The River Mel: Introduction

This series of pages is about the River Mel, which rises in Melbourn, flows through Meldreth and joins the River Rhee near Malton on the way to Orwell, a length of about 3 miles. The Rhee then flows into the Cam, then the Ouse and into the sea at Kings Lynn.

They deal with the significance of the river, and its associated flood plain and drainage systems, to village life. Our earliest reference is to the mills on the river in the Domesday book and then we are lucky to have accounts from the Topcliffe Manorial records in the 14th century of the importance of proper maintenance of the water courses in and around the village. The enclosure records provide some insights into the nature of the watercourses in the mid nineteenth century. We are also fortunate to have detailed records of flooding issues in the mid 20th century and, more recently, captured memories from local residents of their encounters with the river system.

We are particularly fortunate in Meldreth that the River Mel Restoration Group has worked for ten years to improve the quality of the river following a period of dredging and neglect. It is now a popular feature for locals and visitors, who can wander along the footpath and enjoy its changing vistas and rich flora and fauna.

A film was made about the River Mel in 2019 which was screened locally and in Cambridge. The film may be purchased from the project’s website: Waterlightproject.org.uk.

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