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Project Hereward Technical Progress and a Funding Boost for Project Hereward

It is now almost a year since the Project Hereward - New Dawn steering group, a joint initiative between EAWA and Peterborough IWA, met for the very first time.  Monthly meetings are held and the group has been exploring the technical, environmental and legal issues involved in re-opening the Forty Foot and Welches Dam Lock to navigation. Visits by team members to other restoration sites have been useful in determining the best materials and methods for re-lining the channel and cost estimates have now been prepared by the team's lead technical adviser, Andrew Storrar.

Initial discussions have taken place with potential funders and the overall scheme, valuable for the environment, navigation and local heritage, has been well received.  There are costs involved in preparing environmental surveys to support grant applications.  In September, an anonymous benefactor gave the project a substantial sum towards further progress and EAWA directors authorised existing reserved funds and some future receipts to be allocated to the project.

    October 2015

A supports Thetford's Little Ouse Plan

thetford staunch 1900The historic Little Ouse navigation between Thetford and Brandon, once a major trade artery for the towns, was finally abandoned in the 1930s with the old staunches in disrepair. In the 1960s they were replaced with fixed weirs preventing through navigation.  Although it is still used occasionally by canoes, there is insufficient depth of water in many places for larger craft. The waterway between Brandon Bridge and Thetford town centre is not part of the statutory recreational navigations managed by the Environment Agency under the Anglian Water Authority Act 1977 and the EA has been unable to commit funds for improvements.
The river flows through some magnificent Breckland forest and if navigation could be restored it would make a delightful cruising waterway and bring economic benefits to the whole area.
Restoration of the 8.5 miles of waterway has been a long-term aspiration of EAWA and our associates, Friends of the Little Ouse Waterway.  In 2003, with other interested parties we subscribed to a pre-feasibility study on restoring the navigation by consultants Babtie, Brown and Root for the Environment Agency. Sadly, the project stalled.

Thetford Town Council is now leading the call for long overdue improvements to the river to restore the navigation to Thetford town.

At a positive meeting in Thetford on 24th June, Councillor Stuart Wright outlined the potential economic and recreational benefits of the scheme for townsfolk and visitors to Thetford.  Delegates included representatives from EAWA, IWA Cambridge, Friends of the Little Ouse Waterway, GOBA, RYA, Natural England, Forestry Commission, Sustrans, Anglers and other interests.  All agreed to offer support in formulating an action plan to be co-ordinated by Tina Cunnell, the Council's PPP & Communications Officer.

Follow the links below to further information about the River Little Ouse:


A net loss of navigable waterway in the East under the Environment Agency

In a letter to the IWA Waterways magazine, Ivan Cane looks at the Environment Agency's record as a Navigation Authority in the East.

John Revell’s letter More on Welches Dam Lock in the Spring 2015 IWA Waterways, highlighted the Eastern Region’s paucity when it comes to the restoration of waterway routes, as compared to the impressive list of the mainly BW/C&RT restored waterways. The difference lies in the attitudes of the Navigation Authorities involved.

In the East, most waterways are navigations (other than the North Walsham & Dilham Canal, the Lodes and some Cambridgeshire & Lincolnshire Drains) based on river courses. The two major rivers are the Great Ouse and Nene systems – all is not well on these. For example, Ian Cox, Chair of GOBA stated, referring to the debilitating problem of weed on the Old West River “Again, the Environment Agency appear very limited in their ability to manage or resolve the issue” (GOBA News Winter 2014).

As well as ongoing issues with those EA waters that are navigable, a greater problem has been the gradual erosion of navigable miles in the East. John Revell talks of the Forty Foot and Welches Dam (1 lock, 2.4 miles un-navigable since 2006). This leads into the Old Bedford (12.3m). At the recent EA Denver Sluice consultation on the proposed revamping of the area as a tourist complex – the Old Bedford was not even considered, for the consultancy had been informed, by the EA, that it was not a navigation! Swaffham Bulbeck Lode (1 lock 2m), once an off river mooring, has evolved into a drainage channel – with the lock gates finally being removed by the EA in 2013.

Elsewhere, a few years ago one could navigate the River Stour from Brantham Barrage to Stratford St Mary. (2 locks, 5.6 miles). Both Dedham and Flatford Locks, listed EA assets, were navigable. In 2014, both locks were out of use, on the positive side Flatford has just been re-opened – but with funding from the River Stour Trust! The siltration below Taylor’s lock on the Sleaford Navigation prevented boats passing through the lock up to Cobblers Lock (6m), until comparatively recently, when it was cleared, not by the EA, but by the IDB contractor with funding from the Sleaford Navigation Trust and an anonymous benefactor.

On the positive side, the EA built a link lock, in 2001, at Denver, connecting the Ely Ouse with the Relief Channel, opening up 6.5 miles of waterway. This was the first stage of the Nar-Ouse link, to form a non-tidal link from King’s Lynn to the Ely Ouse, utilising the former Nar navigation. Unfortunately the final link was dropped due to environmental factors, perceived problems for boats passing and headroom.

The fifty mile Fens Waterways Link is the EA’s flagship project, utilising a previous EAWA/IWA scheme to join the Witham to the Nene. Launched around 2001, the scheme has so far reconstructed the entrance lock (closed in 1967) of the Black Sluice Drain (mainly led by funding raised by the Lincolnshire Waterways Partnership). In theory opening up 19 miles to small craft, or 12.5 miles to Donington High Bridge. However, the Waterways World Annual now gives Swineshead Bridge as the limit at 7 miles. The next stage was to be the building of the Boston Barrier, due for completion in 2019, whose main purpose would be to prevent flooding of the town, with the added bonus of providing a level of non-tidal water for navigation purposes. This would have allowed access to the Black Sluice without crossing tidal waters. Recently, it has been proposed that the waters of Boston should remain tidally influenced, until the Fens Waterways Link progressed significantly enough to attract funding to make the impounding of water at Boston economically viable. One considers chicken and egg!

Without the funding support raised by the Sleaford Navigation Trust, River Stour Trust and their funding partners to reopen Flatford Lock and desilt the Slea, this would have totalled to a loss of 28.3 miles of navigation and 4 locks as against a gain of 13.5 miles and 2 locks. i.e. a net loss of 14.8m and 2 locks. Compare this EA record to those restorations listed by John Revell of C&RT waters which mount to over 130 miles and many locks. No wonder, we in the East, see ourselves as the poor relatives!

Ivan Cane

Project Hereward - New Dawn launched at Ouse Washes Conference

St Ives Corn Exchange was the venue for the first Ouse Washes Landscape Partnership Conference on 19th November.

The OWLP scheme is funded by a Heritage Lottery grant of 1 million plus matched funding of a further 200,000 and focuses on the area known as the Ouse Washes, a narrow strip of land between the historic Old and New Bedford rivers, together with some surrounding communities.  It includes part of the Forty Foot River from Welches Dam.

A partnership of government, business and 26 key civil organisations, the scheme seeks to create a better awareness of the Ouse Washes, their unique landscape and heritage and to provide long-term social, economic and environmental benefits.
The programme will be based around a portfolio of smaller projects to promote the OWLP as a visitor destination.

EAWA Chairman Roger Sexton and fellow directors took the opportunity to launch Project Hereward - New Dawn, EAWA's new partnership with Peterborough IWA that aims to re-open the Forty Foot River between Horseway Lock and Welches Dam to navigation and for the benefit of all users.  Roger believes that Project Hereward is a perfect fit in the OWLP scheme.

Read more about Project Hereward as it develops at  www.project-hereward.org

A Waterway for All

EAWA Chairman, Roger Sexton, at the Project Hereward Stand
Picture: CambsACRE
Forty Foot River, Welches Dam to Horseway - Developing Plans for Restoration of Navigation

welches damThe historic Forty Foot River, one of Vermuyden's original drainage channels for the Middle Level, and an important link to the Great Ouse system has been closed for a number of years.  Although the locks at Welches Dam and Horseway are basically sound, there is seepage or leakage of water from the channel where it passes over gravel beds.
The waterway remains a Statutory Navigation under the Anglian Water Authority Act 1977 but the Environment Agency has created a piled cofferdam at the entrance to Welches Dam lock, preventing navigation.

EAWA, in conjunction with IWA Peterborough branch, has embarked on a reinvigorated campaign to see navigation restored once more on this stretch of Fenland waterway.
The plans are to identify the leaking gravel beds by aerial photography and crop markings, then clear and reprofile the channel prior to sealing the gravel beds with clay.  A source of stiff blue clay has been identified nearby at Block Fen / Langwood Fen where Cambridgeshire County Council is extracting gravel to create new wet habitat. Negotations are under way with the council and  contractor to secure supplies of clay and have them transported to the site.

 Find a full report on progress and future plans from EAWA director, Andrew Storrar, in the October 2014 edition of 'The Easterling'.

EAWA welcomes new Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

On 15th July, South West Norfolk MP, Elizabeth Truss was appointed Secretary of State for Environment.  
EAWA chairman, Roger Sexton, already in correspondence with Ms Truss over local issues, has written to welcome her to the new role and offer the Association's support in improving management of the region's waterways.

Dear Ms Truss

On behalf of the directors and members of the East Anglian Waterways Association, may I congratulate you and say how we welcome your new appointment as Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.  We look forward to working closely with you and your department in caring for the natural environment of East Anglia whilst at the same time encouraging much more extensive use of the wide local knowledge available to meet the challenges ahead.

The East Anglian Waterways Association Ltd. founded in 1958 campaigns for the preservation, restoration and good management of waterways in East Anglia. We believe in “Waterways for All” and work to promote access to our navigations for the benefit of all the community.  The Association is a registered charity. EAWA Ltd has a very proud record of working with partners, from local authorities to local businesses and other organisations to establish the best outcomes in decisions affecting the waterways.

As the member for South West Norfolk you will already be aware of the problems of extended periods of flooding of the Ouse Washes causing disruption to the local economy and residential amenity.  Local expertise, which puts lack of maintenance and ever increasing siltation of the New Bedford River and the tidal River Great Ouse at the heart of the problems, seems to be disregarded by the Environment Agency.  Claims by the Agency that dredging of the tidal river would be too costly and unsustainable appear to have been used for many years as an excuse to do nothing.  We believe that relatively inexpensive scarification of parts of the bed of the tidal Great Ouse, to remove the high spots restricting flows, is all that is required to make a significant initial improvement at a minimum cost.  Our view is supported by local experts and before the policies introduced by the Environment Agency was the method that had always been used since Cornelius Vermuyden first built the channels to drain the Great Level of the Fens in the 17th century.

You will also be aware how important recreational navigation is to this region’s economic wellbeing.  Unfortunately we see further evidence of neglect by the Environment Agency in this respect, not least in closure of an important Statutory Navigation through lack of maintenance. 

The key southern route linking the River Great Ouse to the rest of the inland waterways system via the Middle Level Navigations is presently blocked by siltation at the Old Bedford Sluice and closure of Welches Dam Lock.  The lock, previously restored to full working order in the 1990s by voluntary labour has been allowed to fall into disrepair.  Local experts widely dispute the Environment Agency’s inflated cost estimates for repairs and the volunteers ready, able and willing to offer practical assistance again are undermined by the Agency at every turn.

In fact, we are extremely disappointed by the Environment Agency Anglian region’s attitude to volunteers per se.  Despite the often expressed willingness of potential volunteers to contribute their time, skills and knowledge, there are presently none allowed to be involved in day to day practical work on the EA Anglian managed waterways.  This is in stark contrast to both the EA Thames region and the Canal and Rivers Trust managed waterways where in the latter case volunteering has increased this year by 76% with 51,000 volunteer days contributing so much and saving vital funds for essential maintenance and improvements.

As an association we have been proudly involved with the restoration of the North Walsham and Dilham Canal which is a fine example of what can be achieved at a minimum cost through voluntary effort.  It is a pity that even this project has been frustrated in part by unjustified Environment Agency interference.

We see so many opportunities for protecting and enhancing the valuable, and in some respects, unique waterways of East Anglia for all to enjoy while minimising flood risk and encouraging recreational navigation and tourism. 

I hope you will allow us to share our vision with you and encourage new and innovative thinking both within your department and the agencies you fund. 

We offer you our fullest support and, of course, hope that we may look forward to a ministerial visit to the East Anglian Waterways to see the wonderful opportunities (and the problems) at your earliest convenience. 

Yours sincerely

Roger Sexton

Chairman, East Anglian Waterways Association

New director joins EAWA board

We are pleased to announce that Andrew M. Storrar MA PhD CEng FEI FIoD FRSA has agreed to join the board of East Anglian Waterways Association.   Andrew, as an enthusiast waterways supporter and a consulting engineer with experience in waterways projects, will considerably strengthen the EAWA team in meeting the challenges and opportunities ahead.  Welcome on board, Andrew.
June 2014

EAWA says Urgent Action Needed on Ouse Washes and Tidal Great Ouse

 In an open letter, sent on behalf of constituents to Elizabeth Truss, MP for South West Norfolk, EAWA Chairman Roger Sexton has stressed the urgent need for new and innovative thinking and increased maintenance to deal with local flooding and navigation problems.  Roger fears that despite a previous meeting called by another local MP to address the problems, little seems to be happening.

 Siltation of the lower tidal Ouse inhibits the flow of ebbing tides which limits the ability to discharge water by gravity via the Denver, Salters Lode, Old Bedford and Welmore Lake Sluices. These restrictions to natural gravity flows increase the need to flood the Ouse Washes early and delay their drainage after strong flow events.

 Fisheries are affected by stagnant water, valuable nesting sites for birds are lost and the local economy is damaged by extended closures of the A1101 Welney Wash Road.

 Government cut-backs have resulted in both a lack of new schemes and less maintenance of existing works.  In addition, the financial criteria for flood protection is geared to urban areas and fails to recognise the contribution made to the nation’s economy of agri-businesses, farming, food processing and packaging and engineering.  Flooding, such as that experienced this year on the Somerset Levels would be disastrous for the region and could result in massive food shortages elsewhere.

 Roger stresses that the answer lies in persuading the Environment Agency to commence trials of a ploughing technique on the heavily silted Tidal Ouse. This method, to routinely agitate the silt, was practised by the former Great Ouse River Board and also used successfully by the EA to maintain a navigable channel on the short length between Denver and Salters Lode.  At present the Environment Agency rely solely on unpredictable flood flows to move the silt and while this winter’s high flows have had some effect the river bed level remains up to two-metres higher than the recent historical level.

 The recent tidal surges tested local river defences and many structures still require repairs. The Environment Agency must not be complacent and protection for the future must be mindful of global climate change and sea level rising.

 May 2014


The latest issue of the association's widely respected journal was sent to members in JUNE.
You can also read or download it here, along with back numbers.

    Editor: Alan Faulkner
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Annual General Meeting 2014

EAWA members enjoy a day in Fenland

Fox's BoatyardFox FleetSt Mary'sAGM

It has become customary for the Association’s AGM to be held in different parts of the region to give members a chance to explore the variety of waterways for which we care.  Our 2014 AGM on 18th May was held at March in Cambridgeshire and was preceded by a visit to Fox’s Boatyard on the old river Nene / Middle Level.  Directors, Paula and Tracey, made us all very welcome with a presentation about the history and current activity at the boatyard, first established nearby by Charlie Fox in 1952.  Charlie even dug the new basin himself in 1980  and over the years capacity has increased to 200 berths as well as providing a base for the Middle Level’s only hire fleet.  Many boats have been built at the yard and we saw archive film of Charlie’s first ever narrowboat, built at a cost of just 800 including a full tank of diesel, at 60p a gallon!  Paula and Tracey currently have orders for a new 55-footer and are also working on a new day boat to add to the hire-fleet.  Members enjoyed exploring one of the hire-boats, Silver Fox, which in common with all the fleet so proudly incorporates the ‘Fox’ name.  http://www.foxboats.co.uk/

St Mary's restored

Before lunch at the nearby church hall, members were also delighted by the chance to visit St Mary’s Church.  In 2010, the church was almost completely destroyed by an arson attack and only the four main walls survived.  It has just been re-opened having been completely and beautifully restored by craftsmen and with some added features to bring the building right up to date.  Well worth a visit when you are in the Fenland area. http://www.stmaryschurchmarch.co.uk/TheFirein2010

Everyone then enjoyed a delicious three-course lunch, prepared by Margaret and her small team, before we got down to the serious business of the day, our 44th AGM.  The formal business was quickly conducted and we were especially pleased to hear encouraging news of great progress on the North Walsham and Dilham Canal from the Trust.  Our chairman, Roger Sexton, expressed fears about the current management of the Ouse Washes and the lower Tidal Great Ouse and outlined the efforts being made to persuade the Environment Agency to re-think its virtual ‘do-nothing’ policy.

To complete a most interesting and enjoyable day, Alan Faulkner then treated us to a talk, illustrated by his superb slide collection, of these unique Fenland waterways, covering the events and achievements of the last four decades.  There is still much to be done, with Welches Dam lock and the Forty Foot closed and the Old Bedford Sluice silted up.  With effort and determination EAWA will continue its campaign to ensure full restoration of these waterways.

Norfolk Uncovered

A new film on the North Walsham and Dilham Canal, one of a series of Norfolk documentaries by Chris Richmond.

Presented by EAWA's own Ivan Cane

North Walsham and Dilham Canal Trust looks to the future

EAWA has played a fundamental role in the exciting progress made in restoration of the North Walsham and Dilham Canal since the early 1990s, including setting up the NWDC Trust and organising and providing insurance cover for the vital working parties.

Now the North Walsham and Dilham Canal Trust is firmly established and registered as a charity in its own right, the association is handing over the  responsibility for the work parties to the Trust.  Nothing will really change as our director David Revill will continue to be the organiser and point of contact for volunteers.  

The Trust welcomes continued support from individual EAWA members and the EAWA board will continue to provide financial and practical assistance as required.  Read the EAWA's important position statement and acknowledgement of purpose for the canal here.

To see what has been achieved look at the

NW&DC Canal Pages    or   NW&DC Trust's website 

"Living Waterways Transform Places and Enrich Lives"

"Every 1 spent on waterway restoration creates 7 of value to the community"


The East Anglian Waterways Association is a believer in "Waterways for All" - promoting access to our navigations for the community - whether walkers, nature lovers, anglers, canoeists, boaters or gongoozlers.  We work with and support many local societies, trusts and other user bodies in the area  -  Please visit our LINKS page for more information.
2013 - East Anglian Waterways Association Limited - Reg. 895405    -     Registered Charity No. 251382