The Canal close to Ruston Reaches
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Most people will know of Norfolk's famous "Broads" which these days refer not just to the flooded medieval peat diggings but also the six rivers that drain into the sea at Great Yarmouth and Lowestoft.
Fewer people will know that Norfolk has just one locked canal. It was constructed after an Act of Parliament was passed in 1812 and ran from Attingham Bone Mill, near North Walsham, to join the River Ant at a point a 100 yards north of Wayford Bridge.
The canal had a number of branches including one to East Ruston. This was fed by the Hundred Stream, which runs along the parish boundary. The branch terminated at a staithe, the local word for a landing stage for loading or unloading cargo boats, 200 yards south of Ruston Reaches. Since falling into disuse the staithe was converted into a fishing lake which has been a base for a local angling club since the 1930s.
The canal offers a number of opportunities for those staying at Ruston Reaches.
Norfolk County Council has produced a number of maps that suggest walks based around the Weavers Way. Two that were produced in 2016 are local to Ruston Reaches include sections that run along the banks of the canal. One takes you to Honing Lock and a longer one takes you around the villages of Honing and East Ruston.
The current list of Weavers Way walks can be found at the link on our Village page.
The Wild Swiming Page on the Canal Trust web site includes safety advice and links to local groups and is certainly worth reading if you have an interest in trying it during your stay at Ruston Reaches.
If you have not brought a canoe of your own for your stay at Ruston Reaches then one can be hired from Banks Boats a yard found at Wayford Bridge a mile west of Stalham on the A149 where the road crosses the River Ant. The boatyard also has day launches available.
These days the whole section of canal from its junction with the Ant to Honing Mill is owned by a local farmer. Farming is an increasingly precarious business and the NW&D Canal Trust recognises that the farmer needs more support if he is to keep the canal open for navigation. He has an honesty box for donations towards the cost of maintenance at a stage about 100yds south of Tonnage Bridge in lieu of more the more formal tolls that are required on Broads Authority or Canal and Rivers Trust waters. You are recommended to make an donation.
Locals are known to launch their canoes by the Hundred Stream culvert under the Weavers Way. This is a hundred yards along the path from the 90° turn on Chapel Road. This is close to the site of the old staithe which was converted into a lake and has been used by a local angling club since the 1930s.
That area was known to get clogged with reed in the height of summer, but you should not be put off launching there as, within as few yards, you will reach the more open waters a little further down the branch.
However, be warned that the area was found to have the highly invasive plant Floating Pennywort in 2020. Efforts have been made by the Broads Authority to clear it, but it is likely the area will need constant treatment. In order to avoid the spread of the plant, you are asked NOT to portage any craft around Honing Lock and to ensure your boat is thoroughly dry before launching into any other waterway.
Guided boat trips are offered by volunteers belonging to the North Walsham and Dilham Canal Trust. Their boat Ella II is solar powered and details of how to book a trip can be found on the NW&D Canal Trust web site.
Join A Work Party
The work of the Canal Trust never stops. One way visitors to Ruston Reaches can help the Trust is by joining a Work Party .
These occur throughout the year and is certainly one way to learn much more about the canal and keep warm when outdoors if you are taking your break in early spring or late autumn.