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Historic North Walsham spot restored by dedicated volunteers

PUBLISHED: 13:04 08 September 2017 | UPDATED: 13:04 08 September 2017

Ebridge Mill and pond with the canal. Picture: Clive and Shirley James

Ebridge Mill and pond with the canal. Picture: Clive and Shirley James

Clive and Shirley James

An historic landmark which was once the lifeblood of Norfolk industry is being restored thanks to the help of 30 dedicated volunteers from around the country - and beyond.

More than 30 volunteers have been taking 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 and has been closed for nearly 20 years.

The workforce has 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.

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.”

Work on the Royston spillway has so far taken 851 hours, over three months clearing, levelling and bricking the spillway, working at an angle of 45 deg. A paid workforce on a basic wage would have earned about £6,000 in that time.

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.

“I like to be outside doing something practical and as much as anything it’s enjoyable because of the banter with everyone else,” said Bob Crow, from Brightlingsea, who led the camp in its second week.

The WRG workers had attracted a lot of attention from the many dog walkers, canoeists, fishermen and other Canal users.

Mr Crow added: “People kept stopping to say ‘Lovely work. When can you come and do my patio?’”

Visit Ebridge Mill pond on September 9 (11am-5pm) and September 10 (10am-4pm) for the chance to walk over 2.5 miles of canal path, or bring your own canoe and take to the water.

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