The River Wensum is a nationally and internationally important chalk river. This project will help restore the river and return the River Wensum Site of Special Scientific Interest to a good ecological condition.
The River Wensum
The River Wensum is a chalk river of great value for its angling and wildlife, as well as being an important landscape feature of rural Norfolk.
The nature conservation interest of the river is recognised nationally through its notification as a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), and internationally through its designation as a Special Area of Conservation (SAC). In addition, chalk rivers such as the Wensum are a priority habitat of the UK Biodiversity Action Plan (BAP).
The Water Framework Directive (WFD) classifies the river as bad and the SSSI is in unfavourable ecological condition. The reasons for unfavourable condition include inappropriate water levels, water pollution - agriculture/run-off, water abstraction, inappropriate weirs, dams, and other structures, and invasive freshwater species.
A number of projects/initiatives are in place to remedy these pressures. The water quality problems are being addressed by phosphate removal at sewage treatment works. Plans have been put in place to reduce the impacts of water abstraction on the river. The issue of agricultural run-off is being tackled by a Catchment Sensitive Farming project (lead by Natural England) and a Demonstration Test Catchment project lead by the University of East Anglia. The Norfolk Non-native Species Initiative is taking steps to control invasive freshwater species. This just leaves the physical modifications of the river, which are being addressed by the River Wensum Restoration Strategy.
About the project
The River Wensum Restoration Strategy has been developed by Natural England, in partnership with the Environment Agency and the Water Management Alliance, to facilitate restoring the physical functioning of the river in order that it can sustain the wildlife and fisheries characteristic of a Norfolk chalk river.
In essence parts of the river are too wide, too deep and too straightened, as well as being heavily impounded by mill structures. The Wensum is also disconnected from its floodplain by spoil banks resulting from historical dredging for land drainage and industrial (milling) activities. For the first time we have looked at a whole river scale to see what action needs to be taken to restore each section of the channel. The main recommendations of the strategy include narrowing the channel, restoring the gravel bed, reductions in impoundment, re-connecting the floodplain, improving channel sinuosity and increasing the amount of large woody material in the channel.
The project will seek to involve landowners, fishing clubs and other interested groups in carrying out a series of river restoration projects. We have completed feasibility assessments on all the designated sections of the river. These provide an objective evaluation of the restoration measures possible on each section of the river and also ensure consistency on a catchment basis.
Find out more:
Newsletter and factsheets
- RWRS Factsheet, June 2012 (PDF, 6MB)
- RWRS Factsheet, January 2012 (PDF, 654KB)
- RWRS Newsletter, November 2012 (PDF, 434KB)
- RWRS Newsletter, December 2011 (PDF, 609KB)
- RWRS Newsletter, August 2011 (PDF, 225KB)
- RWRS Newsletter, March 2011 (PDF 232KB)
- RWRS Newsletter, December 2010 (PDF, 525KB)
- RWRS Newsletter, September 2010 (PDF, 4.3MB)
Feasibility and environmental scoping assessments
Visit the Natural England website to download some strategy documents:
Visit the River Restoration Centre (RRC) website to find out more information.
If you have any further queries about our work, send an email to us: