Weekend and Boxing Day boat trips are about to get under way on Norfolk’s only sailing canal with locks.
From Sunday (November 26) at 2pm, passengers will be able to take an hour’s gentle cruise along a restored stretch of the North Walsham and Dilham Canal, enjoying a glass of alcohol-free mulled wine en-route.
The trips, on Saturdays and/or Sundays, plus Boxing Day (subject to wind, rain or ice), will run between the millpond at Ebridge and Bacton Wood lock, about a mile each way.
Passengers will travel on a pontoon equipped with an electric outboard motor so that it glides almost silently through the water. It has been fitted with picnic benches and a table and there will be a giant umbrella on board, in case of showers.
Graham Pressman, boating officer with organisers, the North Walsham and Dilham Canal Trust, said there was room on board for 10 passengers.
The crew of two will talk about the canal’s past, present and hoped-for future, and about wildlife on the canal which includes otters, kingfishers, little egrets, grey wagtails, water voles, marsh harriers, dragonflies, deer, and many varieties of fish.
“Passengers will be able to enjoy the short talk, have the pleasure of a boat trip and a glass of mulled wine during a really pleasant hour on the water,” said Graham, who hopes the canal’s many visitors will combine their walks with a cruise.
A round-trip will cost £5 per person and passengers will be able to buy a warming cup of alcohol-free mulled wine and souvenirs. Proceeds will go towards the cost of restoring the second-hand trip boat (Elsa), which the trust was given earlier this year, and for further restoration work on the canal.
Elsa needs repairs to her woodwork and a hole in her hull, grit blasting and painting. Graham said the bill might run to several thousand pounds but, if the money could be raised in time from the pontoon trips and any other sources, he hoped she would be ready by next summer.
A timetable for the pontoon boat trips will be on display on the noticeboard at Ebridge in good time for the first passenger trip. Anyone wishing to climb aboard can turn up at the advertised times, or book by calling Graham on 07585 160 772. Bookings first, then walk-ups, as space is available. More trips might be organised according to demand.
Showcase Gallery has joined forces with the canal trust to offer an ideal Christmas present for those proud of their local heritage.
Anyone taking out membership of the North Walsham and Dilham Canal Trust before Christmas Eve, either for themselves or as a gift, will be entitled to buy this year’s full-colour North Walsham Calendar for the discounted price of £4.50, a saving of £3 (one per household).
Would-be members can join the Trust at the Showcase Gallery, on North Walsham’s Market Place, which has produced and sells the calendars. They feature many local views, including a photo of Ebridge Mill pond on the canal, taken by trust officer Julie Kelleher.
Members can help with the restoration effort in a variety of practical, administrative and social ways. Entry to canal film nights is free and they also receive a quarterly newsletter packed with information. Volunteer work parties are held on two Sundays of each month.
Annual membership costs £10 for an individual or £15 for a family. Anyone interested in joining can also visit the membership section of the trust’s website at www.nwdct.org or write to The North Walsham and Dilham Canal Trust Membership Secretary, 25 Drovers Way, Bishop’s Stortford, Hertforshire, CM23 4GF.