Anglers will reel in the benefits of improved river access

Chris HillA picturesque stretch of the River Wensum has been made more accessible to anglers after a completed environmental project was formally unveiled yesterday.Chris Hill

A picturesque stretch of the River Wensum has been made more accessible to anglers after a completed environmental project was formally unveiled yesterday.

The riverbanks at Burgh Common in Swanton Morley, near Dereham, had previously been unreachable from the road until the project was completed to build six new fishing platforms.

Three of the platforms are connected by a boardwalk, made from sturdy recycled plastic, which was built and funded by the Environment Agency (EA) at a cost of �30,000 to ensure access for wheelchair users.

Habitat enhancements within the river included raising the river bed with a series of gravel glides and riffles to improve spawning habitat for fish such as chub, brown trout and dace.

As common land, owned by Swanton Morley Parish Council, the area is one of the few parts of the Wensum which are not in private ownership, and anyone with a rod licence will be allowed to fish there for free.

The completed project has been developed in partnership with the parish council, which will manage the new fishing berths for the benefit of local people.

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Council chairman Roger Atterwill said: 'Swanton Morley is blessed with many natural beauty spots and we are pleased that the EA has chosen to invest in one of them.

'Burgh Common is a quiet corner of the parish where local people can come to enjoy the tranquility of the river. We wanted to make this part of the river accessible for local people, whether they are anglers or not.'

From its original concept, the scheme has taken about three years to complete through from its design phase, through a lengthy planning approval process and finally the construction.

The improvements are the culmination of a wider project as part of the EA's River Wensum Restoration Strategy to improve habitats and angling on this stretch of water.

Dr Rob Dryden, the EA's technical specialist for fisheries, recreation and biodiversity, said: 'We are delighted to be working with Swanton Morley Parish Council to improve angling along this part of the Wensum.

'Poor access to the river is one of the issues highlighted by the Wensum Fisheries Action Plan Group and this project represents a significant step in redressing the situation.

'There are very few parts of the river which are accessible - there is a section at Drayton and one at Fakenham, but apart from that there is very little.

'Apart from the angling aspects we recognised that access to the river is very important, and the opportunities for it along the river are quite limited. This was an opportunity we didn't want to miss.'

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