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The North Walsham & Dilham Canal Trust

has now taken over the restoration and care of this waterway

Email - NWDC Trust Secretary

See the NWDCT Website for all the latest news on the restoration of Norfolk's only locked canal

EAWA Chairman, Roger Sexton says, "The East Anglian Waterways Association was founded in 1958 to cover a wide area of Eastern England.  The North Walsham and Dilham Canal represents one of our earliest involvements.  Hence I was delighted we were able to assist with the formation of the North Walsham and Dilham Canal Trust to provide a locally-based organisation to help care for this fine waterway."

NWDC Position StatementThe EAWA Position Statement on the North Walsham and Dilham Canal.  Background, facts, figures, achievements and aspirations for the future.
Published May 2012

Latest information

on the North
 Walsham and Dilham Canal is now on the

NWDC Trust website  

History of the North Walsham and Dilham Canal

Go to our
NWDC History Page

North Walsham and Dilham Canal Work Parties are now organised by the Trust.

Reports of EAWA Work Parties 2008 to 2013 

Articles on the North Walsham and Dilham Canal
from our Archivist, Ivan Cane and Work Party Organiser, David Revill

Warwickshire Waterway Walkers visited the North Walsham & Dilham Canal.

10th November 2010

Over the weekend of 4/5/6th November, 34 Warwickshire Waterway Walkers visited North Norfolk. This was their 22nd year of organised waterway walks, with 34 people coming across from the Stratford upon Avon area staying either at the Wayford Bridge Hotel or local cottages for the long weekend. On the 6th November there aim was to walk and look at the North Walsham & Dilham Canal.

Below I have outlined a resume of the day:

We started on time, 8.45' at the same time as the rain. The first party left in three boats, whilst a convoy of eight cars popped to Pigney's Wood. Our thanks to Bank's Day Boats for opening especially for us and to the steerers Gilly & John Kent and Tom Carr. The drivers arriving back just as the flotilla returned - so the second group were also well on time and reached Dilham Staithe by 10.30, to be welcomed by Roger Hopkinson. Taking the shorter route, with a brief stop at the remains of Dilham Mill, the second group were just crossing the field, when the first group, led by Carole Bullinger and Chris Black came along the towpath from Tonnage Bridge. Perfect timing. We then went across the new footbridge into the wooded stretch below Honing Lock. Very muddy - but the NCC are building board walks over the worse sections. Our thanks to Alan Paterson, canal owner, for his help with this section of the walk, and to Sarah Price for "encouraging" the footpath contractors to complete the bridge.

Now onto the North Walsham Canal Company's section, we stopped first at Honing Lock, then walked along Weaver's Way to Honing Cut Staithe. Both the work undertaken there and the ornate road bridge over the railway were admired. Utilising the "canal walk" to view and photograph Dee Bridge from the staithe, we walked round to Weavers Way. The next stop was at Briggate, where we had been given permission to go onto the canal company's land, where the remains of the bottom gates gained the attention of the photographers. The mill and wheel race remains, work on the mill pond and lock all proved of interest and Michael Brett, President of the Norfolk Wherry Trust also gave an impromptu talk. Our thanks to William Cubitt and Edward Fitzlan Howard, of the NWCCo., for their help with this section of the walk.

Returning to Weaver's Way, first the remains of Honing Station had the cameras flashing again. Then a quick walk to the Day Centre at Meeting Hill. Here we were welcomed by a log fire, hot soup and sausage rolls, followed by a huge selection of freshly made well filled sandwiches, so much that several could not manage cakes as well. Rosemary Rix was on hand to talk about the history of the village and weavers, Betty & Tony Wiles with a NW&DC Trust stand and the Norfolk Wherry Trust stand also provided information. Our thanks to them and also to Janet Spink and her team for their very welcoming hospitality. With difficulty the group left the very comfortable armchairs and booted up for the afternoon session.

The footpath from Meeting Hill had been hardstanding between two fields when previously checked - but now crossed one large field - and without markers to guide the way, we had to follow in the footsteps of earlier walkers. However, we soon reached Ebridge Mill. Here, to the surprise of the party, an ex-British Waterways dredger was to be seen, for the new owners of the canal, the Old Canal Company, had brought their dredger down to the lock area. After viewing the lock, the problematic "hole" over the broken culvert and dredged area, we took the paths up to Bacton Wood, viewing the weir en route. Our thanks to Mr P Gibbins and Mr & Mrs Manning for their help with this section.

Reaching Spa Common, Laurie Ashton welcomed the group at the bridge and talked about his reasons for buying the upper section of the canal, and willingly answered questions. He then took us to the lock, where the rebuilding progress amazed the walkers; some 36,000 bricks have been allocated so far to the task. Photographs were taken from all angles; we then walked along the newly mown footpath to the "breach site", where "Cooke's Bridge" had been constructed by David's work party team to enable the soke dyke to be crossed to reach the fields. The landowner had cleared the west soke and bank which enabled the walkers to peer at the newly found weir site in the darkening gloom. Keeping carefully to the field edge we reached the road. Our thanks to Mrs Williams and Matthew and Mr Love for permission to cross their lands and for clearing the soke and field edges to enable the walkers to enjoy this stretch, and to Laurie Ashton for his time taken to talk to the group and prepare the way along his sections of the canal.

The final surprise for the walkers came when Sally welcomed them to the garden of the old Wherry Inn, a place where she had grown up and was once publican. Her reminiscences were greatly appreciated, and the view over the old basin was framed by a magnificent rainbow. Our thanks to Sally for this - pity we didn't bring some beer along to complete the scene. A final quick walk along the towpath to Pigney's Wood, stopping briefly to looked at the breached bank and recently reed dredged canal. With a final stop to admire the magnificent Norfolk sky the party left the canal to walk up to the overflow car park (kindly opened for the group by Peter Kaye of the Pigney's Wood Trust) and the cars as darkness drew in. A really successful day - through the efforts and help to so many people - and one so much appreciated by the Warwickshire Walkers. And perhaps the seed for a future sponsored walk route.

Not only did the walk bring the attention of Norfolk's unique historical canal to a new audience - it also brought some much needed November tourist trade to the area - and several intend to return to see future progress. Finally my thanks to John and Clive for their support from Warwickshire and for the "domestic" organisation of the weekend.

Ivan Cane

The Old Canal Company.

Ivan Cane

4th January 2010

The “Old Canal Company” has bought the top 2 miles of the North Walsham and Dilham Canal. The canalisation of the River Ant, was opened in 1826,this Norfolk canal was just under 9 miles in length from Antingham Bone Mills to Wayford Bridge, there were six locks capable of taking small wherries of 20 ton.
Although built for the carriage of coal, it remained cheaper to transport this overland from the coast. As a result the main cargoes were to and from the mills and local area - including the weekly cabbage wherry to Great Yarmouth. In the late 19th century some of the first pleasure wherries converted from commercial craft were based on the canal.

However, trade was low and the canal from Swafield locks and up to Antingham was closed in 1893 and subsequently abandoned in 1926. The section from Swafield to Bacton Wood Lock was breached by the August floods of 1912, and the following repairs were poor. The last wherry to use the canal was the motor wherry Ella in 1934, soon the section above Bacton Wood Mill became dry whilst the remainder of the canal fell into disuse.

Wherry Tavern at turn of the 20th century - and as it is today.
Perhaps it will retun as terminal of a new canal.

The pound above Bacton Wood lock was also breached at the site of a culvert carrying a stream to the local sewage works, and the canal water diverted above Royston Bridge to flow into this stream. Royston Bridge itself was lowered and strengthened in 1969 to cater for the larger lorries bound for the then new Bacton Gas Terminal.

Canal cut through by an old culvert, to allow stream to service the sewage works.

The next pound down from Bacton Wood Lock to Ebridge Lock has remained in water, and was used locally for swimming, fishing and small boats for many years. However, since 2005 the head of water has been lost - to prevent flooding of the local farmland - and the channel and Ebridge Mill Pond have become choked with reeds and tree growth.

From Ebridge to Briggate lock, and hence to Honing lock, the collapse of the lock gates over the years has led to a loss of the heads of water, although there has been some dredging for drainage purposes by the river authority.
Below Honing lock the canal is tidally influenced and occasionally small craft from the Broads are able to reach the lock. This length is extensively used by canoeists.

Over the years there have been various plans to restore the canal, Robert Aickman and Teddy Edwards visited in 1953, in 1972 David Hutchings claimed the length to North Walsham as one of the easiest canals to restore, as the lock structures continued to exist, bridges had not been lowered and no drainage works had been built to obstruct navigation.

Since 2000 the East Anglian Waterways Association has been holding work parties on the canal with the aim of returning the canal to use, and as a local amenity. In 2008 they were instrumental in the setting up of the North Walsham & Dilham Canal Trust. Over the past 9 years extensive work has been carried out, in conjunction with the then canal owners - the North Walsham Canal Company - from Honing Lock up to Bacton Wood lock.
The canal has been reopened to canoeists up to Honing Staithe Cut, where the 100 yard branch has been cleared and a circular walk established leading off the Weavers' Way long distance path. At all four lock sites the chambers have been cleared of tree growth, and deterioration slowed. At Briggate extensive work has been undertaken to clear the original millpond, and extensive tree growth is in the process of being removed from the Ebridge-Bacton Wood pound.

Ebridge Mill Pond and Lock.

At Bacton Wood the towpath has been cleared and a permissive path is planned to link with a “lost” public footpath that runs alongside the canal and once led to the Wherry Inn at Royston. At Bacton Wood lock, extensive work has been undertaken to replace the brickwork and reinstate the paddle gear and eventually gates. The reasoning for this is that the owner of Bacton Wood Mill has restored his mill and wishes to have the dry section of the canal re-watered so that the mill can again operate. He has provided much of the labour and materials for the work on the lock here.

Bacton Wood Lock, 1907 and 2009.

After 9 years of negotiation, the Old Canal Company has purchased the two pounds either side of Bacton Wood Mill, and the two locks at Bacton Wood and Ebridge, from the North Walsham Canal Company. Its aim is to bring water again to the mill, to have the lock operating and return a level of water to the canal that will allow boats, including a steam boat, to run from Ebridge to Royston Bridge. This will return a much missed asset to North Walsham - which is one of the few Norfolk towns not to have a waterfront.


The work party organiser of the East Anglian Waterways Association , David Revill, states that “this is a terrific boost to the restoration of the canal, and by tackling the most difficult dry section, will be a huge catalyst to the work of the North Walsham & Dilham Canal Trust
The Association's twice monthly work parties will continue to work with and support the Old Canal Company for their length, as well as continue restoring the remaining 3 miles and two locks that are still in ownership of the North Walsham Canal Co.

New Canal Walk Opened on the North Walsham and Dilham Canal

After two years work at Honing Cut, the East Anglian Waterways Association's and North Walsham and Dilham Canal Trust's work parties saw the first stage of their Canal Walk opened by Norman Lamb, MP for North Norfolk, on Sunday 28th September 2008.
Norman also toured the site, and talked to the work party members, who were working with a digger and “home made” dredger bucket, clearing the canal at the entrance to the staithe. He was impressed at the work undertaken in such a short time span, and gave full support to the Trust's aim of restoring the canal. Norman also presented the Trust with a cheque for 150.

Two years ago, few were aware of the existence of the staithe, running from the side of the canal above Dee (Honing) Bridge. With the support of the Canal Company, and the owners of the woodland around the cut, the Work Parties have cleared the scrub and dangerous trees on either side of the basin, and alongside the canal itself.
Attention was then directed at the basin and tree growth removed. With the aid of a local member, who happens to have a digger for a hobby, the basin was then dredged and water reintroduced. Within a few weeks a heron had made itself at home

Following discussions with NCC footpath officers, the idea of a circular canal walk, linking with Weavers Way, was formed.

As this needed to cross the soke dyke by a bridge, grant aid from the Broads and Rivers LEADER+ programme and the European Union was gained for building materials and interpretation boards at either end.
The clearances around the staithe and formation of a walk have been warmly welcomed by the local residents and walkers along the old railway line (Weavers Way). The sight of water through the trees is always a welcoming one.

As well as other works along the canal, such as at the locks, and clearing Briggate Mill Pond, the work parties will continue to expand the cleared area around the basin, and tackle the muddier parts of the walk over the coming few months.

The main work parties are usually held on the last Sunday of each month - with additional works carried out at other times. Full reports and programme of future events are to be found on the website "work" ( or http://eawa.co.uk/work.html for non-readers of this article ) and further details from the organiser - David Reville on 01603 738648.

Ivan Cane 23/10/08

The Walk as .PDF and Word Reader (for Windows)

The Brochure
of the North Walsham & Dilham Canal Trust!

You may Download the Abobe Reader (.pdf) from



HISTORICAL. The brickwork of the locks having been revealed and no likelihood of any further progress being made to restore them in the near future, the mood of the work-parties was getting a little jaded! In the major picture however, the lock structures are not the only work to be done, and in this mood we entered the 2007/08 period.

In this report I shall cover each of the sites individually. In the general picture, I have had meetings with Mr Cubitt, a Director of the Canal Co and major landowner along the edge of the canal, Mr David Manning, landowner at Ebridge; Mr Laurie Ashton owner of the mill at Bacton Wood; Mr Paul Gibbons, owner of a large farm tract at Ebridge; other land owners adjacent to the canal and Norfolk County Council countryside officer. All these apart from people met at the inaugural meetings for the Canal Trust, which is another subject. One of such landowners visited site and produced a set of ordnance survey drawings of the whole canal! This said, there are still no definitive drawings showing land ownership boundaries.

Summary of Working Parties, April 07 to March 08
Bacton Wood Lock 1
Ebridge 3
Briggate 1
Honing Staithe Cut 7
Honing Lock 2
There was no WP in August 2007
Attendances at WPs = 110 (max at one WP 14)

BACTON WOOD. The work here generally was to keep nature at bay. A large number of saplings had grown on the cill area and these were all cleared away with other undergrowth. The access path from the girder bridge was cut down from its 4foot height! More bricks were cleaned and stacked in preparation for a work-party of bricklayers etc (the professionals!) at some future date. Methods of access for delivery of sand, cement, plant etc for the reconstruction (lock mouth only at this stage) were discussed and agreed with Mr Laurie Ashton, owner of the land and mill.

EBRIDGE LOCK. Some real progress has been made here. The trees on the land between the Mill Pond and lock have been cut down and back to provide an open view upstream so that the weir could be seen from the road bridge. The water at the mouth has been cleared of debris on each visit leaving the area basically clear of any hard junk. Similarly at the tail. Also on the tail side bank, a former water pump site has been cleared of growth and is now totally revealed. The Mill Pond clearance is a project to be carried out when funds are available. The wall bounding the Mill Pond and road has been revealed and is in good condition at the lower level and to the bed. The land agent is currently checking whether Norfolk County Council Highways Department will re-instate the guardrail at the edge of the road. To the upstream northerly side of the weir, a clear access way through trees has been made preparatory to removing the damaging tree growth in the canal bank.

BRIGGATE LOCK. General clear up and grass and weed cutting by both chamber walls. As always at this site, reed and weed were cleared from the mouth and water flow improved. The copingstones and chamber walls cleaned, where safe to do so. There is an area, which is in a dangerous state, and this has been taped off. A 'Danger-keep out' notice is also in place. The weir location may have been found but an exploratory dig is required after having obtained permission to enter the land area. The second lower lock gate (or rather remains of…) has been restrained with cable and chain to prevent it falling into the chamber. The tail buttress area is cleared of growth, mainly bramble. Much more positive progress has been made by advancing up the western bank and clearing saplings, trees and other visual obstructions to provide a view not seen for some considerable time and also locating the feed into the Mill Pond.

HONING LOCK. Keeping nature at bay again but with the difference here that more progress was made downstream. The winding hole was further dredged and enlarged. Oh! For a mechanical digger! Several leaning trees were felled and used to provide banking and the foundation for a porterage point, which was proven of use by two canoes shortly after near completion! There are a number of downed trees in this stretch, which bounds with Mr A Pattersons' land and therefore have been left in the water. A letter was written to Mr Patterson on 20th March 2008 but no reply received as yet. There is an enormous amount of wood clearing and dredging to be done between this lock and the canals' confluence with the Smallburgh river (which flows from Dilham).

HONING STAITHE CUT This site is not at a lock so is therefore quite different. When we were initially asked to 'look at' this site, we could not believe that it really existed. See my report 2006/07. I had high hopes though and with a 'secret weapon' at the back of my mind for some months (and hidden in the background!) further trees - loads of them - were felled and removed with others from the Cut until a rough outline could be seen.
Taking measurements from maps, the original size of the Cut was marked out and we could visualise the past. Whilst this was being carried out, I had been asked by the Canal Co to open a pathway along the upstream side of the Cut and for it to cross a drainage dyke and pass through the wood to return to the Weavers Way. A daunting task!
At the WP on 16th December 07, my 'secret weapon' became public in talks held on site and on 20th January 2008 the dream was realized in the form of a Doctor Tom and his Digger! Miracles do happen and over four work-parties the scene was transformed beyond all recognition. The site now resembles the shape shown on maps albeit the water level is low due to there being no lock gates downstream. The canal side path and the cut through the wood are now clear (up to a barrier point deliberately left to deter walkers from the Weavers Way) and we have a grant to purchase wood to build a small access bridge over the dyke.
Much more work to be done here on the Cut and canal itself.

THE FUTURE. Work this year will continue as before under the control of the EAWA. It is thought than when the North Walsham and Dilham Canal Trust is up and running this will change. It is further hoped that money will be available to progress reconstruction work at the lock sites and to clear the canal itself and make it watertight once more. The thought of locks being restored to working condition in the near future is not really realistic, but the future is looking a lot brighter now than it was a year ago.

David E Revill
Work Party Leader
11 April 2008

The North Walsham & Dilham Canal flows around the watermills!
Here is the canal based on the Norfolk Mills Web Site.

Dilham Watermill built of weatherboard over a brick base with a Norfolk pantile roof.
Honing Lock - 2.1 miles

Briggate watermill was actually at Worstead and some knew it as Worstead Mill.
The name Briggate appears to have come about via the Norfolk pronunciation of Bridgegate.
Lock No.2, Briggate Mill - 3.3 miles

Ebridge Mill is also sometimes known as North Walsham Mill.
Lock No. 3, Ebridge Mill - 5.0 miles

Bacton Wood watermill at Spa Common, North Walsham was on a Domesday site and the last working mill was rebuilt in 1747.
Lock No. 4, Bacton Wood - 6.0 miles

Swafield watermill was originally built of weatherboard with brick base and a Norfolk pantiled roof.
Locks No. 5 and 6, Swafield lower and Swafield Upper

Antingham unsually had two watermills within a couple of hundred yards of each other - Antingham Lower and Antingham Upper. Both were bone mills and were under the same ownership.

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