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Dilham and its Canal

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Dilham and its Canal
Author: NickC, Published: 08 Jul 2014 Walk rating : Rating:star1 Dilham and its Canal Walking Guidestar1 Dilham and its Canal Walking Guidestar1 Dilham and its Canal Walking Guidestar1 Dilham and its Canal Walking Guidestar1 Dilham and its Canal Walking Guide
Norfolk, Norfolk Broads
Walk Type: River or lakeside
Dilham and its Canal
Length: 5 miles,  Difficulty: boot Dilham and its Canal Walking Guide boot Dilham and its Canal Walking Guide
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The North Walsham and Dilham Canal has been called Norfolk’s only canal, although it is in fact a ‘canalised’ section of the River Ant, or a Navigation. It did, however, have locks; slightly wider than canal locks in order to accommodate Norfolk Wherries, and the ruins of one of these locks can be seen on this circular walk. Although technically a disused canal, you can still see boats on the water, notably at the start in Dilham, which is in fact the limit of navigation.

This is a flat and relatively easy walk focusing on the canal, but it can get muddy, so good strong walking footwear is recommended. Although the majority of the walk follows the canal this does not preclude a variety of habitats, ranging from open grazing land to woodland.

There is also a short stretch along the Weavers Way, one of many long distance paths criss-crossing East Anglia, although the section along this path does end in a steep climb up a bank. It’s not as bad as it may look, but anyone whose knees aren’t what they used to be may wish to bear this in mind. You will be sharing some of the paths with grazing livestock. There are gates, narrow footbridges and stiles along the way. All in all, allow around two hours to complete the walk.

Dilham is reached via the A149, about a mile north west of the junction of this road with the A1151, about nine miles north east of Norwich. Pass through the village and park as close as you can on the side of the road as the houses begin to peter out, as near as possible to the bridge which marks the start of the walk. Approximate post code NR28 9PS.

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Walk Sections

Start to Tonnage Bridge
Start to Tonnage Bridge

Start point: 52.7774 lat, 1.4562 long
End point: 52.7812 lat, 1.4791 long

Before starting look over the bridge to the right (looking back into the village the way you came) to see the quite definite end of navigation of the canal. Now look over the other side, where things couldn’t be more different. To start the walk, stand with your back to the village and take the road to the right just after the bridge. Follow this to a T-junction, where you head right, down Broad Fen Lane. Pass a Wendy House-like Broad Fen Cottage. As the road peters out take the track slightly to the left, marked as a restricted byway. Keep going past Keepers Cottage, after which the track becomes more of a bridleway, passing through broad hedges on either side.

The hedge on the left gives way to a view of a field and the path passes along the right hand edge of some woodland. Tyre tracks suggest this track may sometimes be used by vehicles, which explains why sections of it can become quite rutted and muddy. A sharp left-hand bend leads, after around fifty yards, to a road. This in turn leads to a double ended white house and a T-junction where you need to head right. This brings you to Tonnage Bridge.

Tonnage Bridge to Honing Lock
Tonnage Bridge to Honing Lock

Start point: 52.7812 lat, 1.4791 long
End point: 52.7905 lat, 1.456 long

You are now at the North Walsham and Dilham Canal. You may wish to take a peek from the bridge, but the path goes through a gate just before it on the left. This leads into a field, where there may well be livestock (which is true of all the open grazing along this stretch). There’s a small metal gate at the end of this field and the path enters some woodland, where things can get a bit muddy, and indeed overgrown in patches.

The first of many small wooden bridges, or more accurately sections of secured planks thrown across a stream, follows, succeeded by a metal gate, after which things open up a bit. The land on the opposite bank is called South Fen, and its easy to see why. Views of the canal come and go thanks to bushes and tree growth, but it pops up with amazing regularity to assure you that you are on the right track.

Just before the end of the open stretch an opening reveals an offshoot of the canal on the other bank. A fresh wooded section follows and the pace here is sedate, with no craft on the water, no people and little livestock. More wooden bridges follow, and the path is easy to follow, usually passing through metal gates, alternating between open fields and woodland.

Occasionally there is a more serious bridge, and possibly some boardwalk, but all you have to do is stick with the footpath and keep the canal to your right. Look out for one field, entered via a stile, where a sign warns that a bull may be present, although the nearest you'll probably come to a bull is some bulrushes. Eventually, after a further woodland stretch, you will come to the disused Honing Lock.

Honing Lock to Bridleway
Honing Lock to Bridleway

Start point: 52.7905 lat, 1.456 long
End point: 52.7873 lat, 1.4521 long

Cross over Honing Lock and head over a bridge and pick up Weavers Way by a wooden barred gate, heading left. The well made up path passes through the dappled shade of mature trees and takes you to Honing Bridge, which looks like a metal trough with symbols down its side akin to the club suit from a deck of cards. Here you have to clamber up the bank to reach the road.

On reaching the road turn left towards the canal, which you soon cross. A sign soon announces that you are entering Dilham, but does so unconventionally, with a red warning triangle with a toad in the middle of it. Pass some cottages on the left, which presage houses on either side of the road as you begin to enter the village proper. Just before Ivy Farm, follow the prominent fingerpost sending you right down a bridleway.

Bridleway to End
Bridleway to End

Start point: 52.7873 lat, 1.4521 long
End point: 52.7774 lat, 1.4562 long

The bridleway follows the left hand edge of a field and bends right in the corner of the field, before turning left again, keeping to the perimeter of the field throughout. The path then follows a long stretch along the left-hand edge of the same field, before heading half right at the end, heading towards a road.

Maintain your direction on the road, heading for the church, dedicated to St. Nicholas. This is a solid stone-built rectangular and tower-less edifice, with some interesting curvature on the face looking out onto the road and an exposed bell. Cross over the road and stay with the left hand side of the resulting field. Look over into the field on your left, and when this ends pick up the footpath passing through the gap in the hedge on the left. This may not be signed, but it is a public footpath.

Half way down this field, which you follow on its right hand edge aiming for some red brick cottages, the path passes to the right through a gap and follows the left hand edge of the adjacent field. At the end of the field stay to the left and arrive on a road, where you head right, heading back to your starting point.

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Text and images for this walk are Copyright © 2014 by the author NickC and may not be reproduced without permission.

The information in this guide has been provided in good faith and is intended only as a guide, not a statement of fact. You are advised to check the accuracy of the information provided and should not use this guide for navigational directions nor should you rely on the accuracy of the weather forecast. You are advised to take appropriate clothing, footwear, equipment and navigational materials with you according to the current and possible weather and nature of the terrain. Always follow the country code and follow any additional warnings or instructions that may be available. Some walks may be very strenuous and you are advised to seek medical advice if you have any doubts as to your capability to complete the walk.

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