River Waveney Trust: Canoe Access & Biodiversity Project

The River Waveney Trust’s new project will adopt a community approach to help improve biodiversity, canoe access and water quality on the River Waveney.

Jake Coleman


The River Waveney Trust has recently launched a new project that aims to bring together and engage river users by improving biodiversity, canoe access and water quality.

The project will:

  • Improve paddle access on the River Waveney through actively managing the sections of the river which are obstructed due to natural obstacles, whilst retaining natural woody material in the main river channel to enhance biodiversity and river restoration and improve natural flood management.
  • Create a voluntary 'river wardens' scheme to monitor the river for access and biodiversity while encouraging the community to connect with nature.
  • Carry out regular paddle surveys of the river leading to the identification of project sites for the improvement of water quality and riparian habitats.
  • Build positive relationships and engage with rivers users: paddlers, anglers, farmers, landowners and communities.

The project will take place on the River Waveney, from Scole, Diss, downstream to Geldeston Locks.

Shotford Bridge to Ellingham has an access arrangement for paddling, agreed by all riparian land owners. Ellingham to Geldeston is tidal and is maintained by the Broads Authority. The upper reaches of the river (Scole to Shotford Bridge) are also regularly paddled but do not have an access arrangement. This stretch of the river will be initially surveyed and mapped for habitat work but will not be regularly surveyed by volunteers.

Paddlers enjoying the River Waveney at Scole Pocket Park

So, why are we doing this project?

To manage the River Waveney for paddle access: Some stretches of the river are managed by the Environment Agency (EA) for flood risk, but some of the permitted access length of the river is now unmanaged and there are often obstacles for river users.

This project will carry out a paddle survey of the river and organise volunteer work parties or contractors to remove or re-site obstacles in partnership with riparian land managers. Woody material (fallen trees) will be retained where they do not present a flood risk and often a boat sized passageway is all that will be needed.

To increase diversity in the main river channel: The River Waveney lacks in structural diversity as it has been over-widened and deepened due to people’s needs over the years. It is also a naturally a slow flowing river with very little gradient. This lack of diversity means fewer habitats for fish and invertebrates and the lack of gradient means there is little fast flowing water to clean gravels, which have now become overloaded with sediment from farming activities.

One of the easiest ways to improve structural diversity is to increase the amount of fallen trees or woody material in the river. When trees fall into the river, normally either the entire tree is removed or sometimes it is not removed it at all. Removing the entire tree benefits paddle access but does not increase structural diversity in the river. Leaving the tree in the river can benefit structural diversity, but in some cases can also cause low flow situations to become worse in dry weather when the entire river channel is blocked.

Removing a small boat sized passageway is an innovative approach, and one which has multiple benefits of improving access; increasing structural diversity for biodiversity and river flow; decreasing flood risk downstream and protecting eroded banks.

To engage with local communities on River Restoration: This project will educate and empower communities to understand their river better and manage it for nature restoration and flood mitigation. The recognised ‘Slow the Flow’ message will be used, a slogan coined by a charity working to educate on natural flood management.

To carry out habitat enhancement projects on the river bank: Much of the main River Waveney channel runs through grazing marsh, which can suffer from bankside erosion due to grazing pressures. The Waveney can also suffer from low oxygen levels in the summer months and run-off from farming activities. The establishment of bankside trees and buffers would help to stabilise banks, provide new habitat, provide shade which lowers water temperatures therefore increasing oxygen levels and buffer the river from potentially harmful activities.

This project will use river wardens to survey and identify sites which would benefit from tree planting and the establishment of riparian buffers. It will also look for signs of water voles and suggest projects to help this endangered species.

To create long term volunteering opportunities in rural Suffolk and Norfolk: This project will bring paddlers and conservation into partnership, empowering volunteers to take action for nature. We will provide the opportunities for paddlers to take shared leadership on a long-term ‘river wardens’ voluntary scheme.

To make sure that the river is safe to paddle: Some of the portage points and structures need some research into current safety and access. This project would progress these issues, for example liaising with landowners on safe portage.

To ensure all paddle users are using the river responsibly: The project will educate paddle users on how to paddle responsibly and provide new signage on doing so.

What about the recent flooding on the Waveney?

So why are we recommending leaving fallen trees in a river that recently flooded?

The above image is an example of a site where a tree has fallen naturally into the channel. The increase in the diversity in habitat can be seen. It can also be seen that paddle access is obstructed and where it would be possible to cut a canoe sized channel into the fallen tree by removing obstructing branches.

The answer is that fallen trees can actually slow the flow down and can help with flooding in some situations. Each location will be carefully modelled and if any increase in flooding is suspected then the tree will be fully removed. A specially designed permit will give us permission to manage trees in a way which will not cause an increase in flood risk.

For more information on about the project or how to get involved please contact:

Katie Utting, Rivers Project Officer

[email protected]

07810 214 831

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