UK. First boat rally for Wey & Arun Canal held at Dunsfold Print E-mail
Friday, 06 October 2006
Waterways news:


On Sunday 1st October, a restored section of the Wey & Arun Canal near Dunsfold saw its first boats for many years. This particular section on the canal (between the Three Compasses pub and the A281 at Fastbridge) has special significance for the canal as it is where the opening ceremony took place back in 1816.

Opening ceremony

After the ceremony in 1816, the official party set out by boat for Guildford for further festivities in the afternoon, while the navvies who had worked on the canal for 3 years stayed behind for a huge party, with 200 gallons of ale.

For the most part, the Wey & Arun Canal was built in a way that was sympathetic to the landscape and the contours of the land, but for just over a mile in the Dunsfold area it was necessary to dig out the deep cutting that we can still see today. Of course, all this was done by huge gangs of labourers using only spades and horse-power.

In 2006, the Trust decided against trying to recreate the train of 8 barges, fully loaded with coal and timber, that trailed behind Lord Egremont and his party in 1816. Instead, it was a collection of canoes and small boats that explored this peaceful and slightly mysterious section of water.

Storing water in dry summer months

This section is part of the 'summit' level of the canal on its route between the River Wey near Guildford and the River Arun near Pulborough. The summit level was built to double depth so that it could store water during the dry summer months, a piece of 19th century forethought that we can certainly appreciate today. Boats cruised under Farnhurst Bridge, which was restored between 1991 and 1993 by a group of Wey & Arun Canal Trust volunteers. The owners of Dunsfold Park kindly allowed the Trust access to a launching area and parking facilities for the day.

Today, navigation is restricted by bridges on the A281 and near the Three Compasses. The international consultancy firm, Atkins, are working with a group which includes all the local councils and the Wey & Arun Canal Trust to draw up a strategy for the complete restoration of the canal. The strategy, due for publication before the end of 2006, will put forward options for removing all the current blockages. The Trust are already working on one of the most important road crossings, under the main road at Loxwood in Sussex, where it is hoped that a new bridge will be ready in 2007.

More boats in 2007

Next year the Wey & Arun Canal Trust hope to hold another rally at Dunsfold and cater for larger numbers of boats. The Trust’s Summit Level manager, Andy Bowerman, said "I’m thrilled at the enthusiastic response we received from everyone which all contributed to a great day out. It was wonderful to see the canal being used after all the hard work by our volunteers to get the site ready and the towpath cleared."
Last Updated ( Friday, 06 October 2006 )
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