The Trust was formed on 30th January 2008, with the aim to work with the Canal Proprietors and adjacent landowners, to protect, conserve and improve the route of the canal and its branches, for the benefit of the community and environment, promoting access to the navigation for all, allowing it to once again become an area enjoyed and appreciated by the community - whether walkers, nature lovers, disabled, anglers, canoeists, boaters or gongoozlers.
The object of the Trust is to work for the Public Benefit in Partnership with the Canal Owners; adjacent Landowners: Local Authorities and Other Statutory Bodies; Area Partnerships & other Local Organisations and Commercial Business, to promote the Restoration and Eco-friendly use by vessels of the Canal and its Branches, so as to give a balance between the needs of Navigation, Recreation, Heritage, Development, Landscape Conservation & Wildlife and Natural Habitats. Thereby improving access and use of the Canal Landscape for the Community and the Economy, whilst protecting the Environment and Heritage.
Today the Old Canal Co. Ltd. owns the top 2¼ miles of the North Walsham and Dilham Canal. The rest remains in the hands of The North Walsham Canal Co. Ltd, except for a short length at the top of the canal owned by Mr M Starling and the bottom tidally influenced section below Honing Lock owned by Paterson Estates.
This is Norfolk’s only artificial, locked sailing canal and was opened in 1826. 8¾ miles in length, it ran from Antingham Bone Mills, 1½ miles NW of North Walsham, to Wayford Bridge where it joined the navigable River Ant. It used 6 large locks along its length to enable the 20 ton wherries to ascend the 58ft rise to Antingham.
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 – including a local cabbage wherry to Gt. 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 to Antingham was closed in 1893 and officially abandoned in 1927. The section above Bacton Wood Lock was breached in the flood of August 1912 and the following repairs were poor.
The last wherry to use the canal was the motor wherry ‘Ella’ in 1934. At some point in time the feed-water was diverted out the canal above Bacton Wood Lock resulting in 900 yards of the canal becoming dry. The remainder of the canal gradually became un-navigable as the lock gates were allowed to fall into disrepair.
Picture reproduced by the wife of the late artist Edward Paget-Tomlinson, Pam.