Rivers Have Rights

The River Wensum is special. It is the largest chalk-fed river in Norfolk and is designated as a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) and a Special Area of Conservation (SAC). But right now it has a fight on its hands to protect itself from permanent damage: the proposed completion of the Western Link of a ring road around Norwich threatens centuries old forests and the habitats of endangered animals. Its rights (both natural and those laid down in law) are in severe danger of being abused and exploited for the sake of politics and profit. In April 2022, as part of a campaign against the building of the ‘Norwich Western Link’ across the Wensum valley, a Celebration of the Declaration of the Rights of the River Wensum, organised by Stop The Wensum Link, took place. This was an amazing afternoon when many people gathered in Wensum Park, Norwich to join in recognising that this beautiful river is essential to all life and needs protecting. Norfolk storyteller and writer Hugh Lupton declared the Rights of the River Wensum and he was joined by speakers including Tor Falcon, Dr Charlie Gardner, Lucy Galvin, Jonah Tosney and keynote speaker Nick Acheson. Supporting stalls, food, workshops and performance were complemented by music from The John Preston Tribute Band, The John Ward Trio and The Rabbitts. A few months on, as 2023 commences, an organised collective of environmental organisations continues to oppose the Norwich Western Link. These include Stop The Wensum Link, Norfolk Wildlife Trust, CPRE, Friends of the Earth, the Woodland Trust, Norfolk Rivers Trust and Norfolk and Norwich Naturalists’ Society. Arguing that key populations of endangered species, including a supercolony of barbastelle bats, are in severe danger, they are working to raise grave concerns with Norfolk County Council over the new road. Surely the rights of the river, and the habitats and wildlife it supports, must and will triumph.

This photo essay was published as NotQuiteFree Press Issue #3 in January 2023.
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