I sometimes wonder what would have happened if the Navigation had not been wiped out in 1912. Potentially it would have survived until this very day and Aylsham would be a Broads Holiday destination. There would undoubtedly be a boatyard at Aylsham if not elsewhere on the navigation where tourists could hire holiday cruisers and day boats. Tour boats could do a trip to Wroxham and back which would take the best part of a day. There would be all the paraphenalia associated with tourism like gift shops; to some a nightmarish thought but it would also have brought fairly safe employment, albeit seasonal.
Aylsham and the communities along the navigation would undoubtedly be part of the Broads National Park area and all that brings in terms of planning restriction and habitat preservation. To some a mercy but restrictive to others. The one thing I am certain of is that things would be different here if the Navigation was still open.
Realistically even had it survived the flood in 1912 I doubt if it could have continued beyond the second world war. Advances in road transport and, as important, the roads themselves would have made this waterway redundant for the carriage of goods in the same way as other waterways died on the vine in the same period. By the end of the 30’s the Navigation would have been reliant on the tourist trade which was about to cease for the duration. A locked waterway not used soon dies so I doubt if it would have survived but I can always dream.
The above photograph shows Aylsham Staithe looking sorry for itself in 1928 the year that the navigation was formally abandoned. Imagine the presence of hire boats here – I think not !!!!