converted to flats after several years as offices.

Some of the team behind Fugolburna, a new film about the looming water crisis in Cambridge, from left Richard Townley, Christine Lloyd-Fitt, Nigel Kinnings, and David Cottee. Picture: Keith Heppell
Some of the team behind Fugolburna, a new film about the looming water crisis in Cambridge, from left Richard Townley, Christine Lloyd-Fitt, Nigel Kinnings, and David Cottee. Picture: Keith Heppell

The film was initiated by David Cottee, a retired architect and one of the founder members of Fulbourn Forum, a community action group.

“Over the past several years concern has continued to grow about the condition of the Cam Valley springs, streams and rivers,” David told the Cambridge Independent. “The development of the Greater Cambridge area over many decades has resulted in increased abstraction of water from the chalk aquifers causing springs to dry, either totally or intermittently, and streams and rivers to have greatly reduced flows or, in some cases, to dry completely. This has had, of course, a significant impact on the natural environment and biodiversity.

“Fulbourn has not been immune from these impacts, and Fulbourn Forum, together with others such as the Wilbraham River Protection Society, the Wildlife Trust BCN, and Cam Valley Forum, has been observing and monitoring the condition of the springs and watercourses in the Fulbourn/Wilbraham Catchment Area for some time.

Fulbourn Fen
Fulbourn Fen

“We are keen that our area is not forgotten when proposals for nature recovery are under consideration by the authorities, water companies, and various environmental campaign organisations.”

David initiated the Fugolburna project after seeing Waterlight, a film portrait of a local chalk stream, the River Mel, which was filmed by Nigel Kinnings – who became the cinematographer for Fugolburna at David’s invitation. The goal was “ to record the Fulbourn and Wilbraham streams and watercourses to alert people to the crisis they are in”.

Confluence of streams from two springs at Fulbourn Fen Nature Reserve, July 2022
Confluence of streams from two springs at Fulbourn Fen Nature Reserve, July 2022

The documentary interviews locals, including farmers and environmental experts, to assess the state of the water systems in the area. Cam Valley Forum’s Stephen Tomkins reveals how water is being rerouted “to mask the problem of overextraction of water from our natural environment”.

In a piece to camera, standing in a dry chalk stream, Mr Tomkins says: ““What makes me so upset is that we are masking the problem of over extraction of water from our natural environment because this sort of thing is the result.

“On the reserve here we’ve got augmentation coming in to just the Site of Special Scientific Interest and that does not reveal clearly what is going on everywhere.

“We’re robbing the chalk of water just to keep one little patch alive and it’s a deceit because we’re kidding ourselves that taking water to the tap is not affecting our natural environment. It’s wrong. We’re being made to think that everything in nature will be looked after by this little exercise in putting in more water. It has kept the orchids going, but it’s not a long term solution to our natural environment’s need for recovery of wetland.”

Some of the team behind Fugolburna, a new film about the looming water crisis in Cambridge, from left Richard Townley, Christine Lloyd-Fitt, Nigel Kinnings, and David Cottee. Picture: Keith Heppell
Some of the team behind Fugolburna, a new film about the looming water crisis in Cambridge, from left Richard Townley, Christine Lloyd-Fitt, Nigel Kinnings, and David Cottee. Picture: Keith Heppell

“The first screening in Fulbourn on the 10 May went well,” says Nigel, “ with an appreciative audience of 140 and a lively discussion afterwards.”

The documentary “also celebrates our beautiful Fulbourn Fen Nature Reserve and other parts of the local river catchment area”, adds David, as well as highlighting how increased abstraction of water from the chalk aquifers is setting up a crisis for the local environment.

The screening of Fugolburna at Storeys Field on 18 July is supported by Cam Valley Forum, details here. The film has been partly financed by a grant from the local Wright's Clock Land CIO and the Wadlow Wind Farm Community Fund.



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