North Walsham and Dilham Canal project in running for national honour

The North Walsham and Dilham Canal at Ebridge. Picture: MARK BULLIMORE

The North Walsham and Dilham Canal at Ebridge. Picture: MARK BULLIMORE

A project to restore a unique part of Norfolk's heritage is among finalists for a national award.

North Walsham and Dilham Canal Trust supporters will learn next month whether their scheme is successful in the prestigious Canal and River Trust Living Waterways Awards.

Volunteer work parties have been clearing and restoring sections of the almost nine-mile canal since 2000.

The only Norfolk canal with locks, it opened in 1826 and was last used by a wherry in 1934.

In recent years restoration has concentrated on a two-and-a-half mile section between Swafield Bridge and Ebridge lock, owned by Laurie Ashton's Old Canal Company.

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Mr Ashton, with volunteers' help, has rebuilt banks, cleared silt and vegetation from the water, created permissive paths, and rebuilt Bacton Wood lock.

The canal trust has been promised a £10,000 Tesco plastic bags scheme grant towards the cost of making new lower lock gates.

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The once-derelict, overgrown section is now regularly used by sail boats, canoes, walkers and fishermen, and is alive with mammals, birds, fish and insect life, according to trust spokesman David Revill.

But the trust's hopes of re-opening the canal's lower reaches between Ebridge lock and Wayford Bridge have been thwarted by objecting landowners, according to Mr Revill.

The trust maintains an unrepealed 1866 Act of Parliament states that the canal should not be closed.

A petition supporting the canal's restoration has been signed by more than 3,000 people.

Mr Revill said the trust was also continuing to fight a 2012 Environment Agency (EA) 'Stop' notice banning dredging between Ebridge lock and Swafield Bridge.

The trust says that it has been de-silting and not dredging.

An EA spokesman said: 'We are currently working with the North Walsham and Dilham Canal Trust on the plan to restore the canal.

'Once overall strategy has been agreed, we intend to lift the current restrictions on work on the canal.'

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