River guardians will oversee long-term future of Norfolk’s chalk rivers

Gravel bed at Warham, near Stiffkey. Pictures submitted

Gravel bed at Warham, near Stiffkey. Pictures submitted - Credit: Archant

A team of river guardians is set to oversee the long-term future of Norfolk's chalk rivers, after a three-year restoration project to improve habitats.

There are only about 200 chalk rivers left in the world, and 15pc of them are in Norfolk.

Known as England's rainforests, they provide a perfect, gentle habitat in which everything grows abundantly.

Funding of £1.3m for the project, which started in 2012, and finished last month, has made the rivers more natural and protected them from pressures including pollution and loss of habitat.

River guardians will continue to work on the rivers and keep an eye on them into the future.

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The focus of the project was on the Gaywood, Babingley, Ingol, Heacham, Hun, Burn, Stiffkey, Glaven and Mun rivers.

Gemma Clark, 9 Chalk Rivers community involvement officer, said: 'The key issues the project set out to tackle were the pressures on these magical, rare rivers.

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'In the past many had been straightened out, silted up and fallen out of sight of local people.

'Thanks to a lot of hard work from everyone involved, we are seeing huge benefits. For instance, of reduced phosphates which cause algae which is not good for rivers.

'On the Babingley, the water's crystal clear again. Fish stocks are improved – there are more species and they can migrate – eels and bull heads can get through now. Irises and watercress bloom near the banks thanks to better bankside management.

'As importantly, we set out to reconnect these rivers with residents and that is what we have done.

'We have a keen team of amateur and not-so-amateur experts now, helping with practical restoration as well as events and generally keeping an eye on the rivers to see that all is well.'

More than 1,000 people are now keeping up to date with actions on the rivers, through Twitter, a newsletter and public events, and 20 schools have also been involved.

A huge range of practical work has been carried out with a series of metal weirs being removed on the Babingley, and a more natural channel made, alongside improvement of the banks.

On the Mun a wetland was created and on the Glaven, farms were worked with to prevent silt getting into rivers.

The organisations behind the '9 Chalk Rivers' project were the Norfolk Coast Partnership, Norfolk Rivers Trust, Environment Agency, Norfolk County Council, Norfolk Wildlife Trust and the Wild Trout Trust.

Funding was gained from DEFRA's Catchment Restoration Fund.

Visit website www.norfolkriverstrust.org

How are protecting Norfolk's rivers? Email david.bale2@archant.co.uk

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