New punt will help group restore stretch of Blyth Navigation at Halesworth

The new Reaching Working Group launch a new punt on the river to help clear rubbish from the river b

The new Reaching Working Group launch a new punt on the river to help clear rubbish from the river banks. PHOTO: Nick Butcher - Credit: Nick Butcher

Work to restore a stretch of the Blyth Navigation at Halesworth has taken a step forward with the launch of a new work punt.

The new Reaching Working Group launch a new punt on the river to help clear rubbish from the river b

The new Reaching Working Group launch a new punt on the river to help clear rubbish from the river banks. Gerald Burns using the new punt. PHOTO: Nick Butcher - Credit: Nick Butcher

About 15 people braved the cold weather to see the see the naming and launching of the new boat from the canal towpath in Halesworth Town Park.

The punt bears the name of Patrick Stead, a wealthy maltster who worked to defend the navigation in former times.

It was baptised with local ale - more fitting than champagne for a town that owes much of its prosperity to the malt trade.

An effigy of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II was also present for the occasion.

Gerald Burns, chairman of the group of volunteers trying to restore the New Reach section of the navigation so that it can be enjoyed by local people, said: 'The punt will be used to clear litter and reed from the waterway - we have already retrieved one plastic bottle and more will follow.

'The reach will once more have regular navigation - albeit on a reduced scale.'

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The £1,500 punt has been part-funded by a £1,300 donation from the Cooperative Community Dividend Fund and money raised by the volunteers, who are collectively known as the New Reach Working Group.

The Blyth Navigation opened in 1761 and had a significant impact on the development of Halesworth, enabling the export of goods, especially grain and malt, to developing markets via coastal shipping.

The New Reach section of the navigation runs through the middle of Halesworth and Millennium Green.

The New Reach Working group officially launched last June, when Mr Burns paddled, and dragged, a canoe from Halesworth to Southwold to raise £1,500 to kick start the restoration project.

Since then, the group has bought new equipment, cleared surface weed from the water and worked to clear overgrown vegetation from the bank. They also plan to restore two locks.

Have you got a Halesworth story you want to tell or are you working on a community project? Email bbj.news@archant.co.uk, call 01502 712502 or write to Beccles and Bungay Journal, 20 Blyburgate, Beccles, NR34 9TB.

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