The ECN Data Centre

Site Information: Coln

Sponsoring organisation(s)

Environment Agency

Network(s) this site belongs to
UK Environmental Change Network

Site characteristics

Altitude m

The catchment area is indicated with a black line.
Click map to enlarge.

Mean annual pH*
Mean annual discharge* 2.16 cumecs
Mean annual water temperature*
* calculated from the ECN Data Centre database
Information held about this site
View a list of datasets collected at this site
View a list of publications about this site


The River Coln rises at an altitude of about 200m AOD near Sevenhampton in Gloucestershire and flows from the limestone Cotswold Hills in a south-easterly direction to Lechlade where it joins the River Thames at an altitude of about 75m AOD. There are no major tributaries. The sampling site is located in Lechlade about 70m above the confluence with the Thames.The source of the river is in the Inferior Oolite aquifer in which it flows for the first few kilometers, but most of the river runs on the Great Oolite aquifer. Both of the limestone aquifers are sources for water abstration; a total of 55 ml per day are consented from the catchment. The river crosses Oxford Clay before running into the Thames. The catchment is mostly rural, with farming the main industry. The upper catchment is mainly grazing land, and there are large areas of deciduous woodland in the south-west. The upper two-thirds of the catchment is within the Cotswold Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB), and around Fairford the river has been designated as a Nitrate-sensitive area.

There are no large conurbations on the upper catchment, although Cheltenham, from where surface water drains into the limestone above the river's source, has a population of over 100,000. The Coln catchment supports a population of around 9,000. The main sewage inputs to the river are from works at Andoversford, Bibury and Fairford. Bibury Tout farm is the largest discharge into the river, although most of this is 'on-line' through fish-ponds. The river has been subject to various enhancement schemes to improve ecology and fisheries. Water quality was recorded as 'good to fair' in the 1995 General Quality Assessment survey; the classification varies throughout the river, due to the effects of both discharges and low flows.

The biological quality of the river is very good. The river supports a brown trout (Salmo trutta) fishery with good spawning beds. Natural populations of grayling (Thymallus thymallus) also exist. Native crayfish (Austropotamobius pallipes) have been recorded but not since 1991; populations of the introduced American signal crayfish (Pacifastacus leniusculus) are also present. Several pollution-sensitive caddisfly and mayfly families have been found, along with true-bugs, beetles and snails.



Inger Jennings

Environment Agency
Thames Region, Lambourn House, Howbery Park, Wallingford, Oxon, OX10 8DB

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