Villagers concerned about narrow waterway in Swanton Morley

Pressure is growing on the Environment Agency after a group of villagers raised concerns about a build up of reeds and silt in the River Wensum.

The width of the river, which runs past Mill Common in Swanton Morley, near Dereham, has narrowed from 40ft to 4ft, according to Bernie Marsham, 62, who has lived in the village all his life.

He added: 'Next year it will be 2ft wide and then the year after that there will be nothing left.'

Mr Marsham, who is a Swanton Morley parish councillor as well as the owner of Waterfall Farm Holiday Cottages in the village, said he believed the problem had been caused by work carried out by the EA further upstream at nearby Worthing and Great Ryburgh, near Fakenham.

The increase of silt - which derives from soil or rock - has also caused problems at Swanton Morley's boardwalk, off Worthing Road, according to the 62-year-old.

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The area was opened in August last year by the EA and allows wheelchair users to fish in the River Wensum, but the parish councillor said a build up reeds has made fishing almost impossible.

Rob Dryden, of the agency's fisheries, recreation and biodiversity team, inspected the river off Mill Common yesterday (Thursday) and was guided by a delegation including Mr Marsham.

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Mr Dryden said the EA's main priority was to protect people and property from flooding but the organisation wanted to create a more 'sustainable' river and help develop its biodiversity.

He added: 'We are not looking to widen the river but if there are significant obstructions they need to be managed.'

The EA aims to restore the 'meandering form' of the River Wensum, as well as its gravel bed.

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