Wey & Arun Canal
Wey & Arun Canal
The last 12 months certainly posed challenges for the Wey & Arun Canal Trust, but the commitment to restoring the 23-mile canal that once linked the Thames to the English Channel remained undaunted and the year saw the completion of a major construction project and the beginning of another, alongside several planning applications for further ambitious projects.
Volunteer working parties in Surrey and West Sussex continued for much of 2020, adhering to Covid-19 safety restrictions, carrying out repairs, maintenance and restoration work, while boat trips at the longest navigable section at Loxwood also managed to operate in the summer, autumn and at Christmas. The trust also had the pleasure of seeing its trip-boat Zachariah Keppel returned from a London boatyard after repairs, and craned over the towpath back into the canal. The spectacle even caught the attention of the BBC.
The entire length of the canal saw a big uplift in the number of walkers, cyclists and horse riders on the towpaths, and revenue from licences from paddle-boarders, canoeists and kayakers hit record levels.
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. In the latter part of 2020, a planning application was submitted to create approximately 1km of new canal from the Wey Navigation by the A281 bridge to near to the historic Gosden Aqueduct. The plans for Bramley Link phase 1 include:
• An extension to the existing Hunt Nature Park;
• A new canal with a lock, side pond and two new bridges;
• A small canal basin for turning boats;
• A fish pass and flood-relief channel bypassing Gosden Aqueduct.
At the end of 2020 permission was granted for a second bridge to be built at Birtley, near Bramley. The trust is planning to create a new circular canalside walk in this particularly stunning part of the countryside, and in 2019 volunteers completed the structure of the first of the two bridges needed. A temporary deck has been constructed for this and will be fitted in 2021, allowing the walk to open. Building of the second bridge is expected in 2022.
The trust began work on a major project on the Summit in 2020. The project at Tickner’s Heath, near Cranleigh, involves creating a new cutting and the construction of a road crossing and pedestrian footbridge, and will last several years. Volunteers will construct a new length of canal, approximately 180m long, to divert around an existing causeway and create a new road-bridge. A pedestrian footbridge will also be constructed, along with a temporary road diversion. By the end of 2020 tree works had been completed and a compound had been set up, ahead of piling for the footbridge.
Elsewhere, plans to restore 330m of the canal south of Elmbridge Road were submitted. The level of the canal will be lowered by about 2m here to pass through a new bridge without excessive raising of the road. This will, in turn, require a new lock to be built, towards the southern end of the restored length, and the line of the towpath will be adjusted to cross the canal twice, once via the new bridge and again via a footbridge at the lock.
Arun Valley (between Billingshurst and Pulborough):
At Harsfold, between Lordings Lock and aqueduct and Lee Farm Lock, the canal was blocked by a causeway. Construction of a new bridge commenced in October 2019 and was completed on time in July 2020, despite workers facing flooding, winter storms and lockdown. The project cost just under £50,000, with all work completed by volunteers apart from the fitting of a specially made metal safety balustrade.