The recent flurry of activity in the Waterside area - the new bridge over the Haven, the building of the flood wall, the creation of the Waters Edge Park, the restoration of the Ropewalk, the building of the Visitors Centre, the development of the Silver Birches camp site, and the possible new housing development on the site of St. Chads school and churchbrings a welcome fillip to an area of the town somewhat neglected over recent decades. The only feature lacking will be evidence of the original purpose of the Haven - the sight of boats moored along its banks as far inland as the Railway Station.
The Waterside Haven is a man-made canal dug in a perfect straight north-south line across the flat marshland bordering the river. Unfortunately we do not know when this major project was undertaken - perhaps in late Anglo-Saxon times or even later. It was certainly the work of a farsighted planner whose aim was to harness the water flowing into the river from various streams and artesian springs (Blow Wells - and see upper map) and use that water to create a safe, relatively deep-water anchorage for Barton shipping. To complete the scheme three new water channels had to be dug by hand. Most importantly the nearly half a mile long canal inland from the river. Running east and west from the southern end of that canal were two further ditches - really catchwater drains - ran the water collected from the various streams and artesian springs. That water was then used to flush out the mud which would have eventually filled the Haven canal (see lower map).
Two parallel streets at the southern end of the canal - Fleetgate and Castledyke West - were also almost certainly part of the scheme and would house the merchants and mariners using the Haven. A further benefit of the scheme to the town was the drainage of the marshland alongside the river. No longer would the slow, meandering streams keep this land frequently water-logged. In future this drier land would provide the towns farmers with the main area in which they could pasture their animals as well as meadow for vital hay making.
Things seem to be looking-up down Waterside way. The numbers of people parking at the Point and staying at the campsite can but enhance the prestige and economy of the town. Our thanks to all concerned in the most valuable redevelopment work.
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