A set of model equations is given to describe the gross features of a statistically steady or 'slowly varying' inhomogeneous field of turbulence and the mean velocity distribution. The equations are based on the idea that turbulence can be characterized by 'densities' which obey nonlinear diffusion equations. The diffusion equations contain terms to describe the convection by the mean flow, the amplification due to interaction with a mean velocity gradient, the dissipation due to the interaction of the turbulence with itself, and the diffusion also due to the self interaction. The equations are similar to a set proposed by Kolmogorov (1942). It is assumed that both an 'energy density' and a 'vorticity density' satisfy diffusion equations, and that the self diffusion is described by an eddy viscosity which is a function of the energy and vorticity densities; the eddy viscosity is also assumed to describe the diffusion of mean momentum by the turbulent fluctuations. It is shown that with simple and plausible assumptions about the nature of the interaction terms, the equations form a closed set. The appropriate boundary conditions at a solid wall and a turbulent interface, with and without entrainment, are discussed. It is shown that the dimensionless constants which appear in the equations can all be estimated by general arguments. The equations are then found to predict the von Karman constant in the law of the wall with reasonable accuracy. An analytical solution is given for Couette flow, and the result of a numerical study of plane Poiseuille flow is described. The equations are also applied to free turbulent flows. It is shown that the model equations completely determine the structure of the similarity solutions, with the rate of spread, for instance, determined by the solution of a nonlinear eigenvalue problem. Numerical solutions have been obtained for the two-dimensional wake and jet. The agreement with experiment is good. The solutions have a sharp interface between turbulent and non-turbulent regions and the mean velocity in the turbulent part varies linearly with distance from the interface. The equations are applied qualitatively to the accelerating boundary layer in flow towards a line sink, and the decelerating boundary layer with zero skin friction. In the latter case, the equations predict that the mean velocity should vary near the wall like the 5/3 power of the distance. It is shown that viscosity can be incorporated formally into the model equations and that a structure can be given to the interface between turbulent and non-turbulent parts of the flow.