Extinction Rebellion activists hold demonstration over state of chalk stream

Extinction Rebellion activists took their fishing rods to the stretch of the Gaywood River in The Walks.

Extinction Rebellion activists took their fishing rods to the stretch of the Gaywood River in The Walks in King's Lynn on Saturday to see what they could find, they said. - Credit: Extinction Rebellion

Extinction Rebellion activists took to a stretch of a Norfolk chalk stream with their fishing rods as part of a campaign calling for urgent action to 'stop the pollution' in it.

Members of the King's Lynn and West Norfolk group held a demonstration in The Walks in King's Lynn on Saturday, October 23 over the state of the Gaywood River, which passes through the park.

They also handed out flyers asking people to sign their petition calling for the chalk stream to be restored to full health, which has been signed by more than 700 people including actor and author Stephen Fry.

Extinction Rebellion activists took to The Walks in King's Lynn on Saturday to protest over the state of the Gaywood River.

Extinction Rebellion activists took to The Walks in King's Lynn on Saturday to protest over the state of the Gaywood River. - Credit: Extinction Rebellion

The group say the river used to be crystal clear water and teeming with life, but that now it is "murky, lifeless, and filled with fungus", which activists added suggests it is being polluted somewhere along its length.

They said water quality testing has shown that phosphate levels in the river are four times higher in Bawsey than the river’s source at Well Hall Lane, near Gayton. 

A XR spokesperson said: "We are asking that the Environment Agency act urgently to properly investigate and take action to stop the pollution into the river and to restore it to its former full health."

But an Environment Agency spokesperson said the Gaywood can appear "orange at times", particularly during heavy rain, but that it is not pollution but due to "high iron content in the soil".

They added: “The future of rare and valuable chalk streams, under pressure from climate change and population growth, depend on action from all of us, including business, farmers and government.

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"The Environment Agency is working with water companies and others to tackle pollution and reduce abstraction.

"The Environment Agency is responsible for ensuring those who abstract, discharge and use chalk streams comply with the strict conditions specified through our permits. 

"If these permits are breached, we take action to enforce them."

Extinction Rebellion activists say the river is now murky and filled with fungus. 

Extinction Rebellion activists say the river is now murky and filled with fungus. - Credit: Extinction Rebellion

The EA said more collaboration is needed to protect these sensitive habitats and that it wants river users to work with it to help improve habitats and diversity of chalk streams in East Anglia.

It said anyone who suspects pollution in our rivers should contact them on 0800 807060.

Anglian Water is said to be currently working on a series of projects to restore local chalk streams, including the Gaywood.

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