River Wensum Initiative
The River Wensum Initiative (RWI) came into being after the Wensum Valley was designated as a 'Special Area for Conservation' (SAC) by the European Union and English Nature (now Natural England). This designation, notwithstanding the fact that it is amongst the highest level conservation designations in Europe, was not accompanied by EU funding to assist riparian landholders with its conservation. As the River Wensum is the only river between the Thames and the Humber to be designated as an SAC, the PCT, along with several other NGOs along the course of the river got together in 2005 to set the ball rolling.
Some of the reasons for the designation of the Wensum as an SAC are its outstanding chalk stream fauna, including white-clawed crayfish, Desmoulin's whorl snail, otters, and a large number of dragonfly/damselfly species; as well as the relatively unspoiled nature of its catchment and the quality of its aquatic flora.
Having brought these outstanding characteristics to the attention of Jordans Cereals, the RWI partners were successful in securing their partnership in their 150th anniversary year, a partnership that has continued to date.
'A River Runs Through It'
The River Wensum links together a series of ecological gems set along the valley. These sites cannot exist in isolation from each other and the only way to secure their long term viability is to ensure that the catchment as a whole remains in ecological good health. The idea of the RWI is therefore to begin with a series of individual components and gradually link them together as a 'necklace' with a common ecological purpose.
The RWI programme in 2005/06 started with projects at Sculthorpe Moor Nature Reserve (reed and sedgebed management - run by the Hawk and Owl Trust); at Hempton Marsh Nature Reserve (improved public access - run by the Norfolk Ornithologists' Association); at Pensthorpe (improved management of wet meadows - a joint project with English Nature); at Sparham Pools (tern breeding island and boat - run by the Wensum Valley Birdwatching Society and Norfolk Wildlife Trust); at Guist Common (grazing management - run by the Wensum Valley Project).
The following are some of the most frequently asked questions about the River Wensum Initiative:
Why should the community take the lead when the EU and UK government made the SAC designation?
The future of River Wensum SAC lies entirely in the hands of the landholders and wider community who live and work along the river. It is not held in public ownership, nor does it need to be. No one landholder or organisation can do it all though, so by working together cooperatively, but still being responsible for individual sites and projects, the long-term power of community interest can be harnessed
What if individual landholders or groups don't want to join in?
That's very much their choice - the RWI cannot compel anyone to join in. We hope though, that by setting the right example and offering to help wherever possible, that the common purpose of keeping the river in 'ecological working order' will be seen to be in the interests of everyone.
What role do you see government taking?
Although the government was instrumental in the SAC designation, it has neither the funds nor management resources to ensure that the river and its catchment are kept in good ecological heart. We hope that the government and the EU will continue to be supportive and to help the RWI achieve its ultimate goal of restoring the biodiversity of the river and managing it sustainably in ways consistent with it s statutory designation as an SAC.
What is the 'Wild about the Wensum' event about and can we become involved?
The 'Wild about the Wensum' (WATW) event is held annually and is hosted by the Pensthorpe Conservation Trust at Pensthorpe and has run since May 2007. WATW brings together many interested individuals, organisations and businesses to show the wider community the beauty and importance of the Wensum and what they are doing in the valley and how their activities contribute to its sustainable future. Click here for more information.