Friday 17 June 2011

Weasel - all is revealed

Weasel - the Ebridged answer

Weasel lies beached on the mud at Ebridge Mill in Norfolk, near the top of the North Walsham and Dilham Canal.

Ebridge Mill with Weasel in the foreground

The  North Walsham and Dilham Canal is only a few miles from my mothers home, so I like to keep an eye on the restoration progress from time to time when I visit. 

Ebridge Mill with new Millpond

The restoration team are a busy bunch, advertising working parties every other weekend right through to Christmas, so I was intrigued to see what they had achieved in the last year. My last visit coincided with a working party at Ebridge Mill and the bemused volunteers were clearly asking "who's the bloke with the camera"? Well this time there was no one on sight but there was plenty of evidence that they had been there.

Ebridge Lock

The old millpool which was once choked with reeds has been emptied and the silt scraped out to form a temporary bund in front the the abandoned mill. The impact is immense and it is a huge visible statement to the local population that the restoration team mean business. So far I havn't heard a bad word said against their efforts - everyone is delighted to see the mill pool and canal clear (if somewhat empty at the present time).

Ebridge's leaky coffer dam

The team are working with an old BW dredger Teasel and a shore based JCB and the plan is to work on up the canal for the next couple of miles, past the Bacton Wood Lock which they are currently restoring as a phase 1 of their project - Swafield Road Bridge to Ebridge. The problem is that the canal has been left at such a low level for decades the sides now leak, as do the old barricaded top lock gates at Ebridge which makes it very difficult to raise a full head of water and offer the dredger the 3ft of water it needs. That said, I suspect that Weasel is the first powered craft ever to navigate this pound in the history of the canal.

(Update 4.9.11 - an incorrect assumption I later discovered that the wherries that traded to Bacton Wood Lock were motorised, including the last one in the 1930's. Also, the dredger that belonged to the Canal company had a parifin engine - so the Weasel is not the first motorised boat on the NW&DC - thanks for the  correction Ivan)

Working ground paddle at Ebridge Mill

The group have plans to rebuild the lock walls at Ebridge and then re-instate the gates. Its quite an  ambitious plan but the group now own the upper half of the canal and have agreement to reinstate the bottom half. There are no meaningful obstructions on the route so really its just a case of hard work dredging out all the silt, repairing some locks walls and getting new gates built. As I looked out at all the spoil movements at Ebridge I could sense the fun which has been had by the team.

Full restoration is no small task but at the rate they are going this project could see boat movements in the 2020's.


Halfie said...

Yes, perhaps I should have been able to guess, Andy. But it's been a while since I visited the NW&D Canal. Excellent post.

Andy Tidy said...

I thought you would like it!