Norfolk’s Forgotten Chalk Stream
A documentary written and filmed by Peter Clitheroe which tells the sad tale of a once beautiful and rare English chalk stream which has been mistreated in recent years leaving it polluted and largely dead.
As a child Peter spent hours sitting behind his grandparents’ house on the bank of the Gaywood River in King’s Lynn staring into the clear water watching the fish.
Revisiting the river a couple of years ago, the state of the river shocked him so much that he began learning about chalk streams and what has happened to the Gaywood. In short, total regulatory failure had allowed scandalous levels of pollution and waste dumping. Through a totally unsuitable dredging programme the stream has, in parts, been transformed into a Fenland-style drainage ditch. The contrast between the river at its source springs and a few miles downstream in King’s Lynn couldn’t be more clear.
There was clearly a story to tell.
Initial research led to contact with Rob Colwell, a local councillor and thus to Russell Biggs, a passionate advocate and campaigner for Norfolk’s chalk streams who happens to have one in his back garden and who was generous enough to enable underwater filming of some beautiful young brown trout in the gin clear water.
Extensive research about the history of the river and about chalk streams in general plus time spent with Russell getting to understand the problems the river faces enabled relatively informed writing and production to proceed through the spring of 2022 and to release of the film in May.
The film got a good response from those who saw it and was a factor in bringing a group of people together to protect and campaign on behalf of the river. They work under the name Gaywood River Revival. (gaywoodriverrevival.org)
Interest from the likes of Feargal Sharkey has spread the word further and the film took off on YouTube a year after its release with around 65,000 views clocked up so far.
Updates have subsequently been released.