River Wensum

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The River Wensum is a river in Norfolk, England and a tributary of the River Yare despite being the larger of the two rivers. The complete river is a designated Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) and Special Area of Conservation (SAC).[1]



The river receives its name from the Old English adjective wandsum, wendsum meaning winding.[2]


The source of the Wensum lies between the villages of Colkirk and Whissonsett in Norfolk. The river flows westward initially close to the villages of South Raynham, West Raynham and East Raynham passing close to Raynham Hall, home of the Marquis Townshend. The river then turns and follows a path to the north flowing through a number of small villages until it reaches Sculthorpe. The river then turns and flows to the east through the market town of Fakenham. The river then flows in a south easterly direction passing through the Pensthorpe Nature Reserve and the village of Great Ryburgh.

The river continues onwards through or close to the villages of Guist, North Elmham, Worthing, Swanton Morley, Lyng, Lenwade and Taverham before entering the City of Norwich from the north via Drayton, Costessey and Hellesdon. The river is free fishing where accessible throughout the City. At New Mills Yard, a former waterworks, the river becomes tidal and navigable by boat. Flowing through the city, the river forms a broad arc which would have influenced the site of the settlement for defensive reasons;[citation needed] remnants of boom towers can be seen near Wensum Park and Carrow Hill which formed part of the city wall, a large defensive tower can be seen on the bank near Barrack Street, called Cow Tower This dates to the 12th century and was also used for collecting tolls. [3] The river's historical use as a means of transport for goods and trade from the continent is still visible; mills, quays and industrial remnants can be found near the station and along King Street, and a slipway at Pulls Ferry marks the start of a canal originally used to transport stone from Caen in Normandy, in the 13th Century, to build Norwich Cathedral. This site was also a public house and used as a River Ferry until the 1950s.

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