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World Rivers Day

27 Sep 2019

Celebrating World Rivers Day with a spotlight on The River Wensum

World Rivers Day on 29th September 2019 is a national day celebrating the world’s waterways and people are encouraged to visit and learn more about their local river. It also aims to make people aware of threats to rivers, such as pollution, flooding and overfishing.

To celebrate World Rivers Day, we’ve put together some information on the River Wensum, which flows through Pensthorpe…

The internationally important River Wensum rises near the villages of Colkirk and Whissonsett, before winding through Fakenham, Pensthorpe and Taverham then into Norwich, where it joins as a tributary to the Yare.

The river is fed by underwater chalk aquifers, making this one of only around 200 chalk rivers in the world. Chalk rivers are rich in minerals and support diverse flora and fauna, including the rare and tiny Desmoulin’s whorl snail, water vole, otter, kingfisher, brown trout and plants, such as water crowfoot, starwort and pennywort. This ecological importance has given the River Wensum SSSI status (Site of Special Scientific Interest) and it is also designated as a Special Area of Conservation (SAC) by the EU.


Conservation on the River Wensum has been carried out over the last few decades and at Pensthorpe Natural Park, restoration has involved a reconnection of the river with the floodplain; berm and gravel glide construction to encourage different habitats and the reinstatement of a meander loop. Of course, river restoration is a complex and ongoing process involving multi-agency input and requires habitat management to reduce encroachment of bank vegetation, a build-up of silt and ensuring that surface run-off is mitigated against. Along the floodplain, wetlands including reedbeds and alder carr (alder wet woodland) and grasslands support this protection of the river by naturally filtering the urban, road and field run-off before it reaches the river.

Here at Pensthorpe Natural Park, these floodplain habitats are full of wildlife, not just birds and plants, like marsh harrier and southern marsh orchids, but also 20 species of dragonflies and damselflies, including rarities like the Norfolk hawker dragonfly, the Willow emerald dragonfly and 10 species of bats, including Daubenton’s bat which feeds low over the water.

The rich variety of habitats of the River Wensum guarantees that visitors can experience wetland wildlife at any time of the year.