New pontoons improve River Wensum access for paddle sports

Until recently, the river sluice at New Mills in Norwich was the final destination for canoes, kayaks and SUPs (Stand Up Paddle Boards).

Now paddle craft can continue on to Hellesdon upstream or downstream towards the River Yare, thanks to a new pontoon and canoe portage installed by the Broads Authority in partnership with Norwich City Council. The Victorian pump house and sluice gates at New Mills sit on the New Mills Bridge over the Wensum and date back to 1897, constructed for the (then) new Norwich sewage system.


The sluice, part of this impressive example of Victorian architecture, is still used to manage water levels upstream of the structure. With no easy way around the sluice, it was the end point for most canoe, kayak and SUP trips. Although there were a set of concrete steps on the downstream side of the river, they were usually underwater and not accessible.

The Broads Authority, working with the River Wensum Strategy Partnership, identified the need to create river access around the pump house by providing an upgraded canoe portage upstream and install a pontoon for canoes downstream (see attached map for exact location). The work, which was completed in October 2020, allows paddle craft users to safely remove their craft from the river and re-enter either side of the sluice.

Broads Authority Waterways and Recreation Officer, Lewis Treloar said of the new canoe portages, “I’m really pleased that this partnership project has come to fruition to allow paddle craft users to continue their journey safely upstream or downstream of New Mills sluice.

“The collaborative work of the River Wensum Strategy Partnership, Norwich City Council and the Broads Authority has really paid off.”

Lewis’ advice for paddlers using the area is to, “always wear a life jacket and remain vigilant of the fast-flowing water around the sluice”.

Councillor Mike Stonard, chair of the River Wensum Strategy Partnership, said: “This is another example of the success collaborative working can lead to.

“This will drastically improve usability for canoeists and kayakers, hopefully encouraging more people to get involved and make fuller use of the river.

“The partnership will continue to deliver further improvements over the coming months and years.”

Other river users who will benefit from the upgraded canoe portages include the Eagle Canoe Club at Anderson’s Meadow.

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