Survey bid to show who is using the North Walsham and Dilham Canal
- Credit: Archant
Visitors to a stretch of Norfolk's only canal may notice people with clipboards over the coming days.
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.
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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.
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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.
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.