Time to find out more about four of Norfolk’s lesser-known rivers

They may not be our most famous waterways – but the rare natural value of four of Norfolk's lesser-known rivers will soon be explored during a series of community open days.

The Norfolk Rivers Trust is hosting the events as a way of enthusing public interest about the chalk rivers of the Mun, Burn, Heacham and Ingol – all examples of a declining habitat which hosts an important range of wildlife.

Conservationists hope to gather local knowledge from people living along these catchments in order to assess any threats to these ecosystems, and then inspire local volunteer action groups to help resolve those problems.

The interactive community days will include guided walks along areas of restored river, photography courses, bird of prey displays, children's activities and water invertebrate sessions.

Jonathan Lewis, catchment-based approach liaison officer for the Norfolk Rivers Trust, said: 'These are certainly four rivers which people might not know as well as the Bure or the Wensum.

'With these initial events, what we are trying to do is get local opinion to find out what the locals know about the rivers, the problems the river faces, and where they would like us to focus our attention over the next few years.

'Then we will pull together volunteer groups, which could involve monitoring invertebrates or birds along the river.

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'Invertebrate monitoring is a really good way of measuring how healthy a river is. We will set up groups and provide training for them. The idea is that they will become self-sustaining, going down to the river a few times a year to see if the populations have changed.

'There could also be some practical work like litter-picking, shrub removal and clearing invasive species such as Himalayan balsam.'

As well as teams carrying out practical work and wildlife monitoring, the trust hopes to create steering groups for each of the rivers which can take a more strategic overview, guiding the emerging improvement plans and discussing any wider issues with environmental bodies, local authorities and water companies.

The four community days will include the chance to talk to experts from other environmental agencies and conservation groups, with guided walks visiting restored sections of river, and areas in need of work.

There will also be sessions on 'river gardening' for people who have streams running through their land, but are unsure how to manage them properly for wildlife.

There are only about 200 chalk rivers in the world, of which 160 are in Britain, with Norfolk regarded as a particular stronghold. But they are vulnerable to damage, silt build-up, invasion of non-native species, over-straightening and reduction in fish stocks.

The abundance of insects in a pristine chalk stream provides food for many types of fish, while other key species include the otter, water vole, kingfisher and white-clawed crayfish.

The community days organised by the Norfolk Rivers Trust will be held as follows:

-River Mun: Mundesley Coronation Hall, Saturday, January 25.

-River Burn: North Creake Village Hall, Sunday, February 9.

-River Heacham: Sedgeford Village Hall, Saturday, February 22.

-River Ingol: Snettisham Village Hall, Saturday, March 8.

Each day will run from 10am to 4pm, with the following activities programme:

10am–midday: Guided river walk.

Midday-1pm: Lunch served, with food and refreshments provided.

1pm-3pm: Photography course for beginners.

2pm-3pm: River-themed children's treasure hunt.

3pm-4pm: River gardening 'best practice' session.

Activities are free, but spaces are limited so booking is required. Contact Jonathan Lewis on 07917 023 490 or jonathan@norfolkriverstrust.org. For more information see www.norfolkriverstrust.org.

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