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River Wensum


A River That Has Seen It All


The River Wensum, a picturesque waterway nestled in the county of Norfolk, England, offers a captivating blend of serene beauty, rich history, and diverse ecology.


A tributary of the River Yare, it astonishingly surpasses the latter in size.


Marvelously, this river, which has its roots nestled between the quaint villages of Colkirk and Whissonsett, meanders through the fertile farming lands, charming villages, and vibrant city landscapes before finally merging with the River Yare.

Origin and Meaning of the River Wensum


The River Wensum owes its name to the Old English adjective wandsum or wendsum , which signifies "winding".


Aptly named, the river twists and turns through the Norfolk landscapes, creating a picturesque path that's a delight to witness.

People come from all over the world to experience the beauty and diversity that River Wensum offers. Its serene waters provide stunning views of wildlife and natural habitats where people can unwind from their daily stresses or simply connect with nature.

Source and Course of the River Wensum


The river's journey begins from a source located between the villages of Colkirk and Whissonsett in north-west Norfolk.


From its origin, the river flows westward, skirting the villages of South Raynham, West Raynham, and East Raynham.


It is here that the river makes a familiar acquaintance – the historic Raynham Hall, the dwelling of the Marquis Townshend.

Source and Course of the Wensum
Raynham Hall

As the river takes a northern turn, it greets a number of small villages before reaching Sculthorpe.


From here, the river changes its course eastward, coursing through the bustling market town of Fakenham.


It then meanders in a south-easterly direction, passing through the Pensthorpe Nature Reserve and the village of Great Ryburgh.

Pensthorpe Nature Reserve

Geography and Location


River Wensum in Norwich


The City of Norwich owes its establishment to the River Wensum. The river's broad arc around the city offered a natural defensive advantage that early settlers capitalized on.

Geography and Location
City Hall Norwich

Remnants of this historical influence can still be seen in the form of boom towers near Wensum Park and Carrow Hill, which formed part of the city wall.


A large defensive tower, the Cow Tower, stands a testament to the river's role in the city's past.

Cow Tower Norwich

Length, Width, and Depth


The River Wensum stretches for approximately 30 miles from its source to its mouth. It varies in width from a few feet to over 100 yards in certain areas.

The depth of the river can also vary considerably depending on factors such as rainfall levels and tidal patterns. At certain points along its course, River Wensum plunges down steep slopes or cascades over boulders creating small waterfalls that add charm to an already enchanting scene.

In some areas where the river runs slower or more shallowly there are calm pools flanked by reeds or bankside vegetation where fish are known to congregate.


Overall, River Wensum offers a unique blend of natural beauty and man-made structures that combine to create an idyllic setting for tourists seeking adventure or relaxation alike.

Length Width and Depth
Fakenham Water Mill River Wensum

The River Wensum's Ecological Importance


The River Wensum is not just a beautiful water body; it's also an ecological treasure.


The entire river is designated as a Site of Special Scientific Interest and a Special Area of Conservation.


This recognition reflects the river's vital role in supporting a diverse range of flora and fauna, making it a haven for wildlife enthusiasts.

Brown trout are the most commonly caught species in the river and can weigh up to 14 pounds. In addition to being a great spot for fishing, River Wensum serves as an important habitat for these fish species thanks to its clean water and abundance of vegetation.

Other wildlife that call the river home


In addition to its diverse fish population, River Wensum is also home to numerous other species of wildlife. The river's banks are covered with thick vegetation that provides shelter and food for many different animals.


You're likely to spot otters along the riverbanks, as well as kingfishers darting above the water's surface.

River Wensum Norfolk

Human Activities on the River


The River Wensum and Recreation


The lower reaches of the River Wensum are a part of The Broads, an inland waterway network in Norfolk and Suffolk.


This area is a hotspot for recreational activities, providing opportunities for boating, fishing, and wildlife watching.


Norfolk Broads
Activities and Recreation

Angling in the River Wensum


The River Wensum is a paradise for anglers. From the 1940s to the 1970s, the river was renowned for its roach fishery.


Today, the river is home to a variety of fish species, including barbel, which were introduced to the river and have now become established.


For those who enjoy being out on the water, there are plenty of options on River Wensum. The slow-moving current makes it easy for kayakers and canoeists to navigate while enjoying stunning views of both cityscapes and natural landscapes.

Motorized boats such as rowboats or small motorboats can also be rented from various outfitters along the riverbank. Additionally, there are opportunities for stand-up paddleboarding or even wild swimming in some calmer sections of the river.

The River Wensum's Tributaries


The River Wensum is fed by several tributaries, including the River Tat, the River Tud, and the River Ainse. These rivers enrich the Wensum's waters, contributing to its ecological diversity and volume.

Historical Significance of the River Wensum


The River Wensum has played a pivotal role in shaping the history and culture of Norfolk. The city of Norwich was founded as the Saxon settlement of Northwich on gravel terraces above the Wensum.


Today, the river continues to be an integral part of the city's narrative, with landmarks like Carrow Road football ground and Norwich City fc paying homage to it.

The River Wensum's Bridges

The River Wensum is adorned with numerous bridges, each with its own historical tale. Bishops Bridge, one of the five medieval bridges, features a gatehouse on the city side, which was demolished in 1791.


The Novi Sad Friendship Bridge, a cable-stayed swing footbridge, symbolizes the twinning ties between Norwich and Novi Sad in Serbia.

Wensum Bridges

Copyright: © Bob Jones and licenced for reuse under cc-by-sa/2.0

Conservation Efforts for the River Wensum


Despite the River Wensum's ecological importance, its condition had been deteriorating due to issues like water quality, pollution and siltation.


However, concerted efforts have been made in recent years to restore the river to its former glory. The River Wensum Restoration Strategy, a partnership formed between the Environment Agency, Water Management Alliance, and Natural England.


They are working tirelessly to restore the physical functioning of the Wensum.

River Wensum Norfolk



The River Wensum, with its winding course, rich history, and diverse ecology, is more than just a waterway. It's a testament to Norfolk's natural beauty and a reminder of the county's past.


Whether you're an angler, a wildlife enthusiast, a history buff, or a casual visitor, the River Wensum offers a unique experience that's sure to leave a lasting impression. One of Britains Rivers favourites.