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PICTURE GALLERY: Briggate Mill pond, on the North Walsham and Dilham Canal, restored for wildlife

PUBLISHED: 09:00 24 March 2012

An Egret at Briggate Mill pond. 
PHOTO: ANTONY KELLY

An Egret at Briggate Mill pond. PHOTO: ANTONY KELLY

© ARCHANT NORFOLK 2012

Egrets, kingfishers, frogs, mallards and fish are among the wildlife now able to enjoy a restored section of Norfolk’s only canal.

Volunteers have spent the past three-and-a-half years clearing Briggate Mill Pond which had become completely choked with trees, shrubs and weeds, according to David Revill, work party organiser with the East Anglian Waterways Association.

The pond is part of the near nine-mile North Walsham and Dilham Canal, which has been neglected since 1934 when the last wherry sailed there.

Locals remembered swimming and canoeing around Briggate Mill pond some 20-30 years ago but it had been overgrown and without water for several years, said Mr Revill, who is also a trustee of the North Walsham and Dilham Canal Trust, formed in 2008.

The trust hopes to restore about eight miles of the canal, including four locks, between Swafield Bridge to a point about 400 yards from Wayford Bridge.

“We want it to be the proper, full-width canal it was designed to be - instead of a muddy ditch - with controlled water once again,” said Mr Revill.

He and other trustees have been working with the three canal owners along the stretch and work is already well advanced on the restoration of the lock at Bacton Wood, and the overgrown pond at Ebridge Mill has also been cleared.

Mr Revill defended the clearances, which have involved removing a number of mature trees.

“Wildlife needs water and there was no water here. What we’ve done has attracted back all sorts of flora and fauna,”” he said.

Reeds would be left to establish themselves around the water margins, providing wildlife habitats.

Restoring the waterway would also alleviate flooding in problem areas of North Walsham because it acted as a drain for surface water.

During the clearance work at Briggate, a second world war pillbox re-emerged from the undergrowth. Research has revealed that it was built inside an old coal shed on the site.

““Wherries would carry the coal from Great Yarmouth to this shed at Briggate for transportation to all and sundry in the local area,”” said Mr Revill.

“““We have had some samples checked, which were found at the site, and it proves that the coal came from the Northumberland pits.”” He added: ““When I see what we’ve achieved so far, it makes all the hard work worthwhile.”

● On May 5 and 6 the trust plans a two-day celebration, with displays and stalls, at Ebridge Mill Pond to mark the 200th anniversary of the signing of the Act of Parliament which allowed the canal to be built. It was opened 14 years later, in 1826.

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