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Swanton Novers: Improving the Headwaters of the River Stiffkey

Swanton Novers: Improving the Headwaters of the River Stiffkey

Restoring the natural river system and floodplain on a section of the river Stiffkey to improve water quality and habitat diversity.

The Challenge

The Stiffkey is a chalk stream of around 29 km, flowing from natural springs in North Norfolk and out to sea at Blakeney Harbour. This project focused on a 700m section of the Stiffkey passing through Swanton Novers.

The overly straight and deepened channel at this site ran through a dry floodplain meadow. This provided poor habitat for wildlife and contributed to water quality issues further downstream.

The Impact

Work involved designing a shallow, meandering channel that closely resembles the Stiffkey’s historic course and characteristics of a chalk stream. This will restore the natural river system, creating areas of fast and slower flow, and will also reconnect the channel to its floodplain, thereby enhancing water quality and improving flood resilience for the local area.

Once the site has established, the outcome of this project will be a picturesque babbling river running alongside a footpath. The restoration will create habitat for a greater variety of plant and animal species including invertebrates and fish – within several weeks a brown trout had been spotted visiting the new channel!


This work was funded by Anglian Water and was delivered by Norfolk Rivers Trust in collaboration with local landowners and Aquamaintain Ltd.


Post-work. Image credit: Josh Jaggard.

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