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‘Norfolk’s industrial archaeological gem is coming back to life’ - canal trust chairman

A boat on the canal with a walker: Picture: Julie Kelleher

A boat on the canal with a walker: Picture: Julie Kelleher

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An important but little-known part of Norfolk’s heritage will take centre stage during a weekend aimed at encouraging people to enjoy a restored attraction.

Everyone is invited to Ebridge Mill Pond, part of the North Walsham and Dilham Canal, to take part in a range of activities and to find out more about successful restoration work on the waterway.

The North Walsham and Dilham Canal Trust, which is organising the open days, also hopes visitors will sign a petition supporting future improvement work on the canal.

Event highlights will include model boats in action on the pond, walks beside the restored canal, displays of objects found during restoration work, including coins, bottles and clay pipes, and vintage tractors.

The waterway, nearly nine miles long, is Norfolk’s only sailing canal with locks and was opened in 1826. It runs from Antingham, near North Walsham, to Wayford Bridge, near Stalham.

Wherries would sail its length transporting cargo to and from the mills and communities along its route.

Ivan Cane, the trust’s interim chairman, said: “The restoration of a canal is not just for boaters. A restored canal corridor, as seen on the Ebridge reach, becomes a community asset, and a tourist attraction.

“The permissive paths, running alongside this stretch of water, are giving people the chance to relax, walk, picnic, pond dip, watch wildlife, fish or just watch the passing canoeists or sail boats. Norfolk’s industrial archaeological gem is coming back to life.”

The canal’s decline began with the arrival of the railway. It was last sailed by a wherry in 1934 and over the following decades became choked with vegetation.

Many stretches were completely dry and its infrastructure of locks and bridges was crumbling by 2001 when volunteers from the East Anglian Waterways Association (EAWA) launched what have become regular working parties to rescue the canal.

The EAWA’s success led to the formation of the Canal Trust in 2008. Work carried out by supporters means that a two-and-a-half mile stretch of the canal, from Ebridge Mill Pond to Swafield Bridge, is in use once more.

The open days are on Saturday, June 3 (11am-5pm) and Sunday, June 4 (10am-4pm).

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