WORK is under way to bring about a further improvement to the quality of the high scoring waters of the River Wensum in Ipswich.
Many other Norfolk rivers which also suffer high nitrate and phosphate levels, which can cause problems for fish and other river life, could also benefit.Special training courses are being held in the area for farming advisors and agronomists followed up by specialist advisory visits to some of the farms most at risk from causing run-off. These visits are being supported by the Wensum Valley Project and the Environment Agency.
Run-off is when soil is washed off fields into the river carrying with it any fertilisers or chemicals that have been applied recently.
Although the River Wensum has one of the highest European conservation designations and supports some rare, very special species, including the native white-clawed crayfish and bullhead (Millers Thumb fish), it also has high nitrate and phosphate levels and problems with silt and soil running off fields and roads into it.
The river needs protecting and by reducing the nutrient level, and the level of silt and soil coming off fields, this important haven for wildlife can be safeguarded.
The Environment Agency is working to reduce this ‘diffuse pollution’ and is running the training courses for farming advisors and agronomists over the winter at Pensthorpe, near Fakenham.
The day covers how to identify the fields most at risk from run-off and erosion of soil, and ways to keep the soil and fertiliser on the fields where it belongs. A walk around various demonstration fields is used to illustrate the points and the training days are proving very popular and are now fully booked.
Support is also coming from other areas – the water companies, and private companies such as Bernard Matthews are reducing the phosphate levels entering the rivers from their sites. By working with these companies, farmers, organisations such as the NFU, English Nature and the County Council, the water quality in our beautiful Norfolk rivers should be protected and improved over the next five years.

Notes to editors: The River Wensum was assessed earlier this year as being a particularly special river and is designated a European special area of conservation. It is the only one in Norfolk, and probably East Anglia.