Wey & Arun Canal
The Wey & Arun Canal Trust has worked on more than two-thirds of the 23-mile Wey & Arun Canal that once linked the Thames to the English Channel, via the Wey and Arun rivers. The longest navigable section at Loxwood is around 3½ miles, where a full programme of public boat cruises, with three passenger-boats and charter trips, is offered.
Last year saw the trust take further leaps forward in its goal of linking with the national waterway, working on a three-site strategy: (North) Shalford/Bramley; (Summit) Cranleigh/Alfold/Dunsfold; and (South) Loxwood/Ifold. Work is mainly carried out by volunteer working parties, both its own members and regular visiting groups. In 2019 the trust hosted three weeks of WRG camps and hopes to repeat this successful tie-up in 2020.
Throughout 2019 the trust has been working on plans that will lead to re-establishing the link with the national waterways system at Shalford, near Guildford, Surrey. Phase 1 involves a rebuilt canal between the River Wey and Gosden Aqueduct, including a new lock, winding hole, aqueduct and four footbridges. A Phase 1 planning application is expected to be submitted during 2020. Phase 2 will connect Phase 1 to the existing canal at Birtley, south of Bramley. At Birtley volunteers made great progress on the restoration of a 900m stretch and creation of a circular towpath walk. Work on the first of two lift-bridges was carried out and in less than 12 months volunteers had created an access route, cleared 600m of canal, put in fencing, built a culvert and completed the support for the bridge.
Following the opening of the Thriscutt slipway in 2018, activity on the summit intensified. January saw the delivery of two barges, a tugboat and dredger, enabling the start of a project to de-silt a section in readiness for the IWA National Trailboat Festival being held over 23rd-25th May 2020. The trust also completed plans for a new bridge and canal diversion some 300m south of the slipway, at Tickners Heath, to overcome the obstruction where the Alfold/Dunsfold road crosses the canal on a causeway. Work there is expected to begin in 2020. Plans for Elmbridge Road in Cranleigh were also unveiled, which will allow for the restoration of some 300m of canal and a new bridge. A consultation was held in October 2019 and plans will be submitted in 2020. At the end of 2019 the trust sought planning permission for developing a section of canal between Rushett Common and Run Common, between Cranleigh and Bramley. The development will include an accommodation bridge, built by trust volunteers.
Restoration also began at the southern end of the canal between Lordings Lock and aqueduct and Lee Farm Lock (the last but one on the canal). There is no through navigation because of a causeway on the site of an old bridge that crosses the canal at Harsfold, near Wisborough Green. Volunteers began work on a new bridge there in the summer and completion is expected by May 2020.