Information for land and riparian rights owners

If you are a land owner with riparian rights or have other exclusive access to the river such as that enjoyed by some angling clubs please be assured that this project will work collaboratively with you. We plan to contact as many of you as we can identify to tell you what we plan and how we can help each other. For further information please in the first instance.

More reflections

To stick with the seasonal feel I have to tell you that the other morning I was down on the navigable river by the Staithe at Belaugh. It was cold and a mist was hovering just off the surface. All was quiet and I couldn’t help wondering how the trading boats would get on if they met here as it is quite narrow and I doubt if they could pass. I closed my eyes and for one second thought I could hear shouted warnings but just in case you think I’m going completely Doolally I quickly realised that the calls from the past were very much from a timeless present as it was the Geese honking as they stirred in the early morning light. This is a sound heard by us but it would also have been heard by the working men so many years ago. It would have told them, as if they needed to know, that autumn was here and winter not far behind.

At this point the river is still tidal albeit barely but of course once through the lock at Coltishall the boats would lose all tide and just have the current to contend with which at times of spate would have been considerable. The Mills and Locks would help to control flood water at times of spate so the torrential rain that fell in August 1912 must have been something else to completely overwhelm the infrastructure. Thankfully it really was a once in one hundred years event although that isn’t to say that there isn’t flooding occasionally in the present time. Thankfully there are no boats left to get trapped upstream only the memories lingering in and around the river.

Under normal circumstances the current would not have been that great, much as now, although still harder work upstream than down particularly if the boat was being punted as was normal when the sail couldn’t be utilised.

Weather in one form or another would have dominated the lives of the Wherry men (for they were all men) as it had the ability to both blight their lives and to give them a real boost. Balmy summer evenings versus frosty winter nights. I know which I would prefer but it had to be all the same to them.

As Halloween approaches we can expect frost and fog so beware in the gloom a wherry makes it way forward on its long gone journey. To where is it headed with it’s ghostly cargo? If you see it let me know.


Reflections from the past

I don’t know why but I can’t cross formerly navigable water without wondering what life must have been like for those that made a living on it. I used to feel the same way about the narrow canals in the midlands possibly because I did spend just a little time in my earlier life navigating the system. I have felt the weight of lock beams and the stiffness of paddle handles so I can just imagine what it must have been like on a frosty December morning navigating for a living. If you didn’t get there you didn’t get paid. In short I suspect that for most of the time it was intolerably harsh but I also suspect that the practitioners of the art wouldn’t have swapped it.

On the Aylsham Navigation there are two places in particular that I can see the ghost of a wherry navigating its way to or from Aylsham. Of course the boat only went where it was pointed and that was if you were lucky or more likely very skilled. Crossing Oxnead Bridge from Brampton towards Burgh I can look right and just, if I look closely, see a bow emerging from the lock-cut on an autumn evening forcing its way forward to reach Aylsham before the Anchor Pub shut for the night (if it ever did).

The other place is just upstream of where Buxton Lock was where the river is clearly wide and deep, still navigable if you were so minded. It winds off in to the distance on its roundabout route to Oxnead. There, in the distance, in the right light you can just catch the top of the mast making its sedate way towards Buxton lock. Blink and it’ll be gone the ghostly apparition no more but as real to me now as it once was in fact.

Go and see you might even see it yourself.

The boats may be ghosts but the men who worked them are not. They have long gone to their deserved rest after a lifetimes idyllic toil. I salute them.


Time to draw breath

I am not one of natures natural bloggers so if you want the job it’s yours.

The last couple of months have been a whirlwind from the first thought that the Navigation should be remembered through to this, a website and a plan of sorts. I’ve had great help and encouragement down the way from a number of people and you all know who you are but now we’ve shown our hands in public I guess we’ve got to make it work.

Ironically I think that one way of doing that is actually to take a brief step back and take a deep breath. Not for long mind as that’s not in my nature. Just enough time to reflect on what’s gone right and what hasn’t. In particular how to engage the younger generation in this project has got to be high up on the intake of breath process. Also we have to consider now that the ball is rolling that we actually have to produce something – it’s actually quite daunting as we’re being very (perhaps overly) bold about what we’re doing.

This will only work if we can engage the maximum number of organisations all pulling together to a common cause. Behind organisations are people and they are central to this, pure and simply individuals putting themselves out to produce something for the common good and hopefully having fun into the bargain.

But just for that minute I’m going to draw breath.



Do you know any Canoe groups?

Do you know any Canoe groups, especially those involving young people, that might wish to be involved in our celebrations in 2012? They will need to be well organised, have their own equipment and insurance as well as a determination to see a task through. Contact for more information.

Since posting this notice we have been contacted by a canoeist who knows the river very well but we still need maximum support so please continue to get in touch.