The River Pang and the Sulham Brook lie in the north-eastern area of the North Wessex Downs Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) some of the finest landscape in Britain – chalk downland, river valleys ancient woodland and historic sites.
The Sulham Brook itself is a short, 6.2 km (3.8 miles) Thames tributary rising from chalk fed springs just north of Theale flowing through Sulham and for most of its course it runs more or less parallel to the River Pang with often less than 1km separating the two streams. It finally flows into the Thames to the east of Pangbourne by Saltney Mead: it is mainly a highly modified channel that used to drive a watermill at Sulham Home Farm.
Originally the River Kennet flowed through the Sulham Gap entering the River Thames near Pangbourne. It is thought that some 20,000 years ago the land rose slightly causing the Kennet to move to its current course through the Coley Gap and run into the Thames at Reading. As a result of the change the Sulham Gap was left to the River Pang. The land was given to Reading Abbey after its foundation in 1121, and it is believed that the Abbey then extensively drained the marsh with the Pang being straitened to run down the western side of the Gap with the Sulham Brook running down the eastern side.
A notable Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) is the Sulham and Tidmarsh Woods and Meadows, a mosaic of damp copses and seasonally flooded water meadows. It is of particular importance for its invertebrate species.
The Sulham Brook is classified by the Environment Agency as a river and designated Hydromorphologically as not being an artificial or highly modified water body. The total catchment area is 11.9 km2 (4.6 miles2).
The Environment Agency have designated most of the catchment as the Sulham Brook Surface Water Nitrate Vulnerable Zone (NVZ). They have two monitoring points along the length of the Brook the results of which show that the greatest pollution load from nitrogen compounds is of agricultural origin.
Environment Agency Classification for the Sulham Brook
|2009 Cycle 1||2016 Cycle 2||Objectives|
|Water body status overall||Moderate||Moderate||Good by 2027|
|Ecological Status||Moderate||Moderate||Good by 2027|
|Chemical Status||Does not require assessment||Good||Good by 2015*|
*As reported in Environment Agency's WFD Classification Status Cycle 2 v3 data set published 18th May 2017.
Though the Chemical status of the Brook is Good, the water body overall is classified as only Moderate due to a Moderate designation for the Physicochemical component resulting from a Bad classification for the Dissolved Oxygen levels. This is suspected to be caused by a combination of low flows, resulting from groundwater abstractions and sewage discharges into the Brook. However, the overall water body status for the Sulham Brook is predicted to be Good by 2027.
You can find out more about the classification of rivers in our catchment by using the Environment Agency’s Catchment Data Explorer