Wednesday, 14 November 2012

North Walsham and Dilham Canal update

North Walsham and Dilham Canal
Restoration Update
November 2012

I have been keeping an eye on the activity on the northern reaches of the North Walsham and Dilham Canal. 

Bacton Wood Lock

This obscure waterway is Norfolk's only real canal, a waterway which has been out of action 
since the 1930's. The channel lay dormant for decades and by the time I was at school in the area in the 1970's only a very adventurous canoeist could force a passage east from Ebridge Mill.

Austin Bridge Wharf

And so it remained till a couple of years ago when the upper two miles were bought by the new owner of Bacton Wood Mill who has a passion to see the canal back in water, and running through his watermill. This is a man with a mission and some resources to back it up.

Piling the banks

In my last update I reported on his rewatering of the pound between Ebridge Lock and the newly rebuilt Bacton Wood Lock, and the Environment Agency's machinations which led to a stop order when some leaks occurred and the surrounding water meadow was flooded. 

I am glad to say that the pound watered on the spring of 2012 is still very much full, and the bare earth banks have now been colonised by grass and reeds, softening the image and making it very attractive. Undaunted by the EA, the owner and team of amateur restorers have moved on the the next pound up and the channel from Bacton Wood to Austin Bridge has been cleared, the bank repaired and the whole area made ready for water.

Culvert on the site of Austin Bridge

Austin Bridge is an obstacle, with the original brick structure replaced by a lower culvert to allow the lorries from the Bacton Gas Terminal to cross in the 1970's. The resulting drainage tunnel is too small for anything other than a canoe but I guess they have this in hand.

The next work zone, west of Austin Bridge

These guys are working with some serious kit, real big boys toys - better stuff than many larger canal restoration societies. If this restoration was on the connected system we would all be wetting ourselves with excitement - two miles of restored canal on tap within 12 months and then just another three to the east to connect it to the navigable broads. 

If this link is opened it has to be a candidate for a trailboat festival. 

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