NACA evolved from the Wensum Action Group

Fighting Back

History of NACA - Fighting back

The catalyst came in 1985. The future of Norfolk's River Wensum between Taverham and Norwich was put at risk. At that time all of Norwich city's potable water supply came from abstracting the Wensum on the outskirts of the city. In response to Government directives to find an alternative standby source of water, Anglian Water Authority (AWA) sunk new boreholes in the waterworks area to tap into the groundwater. Soon this supply was finding its way into our homes, but instead of the clean drinking water its customer’s pay for, they were treated to a disgusting supply of chemical cocktail.
The sitiation resulted in environmentalist and anglers uniting to form the Wensum Action Group

AWA of course were quick to their defences, blaming the problem on rotting leaves. The truth it seemed was far more unsavoury. Only a stone's throw away from the waterworks a large chemical manufacturing company had for many years been sending all manner of noxious substances down the drains to the AWA sewage treatment works. The corrosive effect of this effluent on these drains must have been substantial as it was only a matter of time before it found it's way into the groundwater, and subsequently into the public water supply.

The ensuing scandal became publicized in the national media and AWA responded by proposing to construct a new abstraction plant on the Wensum at Costessey, several miles upstream of the contaminated area. From here they would pipe the water to Norwich, thus threatening Norfolk's finest river fishery with greatly diminished flows and siltation of the riverbed. This fishery was nationally renowned for its specimen chub and barbel, the later of which were in fact, the only barbel stocks in the whole of Norfolk and Suffolk at that time.

In response, perhaps for the first time ever, conservationists and anglers joined forces and the Save The Wensum Action Group was formed to oppose the pipeline and demand that the polluter should pay to clean up the contaminated area and it's groundwater. For several months a vigorous battle ensued which elevated anglers in Norfolk into a strong campaigning force for conservation. Nevertheless, in the end SWAG failed to achieve it's objectives. The pipeline was eventually constructed and, as predicted, the river suffered the consequences of such massive abstraction. No one should underestimate how hard the anglers fought in that campaign, and although ultimately the battle was lost, they achieved a unity of purpose rarely found in angling.

At that time, David Batten and Chris Turnbull were regional organizers of the Pike Anglers Club in Norwich, which had been a major force in SWAG. As SWAG slowly waned, they agreed that the spirit kindled within the organization should not be lost to the county. A meeting was called and they sent invitations to several influential local anglers. That night, over several pints in "The Bridge" public house on the banks of the Wensum, the Norfolk Anglers Conservation Association (NACA) was born.

Soon after, its objectives were set out in its constitution.

To campaign for and promote a clean and healthy aquatic environment in which all forms of wildlife can thrive and prosper.

To unite the various branches of angling and present to the public the true image of anglers as caring conservationists.

To take whatever action is necessary to safeguard and promote angling in Norfolk.

In its formative years the NACA committee consisted of so many well known anglers that it was like a "Who's Who" of angling, which undoubtedly helped get things moving by promoting the association's image and attracting media attention. Time was spent in meetings with other organizations such as the Norfolk Wildlife Trust, Friends of the Earth, English Nature, the AWA and the Broads Authority getting to know their officers, identify common ground, confronting issues and where necessary putting on pressure.

As a media based pressure group, the association was getting a lot of coverage and airing its concerns in the newspapers, on radio and TV. On a practical level, however, other than organizing a few litter clearing operations, it was a year or two before it was able to make any real progress in undertaking any serious conservation projects.