Decision on Wensum is magnificent for our rivers

John Bailey studies the glorious Glaven Valley. Picture: John Bailey

John Bailey studies the glorious Glaven Valley. Picture: John Bailey - Credit: Archant

Friday, March 31, was an historic day in the history of Norfolk's river conservation.

John Bailey looks delighted with Friday�'s council decision. Picture: John Bailey

John Bailey looks delighted with Friday�'s council decision. Picture: John Bailey - Credit: Archant

Nine brave members of the Norfolk County Council Planning Committee rejected the proposal for a waste recycling unit to be sited 200 yards from the banks of the River Wensum.

The Magnificent Nine, took the view that the Wensum as a SSSI and an SAC was simply too valuable a part of Norfolk heritage to be jeopardised by such a development. The fact is that once you take away a river's integrity and once it is fatally compromised, it is almost impossible to reverse the process.

Had that RDF plant been built, in all probability the Wensum would have been dead as the river we have known it in short time. The fact that the Magnificent Nine had the foresight and the bravery to stand up for our river is a testament to the power of democracy.

Of course, many people were involved in the success. Great Witchingham Parish Council and Weston Longville Parish Council were magnificent. Tremendous help was received from Dr Carl Sayer of the Norfolk Crucian Project, from the Wensum Alliance and from the Wensum Working Group amongst others. In all, this was a brave and stirring team effort.

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Our rivers are dying from a thousand cuts and we have to face that fact. High up the list of problems is predation, but there is also serious abstraction which has reduced the flow of our rivers dramatically over my lifetime. We have poaching, industrial and agricultural pollution, diffuse water pollution, building development, urban sprawl, climate change and an overall lack of loving care.

Here in Norfolk, too, we suffer from periodic attacks of prymnesium and from tidal surges. Also, many of our rivers just don't have the money spent on them that they need. And, of course, post-Brexit, many of the European directives and much of the European money will be turned off. These are dangerous times indeed.

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A couple of weeks ago I walked the River Glaven with Willie Brownlow, a tremendous supporter of that river. Good work has been carried out up there, in the north of our county. The River Glaven Conservation Group has been active for a number of years and initiated many good things. The Norfolk Rivers Trust (NRT) is based up in the area and has done a lot to help the river, and the fishing. NRT has helped the River Glaven Angling Association develop habitat and transform whole stretches of riverbank. It's a tremendous effort, and yet...

As Willie and I walked the banks on a wonderfully mellow spring evening, I couldn't help but look back to my childhood. Then, the river teemed with roach to two pounds, dace to a pound, perch to three pounds and wild brown trout of six and seven pounds. Pike were in abundance, well into the mid-20s even. And, come the summer, the runs of sea trout were, by today's standards, simply unbelievable.

Perhaps we have to accept that the glorious fishing of long ago will never return. However, without a doubt, the Glaven Valley is one of the most wondrous places to spend a few hours, especially now there are so many looking after it. It's hard to believe, that if you're a fly angler there are few places left on the river this coming season. Interested? Contact Who knows, I might beg a place for myself. As an ex-Blakeney boy, I'm teetering on the brink.

I have to report with glee my first tench of the spring just four days ago. As usual, a couple of days' pre-baiting along the margin drop-off did the trick. A few bubbles. A rising and dipping float, a screaming reel. Classic tenching from its blistering beginning to its satisfying conclusion. I drove home happy as a kid again.

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