Canoe trip from Halesworth to Southwold to help restore region’s industrial heritage

Gerald Burns (right) collecting his cargo of malt from Alex Carr, proprietor of the Halesworth Wine

Gerald Burns (right) collecting his cargo of malt from Alex Carr, proprietor of the Halesworth Wine Shop. - Credit: Archant

The age-old tradition of transporting malt by boat from Halesworth to Southwold is to be revived – but in a somewhat smaller vessel than in days gone by.

Rather than a sailing wherry, laden with 50 tons of cargo, the journey will be made by a kayak, carrying a simple bag of malt.

Gerald Burns is undertaking the voyage along the Blyth Navigation from Patrick Stead’s Quay in the centre of Halesworth to Adnams Brewery in Southwold, in an effort to help restore a piece of the region’s industrial heritage.

The 70-year-old is part of a group trying to restore a neglected half-mile stretch of the navigation, known as the New Reach, and hopes his exploits will raise at least £2,000 to get the work under way.

Mr Burns said: “The history of malt and maltings and transporting malt from Halesworth is enormously important to the heritage of the area. It is the reason for the town’s prosperity. It is a tremendous asset to the town but it needs tidying up and keeping on top of.”

The Blyth Navigation opened in 1761 and had a significant impact on the development of Halesworth, enabling the export of goods, especially grain and malt, to developing markets via coastal shipping.

Volunteers are now trying to restore the New Reach section, which runs through the middle of Halesworth and Millennium Green, so that it can be enjoyed by local people. The group also hopes to restore two locks, including one built in 1761 and believed to be one of the oldest in the country, and replace a bridge.

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Mr Burns has not set a date for his 10-mile fundraising trip but hopes to complete it in the coming months subject to tide and weather conditions.

Part of the navigation is now silted up, sluices have been installed at Mells, near Holton, and Wenhaston, and fallen trees have made some parts of the navigation impassable.

Not only will Mr Burns have to drag his canoe around the obstacles, he will also have to cross the open expanse of the Blyth Estuary and cope with the powerful tide at Southwold Harbour.

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