Restoration scheme in the River Wensum at Great Ryburgh a big success

A restored section of the River Wensum is now teeming with trout and other species typical of a chalk stream thanks to a major restoration scheme.

Just over a year ago, the Environment Agency reinstated a meander loop at Great Ryburgh Common, near Fakenham, that had been bypassed and left high and dry by engineering works in the 1950s.

Once the bypass channel was plugged and the old channel de-silted, the river flowed again along its original winding course.

Electric-fishing surveys in the meander loop channel have shown excellent results, with 384 fish of 11 species captured.

These included good numbers of native brown trout, as well as legally-protected species such as bullhead and brook lamprey.

The previous year's electric-fishing results from the straightened channel yielded only 31 fish representing eight species.

Great improvements in the river eco-system have also been seen, with a number of typical chalk stream plant species having colonised the new channel in just over a year.

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These include water starwort, lesser water-parsnip and whorl-grass, plants for which the river is designated.

At the same time, the gravel bed of the river was restored after much of it had been removed by past dredging. Wildlife in the gravel now includes species typical of natural free flowing gravel bed sections which are rare on a local scale.

'The aquatic life stages of more than 15 species of mayfly, caddisfly and stonefly were found, indicating a healthy invertebrate community, good water quality and good habitat variability as a result of the restoration works.

Rob Dryden, technical specialist for the Environment Agency's fisheries and biodiversity team, said: 'We are delighted with the monitoring results, which show clearly how river restoration can improve local habitat quality for a wide range of fish, plants and other wildlife.'

Tim Nevard, a trustee at Pensthorpe, said: 'We're thrilled with the outcomes of reinstating the Meander Loop. The Wensum is internationally important and the Environment Agency is to be commended for planning and implementing this exemplary project.'

The River Wensum Restoration Strategy was developed by Natural England with the Environment Agency to remedy changes the Wensum has experienced from land drainage and industrial activities.

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