Norfolk Rivers Trust celebrates 10 years of helping aquatic wildlife

Ant Gagen of the Norfolk Rivers Trust planting a new wetland with native plants

Ant Gagen of the Norfolk Rivers Trust planting a new wetland with native plants - Credit: Joseph Gray / WWF-UK

An organisation created by "passionate river folk" to reverse the degradation of Norfolk's rare and precious chalk streams is celebrating its 10th anniversary.

The Norfolk Rivers Trust (NRT) was founded in 2011 to tackle challenges including water pollution, over-abstraction and physical modification of the county's waterways.

During the following decade, the trust has worked on many restoration projects to improve water quality, while creating riparian habitats using funding from sources including government agencies, water companies and other conservation bodies.

Fish surveys on the River Nar

Fish surveys on the River Nar - Credit: Norfolk Rivers Trust

Its work began with the restoration of a section of the river Nar in 2012, funded by WWF-UK. The partnership created a new "sinuous channel" at Mileham and installed 42 gravel "riffles" to improve invertebrate habitats and provide spawning grounds for fish at Castle Acre.

Then followed the "Nine Chalk Rivers" conservation and community engagement programme, involving various organisations including the Norfolk Coast Partnership. This led to the restoration of a 1.2km stretch of the river Glaven at Bayfield in 2014.

The River Glaven at Bayfield lake, restored by Norfolk Rivers Trust 

The River Glaven at Bayfield lake, restored by Norfolk Rivers Trust - Credit: Joseph Gray / WWF-UK

This reconnected the river with its floodplain and enhanced the habitat for an array of biodiversity - particularly those associated with rare chalk streams including white-clawed crayfish and brown trout.

Ingoldisthorpe wetland, a landscape created to clean water naturally

Ingoldisthorpe wetland, a landscape created to clean water naturally - Credit: Norfolk Rivers Trust

Another highlight was the construction of Ingoldisthorpe wetland in 2018, funded by Anglian Water, with pools and plants providing a natural filter to strip ammonia and phosphate pollutants from more than a million litres of treated water discharged per day from the neighbouring sewage treatment plant.

The trust also relies on partnership work with farmers, landowners and businesses to complete many conservation projects. 

For example, its Water Sensitive Farming initiative, established in 2012, has worked with farmers to install more than 100 targeted interventions to benefit soil and water, as well as boosting business resilience, biodiversity and carbon capture.

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Another long-standing ambition was recently fulfilled with the reintroduction of two native Eurasian beavers to the headwaters of a river in north Norfolk to create new wetland habitats, improve water quality and reduce flood risk.

But chief executive David Diggens said the trust would not rest on its laurels.

“We’re delighted with all that the trust has achieved since its humble beginnings, having significantly grown in size and reputation, and recognise that this could not have been possible without the dedicated support of our team, trustees, volunteers and partner organisations," he said.

"Looking ahead, we’ve got an ambitious programme of work to deliver including the restoration of the Hun and Stiffkey river catchments, funded by the government’s Green Recovery Challenge Fund and in partnership with the Norfolk Coast Partnership, along with the ‘Wendling Beck Exemplar Project’ - the transformation of over 2,000 acres of farmland near Dereham through river restoration, regenerative agriculture, grassland and wetland creation in partnership with several organisations including Norfolk Wildlife Trust, Norfolk FWAG and Norfolk County Council.

Zac Battams of the Norfolk Rivers Trust undertaking water quality surveys to check for contaminates in the river

Zac Battams of the Norfolk Rivers Trust undertaking water quality surveys to check for contaminates in the river - Credit: Joseph Gray / WWF-UK

"NRT will also be reaching out to additional farmers through our Water Sensitive Farming initiative to share best practice, mitigate the impacts of the climate emergency and restore meadows and wildflower habitats.

"We’ll continue to seek innovative solutions to man-made problems, exploring the application of an 'environmental impact bond' to reduce phosphates and other pollutants entering the River Stiffkey, while generating revenue in the form of 'phosphate credits'.

Norfolk Rivers Trust crayfish surveys

Norfolk Rivers Trust crayfish surveys - Credit: Norfolk Rivers Trust

"We’ll also continue the battle to protect white-clawed crayfish by chairing the Norfolk Crayfish Group and working with Banham Zoo to rear and release this native and extremely threatened species.”

Norfolk is fortunate to have a large proportion of England's rare chalk-fed rivers - of which there are only around 220 in the world.

The trust has worked with more than 1,400 school children and hosted around 200 outreach events to explain the value of these exceptional ecosystems. 

Ursula Juta, NRT’s catchment and education manager, said: “It’s key that we celebrate the value of our rivers with people of all ages and backgrounds to foster good water stewards in the future, monitor river health and inspire individual action."

Teaching the next generation of river ecologists

Teaching the next generation of river ecologists - Credit: Norfolk Rivers Trust

Norfolk Rivers Trust conducting fish surveys

Norfolk Rivers Trust conducting fish surveys - Credit: NRT

The endangered European eel in the Glaven river

The endangered European eel in the Glaven river - Credit: Joseph Gray / WWF-UK


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