The River Wensum has its source between the villages of Colkirk and Whissonsett, flows through Fakenham and the Pensthorpe nature reserve, and on through Swanton Morley, Taverham and Norwich, flowing out of the city at Trowse to its confluence with the River Yare at Whitlingham.

In 1993, 71 km of the Wensum was designated a Site of Special Scientific Interest and Special Area of Conservation and the river is recognised as one of the most important chalk river habitats in the country with over 100 plant species and a rich invertebrate fauna. In 2001, the River Wensum was designated a Special Area of Conservation (SAC) under the EU Habitats Directive. Species requiring conservation objectives are: Bullhead (fish), Brook Lamprey (fish), Whiteclawed crayfish, Desmoulin’s Whorl Snail and additionally watercourses with water crowfoot and water starwort vegetation (Ranunculus habitat).

A bridge on the river Wensum
The River Wensum flows through some of the most environmentally sensitive areas in the United Kingdom.

The Wensum catchment drains an area of Norfolk in East Anglia about 40 km west-east and 25 km north-south with relatively low-lying topography ranging from about 80 m in the west to a few metres above sea level where it joins the River Yare. The whole of the Wensum catchment is underlain by the Cretaceous Chalk. In the eastern part of the catchment, the Chalk is overlain by Pleistocene Crag sands and gravels. Both these bedrock strata are overlain by a complex sequence of Pleistocene glacial tills and glaciofluvial sands and gravels and Holocene deposits (blown sand, alluvium, peat and river terrace deposits).

Of the 90.6 ha of ‘River and Stream’ habitat included in the SSSI, 99.4% is considered to be ‘unfavourable and declining’ mostly due to sediments, bank poaching and diffuse water pollution. The main river channel currently has ‘poor’ ecological status (and is also predicted to be ‘poor’ status in 2015). 40% of the water bodies in the catchment are at risk of reaching 50 mg/l NO3 (i.e. failing drinking water quality standards for nitrate). (Nitrate in rivers largely comes from runoff from agricultural fertilisers). 27% of the water bodies in the catchment are at risk of failing phosphorus (P) standards. (Phosphorus in rivers can come from runoff from agricultural fertilisers and from household effluent from sewage treatment works and septic tanks).

Why the Wensum?
The catchment area of the river Wensum is presently being monitored as part of the England Catchment Sensitive Farming Delivery Initiative run by Defra, Natural England and the Environment Agency. This is the latest in a series of studies that have developed infrastructure, datasets, knowledge and farming contacts, which this study will be able to build on and develop further.

Wensum DTC Google Earth Project

Welcome to the Wensum DTC Google Earth Project. From here you will be able to take a virtual tour of the Wensum DTC, view the considerable amount of information that has been collected for the catchment, including soil types and land cover, as well as seeing the different types of monitoring and data that is being collected.

Wensum Google Earth Project

First: You will need to have Google Earth Installed on your computer. To download Google Earth [Click here].

Then: Simply click on the image above to launch the viewer.

Instructions: To view the different datasets and layers use the navigation bar on the left of the screen (as shown in the image above). If you don’t see a panel to the left in Google Earth: Go to the menu bar (File, Edit, View, etc.) at the top of the Google Earth window, click on View, and click on Sidebar to turn the panel on. You will find the Wensum Project layers (described below) under the 'Places' section of the navigation bar. Double-click on 'The Wensum DTC in Google Earth' header to reveal all the layers. Click in the square boxes to tick a layer on and off. For example, to remove the 'Welcome' screen un-tick the 'Wensum Welcome Page' box. To explore the catchment, click on your chosen location and use the scroll button on your mouse to zoom in and out (or use the pan and zoom tools shown on the screen). To 'drill down' into each layer, click on the triangle at the side of each tick box (this may be a plus or minus sign in some browsers) to reveal or hide the detail. Click on the various icons to bring up more information, photos or video clips from particular locations. The layers in the lower half of the navigation bar are general information layers provided by Google Earth.

Explanation of layers

If you would like a printable version of these instructions [Click here].

We would be pleased to have your feedback on this project. Please [Contact Us].