North Walsham and Dilham Canal
I guess I visit the North Walsham and Dilham Canal about once a year, paying a watery pilgrimage when I come to visit my mother who lives in North Walsham, just a mile or so from Swafield where the restored navigation will end.
Ebridge Mill with lock and spillway
A year seems to be a good gap to appreciate progress and a cracking article by Martin Ludate in the July 2017 edition of the Eastern Daily Press's magazine "Norfolk" only served to whet my appetite.
Distinctive ground paddle
I started out at Ebridge Mill with its tranquil pool and well preserved lock chamber. When I was at school this was a sea of reeds with the remains of a steam dredger stranded on the mud in the middle. Today it is a glorious spot and the development for 2017 was the restoration of the spillway by a WRG camp. At the time of my visit the canal / river was brimming full and the spillway was in use, bypassing the old lock chamber.
Bacton Wood Lock
A little to the north west you come to Bacton Wood Bridge which is now the home for a slightly primitive trip boat, or should I say raft. I have long felt that the restored length would benefit from a trip boat and I guess you have to make a start somewhere!
Distinctive castings for the North Walsham and Dilham Canal
The restored lock at Bacton Wood stands ready to carry its first boat and it was particularly interested to take a closer look at the "lock furniture" which is all original and recycled. The castings are unique to the North Walsham and Dilham Canal, even bearing the legend G Cubitt, Nth Walsham.
North of Bacton Wood the canal is kind of wet rather than watered but stroll up to the culverted Royston Bridge and you return to a canal full of the wet stuff. The relationship between the restorers and the Environment Agency has been very like the Brexit Negotiations with angst and strong words, but over time they are making progress.
Partially re watered north of Royston Bridge
The Agency were not at all happy about the watering of the section between Bacton Wood and Ebridge and applied a stop order on their work. But over time relations seem to have thawed and there seems to be a cautious acceptance that the watering of the Swafield pound will be a good thing.
From a flood control perspective the big canal channel has to be a better bet than the narrow ditch which represents the current bed of the River Ant. The restorers have both cleared out the reeds and dredged the section north of Royston Bridge to a depth of about 18 inches. Water marks on the banks bear testimony to a full depth trial re watering in Jan 2018 when their integrity was tested. There is evidence of extra material being added to the top of the south bank in recent weeks and hopefully this is a prelude to full and permanent re watering.
Swafield Bridge reach
I have to admit that the restoration team always seem to be blessed with some seriously good kit which is parked here and there along the canal. All in all the volunteer enthusiasm, heavy duty kit and increasingly supportive authorities should see this top couple of miles in water in the very near future.
I will keep you posted...