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All aboard for canal trips

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.

 

 

 

Special open days to show off canal work

Canal fans from across Britain, and further afield, gave up their summer holidays to help restore part of Norfolk’s heritage.
More than 30 volunteers took part in a Waterways Recovery Group (WRG) camp on part of the unique North Walsham and Dilham Canal. The waterway is Norfolk’s only sailing canal with locks.
The workforce spent two weeks rebuilding the derelict spillway – or overflow – at Ebridge, just above the dilapidated lock.
Once finished, the restored spillway will make it easier to control water levels along the 19th-century waterway, which fell into disrepair after the last wherry sailed it in 1934.
The work at Ebridge, coupled with the newly-restored spillway 1.29 miles away at Royston and the almost-complete restoration of the lock at Bacton Wood Mill, means that it will soon be possible to water a dry section of the Canal, between Pigney’s Wood and Spa Common.
The added section will mean that a 3.7km (2.3 mile) stretch of the canal, originally nearly nine miles long, will have been re-opened, thanks to supporters and canal owners, over the past 17 years.
Work on the Royston spillway was carried out by volunteer work parties organised by the North Walsham and Dilham Canal Trust. They spent 851 hours over three months clearing, levelling and bricking the spillway, working at an angle of 45 degrees. A paid workforce on a basic wage would have earned about £6,000 in that time.
Bob Crow, who led the second week, said they would complete about 60% of the work needed to finish the Ebridge spillway.
Among the volunteers was Evelyne Laveaux who had travelled from her home in north-east France to help.
“I am very much interested in conservation and restoration and I am a teacher of English in France so this allows me to combine both interests, and practise my English,” she said.
“It’s varied work and it’s an opportunity to learn things I didn’t know, like bricklaying.”
The group stayed in North Walsham Scout Hut during their camp and fitted in trips to Norwich and Cromer.
Other volunteers, who included young people completing their Duke of Edinburgh Gold awards, came from places including Cardiff, Lichfield, London, Sheffield and Lancaster.
Bob, from Brightlingsea, said they had spent the first part of the camp ripping out concrete and bricks placed over the spillway as part of Second World War defences.
The hardest job had been rolling the ground to compact it, working on a 30 degree incline. They had then reinstated the crest wall at the top of the structure and had finally worked on brick-facing the weir slope.
The WRG workers attracted a lot of attention from the many dog walkers, canoeists, fishermen and other canal users. Bob added: “People kept stopping to say ‘Lovely work. When can you come and do my patio?’”
There will be a chance to learn all about the canal and its restoration on September 9 (11am-5pm) and September 10 (10am-4pm) when the trust takes part in the national Heritage Open Days.
Visit Ebridge Mill pond (NR28 9NG for satnav users) for the chance to walk the 2.5 miles of canal path, or bring a canoe and take to the water. The trust will be offering trips on a work boat and volunteers will be on hand to talk about the work parties.
Wildlife officer Perry Hampson will have photographs on display and be there to talk about the wealth of flora and fauna found on the canal. There will be heritage photos and a display of finds, as well as an information
and membership tent, refreshments, a tombola and bric-a-brac stall.

Ebridge spillway before restoration.

The work in progress over the summer