The Ochre Stream

There is a highly unusual stream that flows out of a large hole in a wooded area in Gradbach which is close to Ludchurch. It bubbles out of the ground a deep orange colour before joining a stream called the Black brook (coloured by the coal beds it flows through) before being turned orange itself.

The source of the Ochre stream

Legend has it that it was once thought to be the menstrual blood of the Earth Goddess Brigitte, but alas there is a more down to earth explanation. At one time the land in this area was mined for coal, when the coal seams were eventually exhausted ochre appeared in the water and this is what gives the water its distinct colouration.

I took this photograph on the left in the summer while standing in the dried up stream bed, as you can see in the background the ochre stream still continues flowing.

In the past this natural phenomena was exploited and there can still be found remains of the ochre beds downstream from its source, these were used in the past in the drying process which left a solid residue which would then have been gathered and then transported to Harper Hill by horse and cart. From Harper Hill the residue would then have been distributed to various mills to produce paint.

Though the stream seems polluted, animals that drink from it are not affected, and it does not seem to affect the fish population, it seems to be yet another strange feature in a strange land!

This is where the orange stained Black brook converges with the river Dane and its colouration is diluted in the clean water.

Overgrown ochre drying beds.

Remains of ochre


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