Public can help inform plans to protect the River Stiffkey

Community Involvement Officer Gemma Clark and University of East Anglia PhD student Sarah Taigel at the River Stiffkey in Warham. Picture: Matthew Usher. Community Involvement Officer Gemma Clark and University of East Anglia PhD student Sarah Taigel at the River Stiffkey in Warham. Picture: Matthew Usher.

Thursday, January 23, 2014
6:30 AM

The future of the River Stiffkey will be mapped out in the first of a series of plans which will help communities protect their precious local waterways.

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Chalk rivers are one of the world’s rarest natural habitats, and Norfolk boasts a significant number of them.

The Nine Chalk Rivers project, funded by £1.3m from the Environment Agency Catchment Restoration Fund and managed by the Norfolk Rivers Trust, aims to restore the coastal rivers of the Glaven, Gaywood, Babingley, Stiffkey, Hun, Mun, Ingol, Heacham and Burn.

The Stiffkey river catchment plan, providing information on the issues facing the river and plans to improve them, is now available for local people to comment on.

Project officer Jonah Tosney, who wrote the plan, said: “It is really important that local people feel they are part of the process as they know their rivers well and where and what the problems are.”

Gemma Clark, community involvement officer for the project, said: “One of the exciting things about this project is that its future success is reliant on local communities to share ideas and get involved.

“There are only around 200 chalk rivers in the world, of which 160 are in England. Norfolk is blessed to have about 15 of these incredibly rare and diverse habitats plus lots of smaller chalk streams, but they are suffering.”

Chalk rivers support a diverse range of plants and animals that depend on the clear calcium-enriched water and gravel beds.

However, silt from farmland and roads, poor management, pollution and the presence of non-native species have all affected the general health of these rivers.

The Nine Chalk Rivers project aims to work in partnership with landowners and local people to try to reverse these problems.

The abundance of insects in a pristine chalk stream provides food for many types of fish, while other key species include the otter, water vole, and kingfisher.

Chalk streams are also ideal habitats white-clawed crayfish, Britain’s only native crayfish, which is on the verge of extinction following the introduction of the American signal crayfish.

A population of white-clawed crayfish was recently transferred to the Stiffkey from the neighbouring Glaven where they are threatened by signal crayfish.

The Stiffkey river catchment plan is available via the Norfolk Rivers Trust website or by requesting a copy by post or email. Comments will need to be received by the Norfolk Rivers Trust by April 31, although the plan will also continue to evolve over time.

For more information, go to www.norfolkriverstrust.org or follow on Twitter @9ChalkRivers.

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