Wey & Arun Canal
Wey & Arun Canal
In 2022 work began on a major project to remove blockages to the canal route in Surrey. During the year, the Wey & Arun Canal Trust also carried out significant work on the operational Loxwood section. However, more extensive developments on the ground are being delayed by bottlenecks in local authority planning and approvals.
The trust’s ambitions for the canal in Surrey include restoration north and south of the village of Bramley. North of Bramley, a planning application that would re-establish the link with the national waterways system at Shalford, near Guildford, was submitted in 2020. Here the trust owns and manages the Hunt Nature Park. The Shalford information point opened in 2021, is now regularly open to the public and acts as a focal point for visitors and for guided walks. South of Bramley, the trust now owns a continuous 1.8km length of the canal route in the Birtley and Rooks Hill/Fanesbridge areas. In the immediate term, the aim is to remove blockages to the canal route on the Birtley section. A scenic circular walk along this section, which was previously not accessible to the public, is now open. Early in 2022, volunteers began construction of a new lifting bridge on the site of the original Birtley Bridge. After abandonment of the canal, this bridge was replaced by a causeway and used by a popular walking/cycle route (part of the National Cycle Network). To enable construction of the new bridge, the trust first had to build a temporary bridleway diversion and a gas main had to be rerouted. An archaeological investigation revealed extensive remains of the original swing-bridge. About 800m further south, the trust plans to replace the current temporary fixed deck on the bridge built in 2019 with a lifting deck to accommodate heavy farm vehicles. This will eventually enable removal of a temporary farm causeway and, over time, navigation by small boats. The trust has submitted a planning application to extend the restored section south of Birtley, which is partly in water and partly infilled. The plans would extend public access to the canal route. They include a restored lock (Fanesbridge) and a brick-faced bridleway bridge.
North of the busy B2130 road at Elmbridge, near Cranleigh, which currently blocks the canal route, the trust has submitted a planning application to restore the Rye Farm canal section and create a new towpath. The trust has also submitted an application for work that will create a navigable route under the B2130 and allow widening of the single-lane road. At Tickner’s Heath at Alfold, near Cranleigh, the trust’s aim is to allow the canal to cross the busy Alfold/Dunsfold road. Today a causeway blocks the canal route and it is not feasible to restore the canal crossing at this point. Instead, the trust is creating a new canal route with new road and pedestrian bridges. Volunteers and contractors have completed the piling for both bridges and installed the footbridge, which is now open to the public. Teams also created Surrey’s newest length of canal when they excavated the canal route beneath the footbridge. Work on a road diversion is also partially complete, ahead of construction of the road-bridge itself. Further progress is not possible until technical approval is received from Surrey County Council for works on the highway itself. The trust has submitted a planning application for a second phase of the Tickner’s Heath project, which will link the diverted canal to the existing waterway via a bridge under an access track. The trust has received Common Land consent for this proposed work. Desilting of the section between the A281 at Fast Bridge and Tickner’s Heath was partially completed by the trust’s workforce in 2019/20, so that through navigation became possible. Covid meant this operation could not be completed. This desilting is now scheduled to be undertaken by contractors on behalf of Dunsfold Park; preparation work started in late 2022.
Baldwin’s Knob Lock, which was the first lock on the canal to be restored and brought into regular use, was found to have a damaged cill which was causing severe leakage. The trust replaced the cill and thoroughly renovated the lock. With funding from the Canoe Foundation and British Canoeing, a summer work camp constructed three new landing stages suitable for paddlers which greatly improved access to the section north of Loxwood. With funding from the local council, the team also upgraded the heavily used towpath. Ash dieback disease has had a heavy impact on the canal route; in the interests of safety, extensive forestry work has been carried out by the trust’s own teams and WRG Forestry (and this work continues). Because of the lock repairs and an extreme water shortage in the summer, it was not possible to rewater the section between Drungewick Aqueduct and the winding hole south of Drungewick Lock. The trust now hopes to bring this section back into use by spring 2023.
Arun Valley (Billingshurst/Pulborough area)
With funding from a charitable trust, the trust has brought Lordings Waterwheel back into operation. This very unusual waterwheel is powered by the flow in the River Arun and lifts water up to the level of the canal.
The trust has obtained planning permission to rebuild Lee Farm Bridge, where a causeway currently obstructs the route of the canal. Detailed design work is now in progress. Completion of this work will remove the last obstacle on a section of about 3km between Lordings Lock and Lee Farm Lock.