The River Glaven flows just 17 km, through one of the most beautiful valleys in England.
Rising from tiny headwaters in lower Bodham/ Baconsthorpe the main river begins just below Selbrigg Pond where three streams combine at the outfall. Thereafter it descends wooded hills of glacial debris and passes through lush countryside and picturesque flint villages, before meeting the sea behind the famous shingle spit at Blakeney point.
The river has a catchment area of approximately 115 km2 and falls 50 m from its source to the present tidal limit at Cley sluice. Sub-surface geology is predominately chalk and in parts of the lower valley the river flows over a chalk bed.
Land-use adjoining the river consists of a mix of arable land and coniferous plantations in the upper reaches above Edgefield, grazing meadows in the middle reaches and low-lying former washlands below Glandford mill.
There are two major Glaven tributaries, the Stody Beck which joins the river above Hunworth mill (TG 066 356) and the Thornage Beck which joins close to the unbridged ford on the Thornage to Hunworth road (TG 062 363).
The natural gradient of the river is interrupted by five mills (Hempstead, Hunworth, Thornage, Letheringsett and Glandford), but only Letheringsett corn mill, is currently working (the only working mill in Norfolk).
There are three ‘on-stream’ lakes associated with the main channel, these being Hawksmere (Hempstead mill pond), Edgefield Hall Lake and Bayfield Hall Lake.
The long, thin lake at Bayfield Hall in many ways epitomises the beauty of the lower Glaven valley. It was dug in the late eighteenth century for ornamental purposes. In the late nineteenth century an ‘extravaganza’ tunnel was built into the valley side so that the Glaven could be partly diverted around the lake. This tunnel remains operational today. Together the mills and on-stream lakes give the river a ‘stepped’ profile with, slower flowing ‘ponded’ sections upstream of these structures.
The scenic value of the Glaven valley is hugely important to the tourist industry on which North Norfolk is currently thriving, and as such its wider economic value is being/and will be, increasingly recognised.