Survey bid to show who is using the North Walsham and Dilham Canal

PUBLISHED: 11:38 04 September 2014 | UPDATED: 11:38 04 September 2014

The swans' nest on the North Walsham and Dilham Canal, near Ebridge Mill pond. Picture: ALAN BERTRAM

The swans' nest on the North Walsham and Dilham Canal, near Ebridge Mill pond. Picture: ALAN BERTRAM


Visitors to a stretch of Norfolk’s only canal may notice people with clipboards over the coming days.

Have you ever been ‘gongoozling’?

A “gongoozler” is someone who stands watching a canal.

In Bradshaw’s 1928 Canals and Navigable Rivers of England and Wales a gongoozler is described as: “an idle and inquisitive person who stands staring for prolonged periods at anything out of the common. This word is believed to have its origin in the Lake District of England.”

But Ivan Cane, archivist with the North Walsham and Dilham Canal Trust, said he had always associated it with people watching, inquisitively, boats going through locks.

According to Wikipedia, the term may be a combination of the Lincolnshire dialect words “gawn” and “goozle”, meaning to stare or gape.

The North Walsham and Dilham Canal Trust is conducting a user survey and will have volunteers recording the number of visitors to Ebridge Mill pond, outside North Walsham.

The results will form part of a presentation on the canal to North Norfolk District Council this month by the trust’s archivist, Ivan Cane.

Mr Cane told the trust’s recent annual meeting that visitors’ uses of the canal would be recorded, including walking, boating, fishing and “gongoozling” - idly watching.

The trust was formed in 2008 and now has 189 members. It aims to restore the structures and waterway of about 7.5 miles of the almost nine-mile canal which ran from near Wayford Bridge, to Antingham ponds.

The swans and their five cygnets on the North Walsham and Dilham Canal near Ebridge Mill pond. Photo: ALAN BERTRAMThe swans and their five cygnets on the North Walsham and Dilham Canal near Ebridge Mill pond. Photo: ALAN BERTRAM

It also wants to open up stretches for use by the public and a petition supporting its aims has now been signed by more than 2,000 people.

The annual meeting heard that swans were nesting near Ebridge Mill pond for the first time in some 30 years. The waterway had become almost dry until it was cleared several years ago.

Trust wildlife officer Brian Wexler reported that a pair had raised five cygnets and that other species recorded in the area included buzzards, reed and sedge warblers, wagtails, kingfisher, dragonflies and damselflies. Fish included a 6lb pike, a 1lb rudd, roach, and possibly tench.

David Revill, who organises volunteer canal work parties, told the annual meeting that their work had been curtailed, but not stopped, following a “Stop” order issued by the Environment Agency banning Laurie Ashton, of the Old Canal Company, from dredging the canal.

Gongoozlers at Briggate Lock. Picture: courtesy IVAN CANEGongoozlers at Briggate Lock. Picture: courtesy IVAN CANE

Mr Ashton, who owns the stretch which includes Ebridge Mill pond, unsuccessfully appealed against the order in 2012. He and his trust supporters maintain that he was de-silting the water, not dredging, and that their work had revitalised the waterway, attracting more wildlife.

But opponents, including some local landowners and conservationists, believe the clearance was too radical and harmed existing flora and fauna.

The six-lock canal opened in 1826 for wherries to transport cargo. The last wherry sailed the waterway in 1934, after which the canal fell into disrepair.


  • I've spent many a pleasant evening on the canal this year, gently floating down the canal in a canoe. I have seen Kingfishers, Barn owls, Swans and cygnets, and lots of swallows. It's a wonderful place to be.

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    Lord Elf

    Tuesday, September 9, 2014

  • I look forward to the complete reopening of this lovely waterway once the Environment Agency stop trying to block restoration.

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    The man on the Clapham Omnibus

    Friday, September 5, 2014

  • These volunteers have done a wonderful job in bringing this historic waterway back to life. I am full of admiration and hope they are successful in opening it up for wider public access.

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    a fine city

    Thursday, September 4, 2014

  • The canal is a stunning asset and one that would would very much like to see restored to its former glory, it will benefit both nature and man alike, also it will attract visitors to the North Walsham area, this will help the area, it will give locals something to be proud of and these visitors will spend money helping the local business's survive.

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    MBA Marine

    Thursday, September 4, 2014

  • Have used the section near to Briggate but sadly the paths are covered in dog mess and most of the people I have seen with dogs seem to enjoy watching their animals chase nesting birds and wildfowl

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    Thursday, September 4, 2014

  • Surveys like this taken by vested interest groups are not worth the paper they are written on. I regularly walk the Honing railway footpath and public right of way beside the Canal and have done for thirty years. But not often enough to be part of this survey I deplore any attempts to do anything other than conserve the locks and canal basins and oppose any dredging and boating other than a rowing boat . There are no boats of the type the canal was built for, quiet working boats, all that any navigation would comprise of would be eager sporty canoeists going as hard as they could or motorised holiday cruisers with the yahoos on board, or maybe fake canal boats owned by holiday companies such as those which plague quiet fenland waterways. The canal and the surrounding meadows and commons are a peaceful wildlife haven and since it is no longer needed as a canal the area is best left to the quietest of users and not commercialised.

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    Daisy Roots

    Thursday, September 4, 2014

The views expressed in the above comments do not necessarily reflect the views of this site


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