The historic significance of Ketteringham’s Fishery, is such that it has maintained interest among the angling fraternity for some five decades. Featuring in several books by respected angling authors including Tony Miles, Trefor West, John Wilson, John Bailey, Dave Plummer, Steve Harper, Chris Turnbull and others, these Costessey and Drayton stretches account for many tales of piscatorial success. For two decades, the fishery was a veritable Mecca, especially for barbel fishermen, with anglers coming from all over the country to sample or indeed plunder its rich treasures.
The effects of earlier dredging and an increasing amount of agricultural abstraction were seriously undermining the rivers ability to provide its inhabitants with any amount of suitable habitat in which to spawn. The problem of the inability for several of the species to be able to sustain their populations, was compounded by the installation of a massive abstraction pipeline, to provide Norwich with water, positioned immediately upstream of the fishery. This then reduced the flow rate to a comparative trickle and the consequent deposition of silt and sand sediment, effectively ‘ponded’ the entire stretch.
Although big fish were still being caught, up to the turn of the century, the gradual decline in flow/habitat meant that there were very few, if any, juvenile fish ‘coming through’ to replace these.
All the efforts of the ‘Save the Wensum Action Group’ were unfortunately destined to have been in vain, though from some of those involved, the Norfolk Anglers’ Conservation Association was formed.
After its experiences of the pioneering habitat restoration scheme further upstream at Lyng’s Sayer’s Meadow, the NACA in partnership with the landowners, Environment Agency, English Nature, the Countryside Agency and others embarked on a large scale scheme to restore, or at least largely improve the riverine habitat at Costessey. In simplistic terms these works would be targeted at attempting to provide desirable habitat for several indigenous endangered species, in particular water vole, brook lamprey, bullhead, otter, white clawed crayfish and water crowfoot. In addition they would also largely benefit other fish species such as barbel, chub, brown trout, dace and roach.
Find out more about the Costessey Point Project, click here
The completion of the Costessey Point Project and the subsequent hopes of rejuvenated habitat providing suitable spawning grounds for a variety of fish species, were unfortunately marred by the addition of a ‘boat channel’ being cut into the newly constructed riffle structures. For several years, this channel severely restricted water flow over the riffles and considerably decreased their effectiveness. During the summer drought of 2006, two of the riffles actually stood proud of the water level and the ‘boat channel’ increased its depth from 1m to nearly 3m in places.
The River Restoration Centre surveyed the project and concluded that because of the impact of the boat channels and the length of these features, they could not be termed riffles, or glides.
After lengthy discussions with the Environment Agency and Natural England, or English Nature, to use its former moniker, it was finally decided that the ‘filling in’ of the boat channels and the lengthening of two of the ‘riffles’ was the obvious way forward to give the project the chance of success that it so rightly deserved. This was in terms of the project as a whole and also the, as yet, unexploited fish recruitment potential that the restored riffles could provide, as was one of the projects’ original goals.
The riffle remediation works were undertaken in the spring of 2008 and to bolster or kick start the process of maintaining the fishery from a socio-economic angle, a stocking of 250 two year barbel was granted and is scheduled to take place during the spring of 2010. So as not to confuse or impede in any way, the EA’s monitoring of stocks of barbel already present in the stretch/es, it was agreed that the new stock fish would be dye-marked, which would make future identification conclusive by EA monitoring efforts and also by catch reports, with the co-operation of our members.
Due to the riffle remediation work being completed in early May last year, there was no need to jet the gravels on the riffles, as they hadn’t had a chance to get clogged up with silt, sand and sediment.
There is, however, an ongoing need to undertake this practice on at least an annual basis, at the moment. The gravels throughout the Wensum easily become compacted in time and a chemical reaction within the substrate results in a concreted effect, which is obviously going to prevent the barbel cutting redds in which to spawn. The EA have been undertaking this work at several locations up and down the river for a few years now, to increase the chances of successful fry recruitment. It is possible that in the near future we will be able to work alongside the EA fisheries team and with our own equipment, increase the size and depth of the targeted areas.
In effect The Costessey Point Project has realistically had a delayed completion time, because of the problems outlined above, but already there is evidence that several of the targeted species, have made some recovery in the area. Most notably bullhead, otter and water crowfoot are now relatively prevalent and brook lamprey, water vole and dace are showing signs of making some ‘comeback’.
Towards the end of last season, two barbel of 2 ½ lbs and 2 lbs were caught on trotted baits. These are ‘home grown’ Wensum barbel (and almost certainly Costessey barbel, at that) and although it’s difficult to assess the amount coming through, it’s great news, as I’m sure you’ll agree.
The fishery now boasts a team of dedicated volunteers, overseeing progress and contributing to the improvement and management of the area. This is generally made up of fishery members with little or no experience of fishery management and/or habitat restoration/enhancement work that are actively encouraged to get involved.
A programme has been set up to observe, record and manage our ‘mink problem’ at the fishery. With guidance and materials provided by Paul Gambling (an expert on all things water vole). Paul has lectured and given demonstrations to some of our members and bailiffing staff and our programme includes collating and sharing information with Paul, as part of his wider study of the Wensum Valley.
Another programme has been set up to maintain and improve riparian vegetation at the site and again involves several members, a representative from the EA and professional experts in the field of horticulture.
We’ve been producing an annual newsletter for our members, for some years now and you can find out more about this elsewhere on the site.
Ketteringham’s Fishery has been represented on the Wensum Fishery Action Plan (WFAP) since the plans’ inception in 2003.
The Wildlife and Countryside Act awarded the Wensum the status of ‘Site of Special Scientific Interest’ (S.S.S.I.). The river has since been given European designation as a Special Area of Conservation (S.A.C.), as part of the European Water Framework Directive.
Both the NACA and Ketteringham’s Fishery have worked hard on developing their respective relationships with the Environment Agency and Natural England over the past years and believe that continued co-operation and consultation will be of benefit to all parties concerned.
Ketteringham’s Fishery and the NACA, in partnership with the EA and Natural England (NE) are ongoing in their commitment to the ‘River Wensum Restoration Strategy’. Funded by NE, this outlines recommendations for future enhancements and restoration measures for the catchment, with the overall aim of restoring the river to a form and function more characteristic of a Norfolk chalk stream. This includes a plan to ultimately take out all the sluice structures and make the whole river migratory, again. Whether this will be feasible in its entirety is, as yet, unclear, however major works on the river will be taking place in the not too distant future.
Feasibility and design studies have already been undertaken over the last two years, at our Drayton Low Road stretch. Funded by the Environment Agency, outside contractors have been utilised to assess and draw up plans for the improvement of the river, to a series of glides and pools.
These works should significantly improve the riverine habitat at the Drayton Low Road stretch and will also benefit the Costessey stretch and indeed the river above and below, by increasing the length of continuous restored river.
Exciting times ahead, for the next few years and by working together, we believe that we can more than equal, in fact far surpass the fishery’s past heydays and look forward to some genuinely fantastic fishing in the seasons to come.
NACA Ketteringham’s Fishery
Ketteringham's Fishery Incorporates the Costessey Point Project and Drayton Low Road Marshes