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Last Updated: Wednesday, 7 April, 2004, 00:07 GMT 01:07 UK
Riverbed among Trent's treasures
By Brady Haran
BBC News Online, East Midlands

Adam Thompson at the River Trent's palaeochannel
Scientists found where the Trent flowed 5,000 years ago
In the third part of his series "From the Source to Sea", Brady Haran looks at science and technology along the River Trent.

For someone with an interest in science and technology, the River Trent is a treasure trove.

A prime example is in the field of archaeology.

Archaeological surveys of sites near rivers can reveal countless wonders.

At Besthorpe quarry, near the border between Nottinghamshire and Lincolnshire, a team of archaeologists and students are uncovering a Roman settlement, including coins, pottery and an intact grain dryer.

But perhaps more interestingly, they have found the River Trent's palaeochannel - its former riverbed.

See a 360-degree view of the ancient river bed

At least 500m from the Trent of today, the riverbed is clearly visible as layered deposits of sand, silt and even logs which were washed down the river thousands of years ago.

Archaeological supervisor Adam Thompson expects tests on organic material in the palaeochannel, such as seeds and insects, to provide helpful information.

He says: "It will give us a picture of the environment around here and what sort of farming was being used."

Some material from the channel has already been dated to 3,400BC.

Another distinctive feature of the Trent Valley is its power stations, with cooling towers seeming to loom over every horizon.

Have a look at the River Trent from space

In fact, power stations are the biggest users of water from the Trent, surpassing farmers and water companies.

BBC News Online was invited to West Burton power station for a look at how it uses water from the river.

The coal-powered station takes an average of 200 million litres a day from the Trent.

The water is used for various processes, in particular cooling the steam which drives its huge turbines.

Much of the water is lost to evaporation, but about half is returned to the river, approximately 5C warmer than when it was abstracted.

It's full of pollution and always flooding - the only bit of the Trent I like is the bit near Newark Castle
Callum Holmes, England

Power stations have been criticised for pumping warm water into rivers, but station manager Peter McGriskin points out the water is sometimes returned in better condition, due to the removal of sediments and aeration.

For the record, West Burton produces 2000 megawatts of electricity - enough to power 2 million households.

Another use of the River Trent is for sewage treatment.

Water company Severn Trent operates the Stoke Bardolph treatment plant, which serves Nottingham.

It handles 170 million litres of sewage a day, pumping treated effluent into the river.

However the roaring outlet is not the unsavoury sight some might imagine - the water is crystal clear and the outlet is popular with local bird life.

Also in our series from the Trent:

The BBC's Brady Haran
Join him on a whirlwind tour of life along the River Trent

Audio tour
Liked the video, why not try the radio version of our Trent tour?

Bonus Material
Footage not used on TV - includes a seal in the river

Holding back 'The Trespasser'
06 Apr 04  |  England
A river on the mend
05 Apr 04  |  England
Writing a river's history
27 Jun 03  |  Nottinghamshire


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