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The Countryside Afloat
A Review of Recent Events by the Wey & Arun Canal Trust

Previous issues

November 2003

  CONTENTS
Whither Now
  More In the Arun Valley
  More Canal Completion Strategy
  More Any Questions
  More
 

The incredibly warm and dry summer which we have enjoyed for the past four or five months has been a mixed blessing so far as the Wey & Arun Canal is concerned. Certainly it was wonderful to have such superb weather for the official opening of the Drungewick Aqueduct and Lock on 31 May, and similarly there were ideal conditions for most of the cruises run from Loxwood by the trip boats Zachariah Keppel and John Smallpiece for many weeks. However, during August the canal started to suffer from a shortage of water and some cruises had to be curtailed although, to keep them going for as long as possible, the Trust was abIe to use the back-pumping facility, which is being built into all the restored locks on the Wey & Arun, in order to concentrate the avaiIable water in the pound immediately behind the OnsIow Arms pub.

Meanwhile restoration work has continued steadily, however the number of bonfires (once the bird's-nesting season was over) was severely limited by the fear of such fires spreading in the very dry conditions Therefore a lot of scrub etc. was left for burning when conditions became rather safer. However, during October the many tree stumps pulled out at Bonfire Hanger and elsewhere some three years ago were deemed dry enough to burn which contributed considerable bulk to some of the bonfires once it was safe to light them.

Adjacent to the Drungewick Aqueduct the Trust has built twin slipways and an approach road. One slipway is designed for hauling WACT's trip boats out of the water for maintenance and repairs etc., while the other is intended to facilitate the launching of small boats onto the canaI and their subsequent recovery, for example on the occasion of the annual Small Boat RalIy. The approach road has been named Roger Dimmick Lane, in memory of the benefactor who left a legacy of £25,OOO which was awarded to the Trust by the Inland Waterways Association and covered most of the costs involved. Zachariah Keppel christened the slipway when brought in for her annual overhaul, when she aIso passed the safety test of the Marine & Coastal Authority.

Visiting supporters have just about completed the new weir in Sidney Wood, while one of WACT's regular teams has virtually finished the restoration.of Devil's Hole Lock, which lies about half a mile north of Loxwood.

WHITHER NOW?

After opening the two miles or so of canal from the Onslow Arms at Loxwood High Street to the new winding hole (turning place for boats) below Drungewick Lock, the Trust's directors had to decide whether to concentrate their limited resources on extending the restoration southwards, towards the A272 at Newbridge, or norhwards, up the hiIl towards the River Wey. After much discussion it was agreed to head north and so the first major step wilI to be to get the waterway across the B2133 at Loxwood. This seems likely to be the most complicated road crossing on the whole canaI since the bridge will have to be significantly skewed, while just about evey sort of public service facility (water, gas, fibre optic cables etc.) now passes through the causeway carrying the road over the canal. The Trust is due to receive very soon a report on the technicaI aspects of this bridge and hopes to be in a position to seek the necessay approval from the planning authorities early next year. At the same time there will undoubtedly be a major fundraising operation since all the indications are that this bridge could be at least as costly as the whole of the Drungewick Crossing (which finally ran out at about £630,OOO), if not more so.

 

 

  CONTENTS
Whither Now
  More In the Arun Valley
  More Canal Completion Strategy
  More Any Questions
  More
 

One encouraging piece of news has been the willingness of Eric Walker to take on the thankless job of acting as Project Manager for the new bridge. Having succeded in a similar capacity for all stages of the Drungewick Crossing, it seems that Eric did not enjoy being out of a job for long - the hiatus lasted for only about six weeks!

IN THE ARUN VALLEY

Winston Harwood leads the Trust's operations in the area of the former Lording's Aqueduct and Lock, and also at the nearby Flood Gates. On 22 June the restored bridge beside the Flood Gates was formally opened and all those who gathered for the occasion were most impressed by what one man's enthusiasm has achieved. Winston has aIso installed the actuaI FIood Gates, and opened up the former towpath along the east bank of the canaI at this point.

The latest project in the area has been the installation of a waterwheel beside the former Lording's Aqueduct in order to demonstrate the apparently unique type of wheeI introduced by the Arun Navigation Company when that canal was originally built in 1785/87. This worked on the 'undershot' principle so that water from the River Arun was collected in the wheel and raised some 7 feet as the wheel revolved, before spilling out and running down a channel into the canal itself. The new wheel shows how the system worked and, because it could operate 24 hours a day, the fact that it raised comparatively little water on each revolution was more than offset by this continuity. Winston's next task is to rebuild the western wall of the aqueduct so that the water raised by the.wheel can actually fill the section of canal crossing that structure.

CANAL COMPLETION STRATEGY

At the opening of the Drungewick Aqueduct and Lock last May the Trust launched its Prospectus which featured an invitation for appropriate bodies tojoin it in seeking to compIete the canal's restoration. Several such bodies have responded and an initial meeting to consider the matter was held on 11 November in the Guildford offices of the Government's South East England Development Agency (SEEDA). Among those represented were the Surrey and West Sussex County Councils, Chichester District Council, Waverley Borough Council, the Environment Agency, the Sussex Wildlife Trust and SEEDA. It was accepted that a series of further meetings should be held to develop appropriate partnerships with such other interests as landowners, and also to review possible methods of fundraising and other activities to hasten the reopening of the compIete Wey & Arun Canal. WACT warmly welcomed this evidence of support for the canal's restoration and remains wholly confident that its task of renewing the waterway link between the Rivers Wey and Arun, to say nothing of EngIand's only inland waterway route to the English Channel, will be completed in due time. The question always asked in this respect is 'how long will it take?' and the answer to that must depend on the support of the local community and the availability of the necessary facilities including the ever-crucial funding. Given all of these things, completion within ten years is more than possible.

Any reader who would like to receive a copy of this Prospectus is invited to contact the Trust per the details shown below

ANY QUESTIONS?

If you would like to know more about the Wey & Arun Canal, whether in respect of its history or of its ongoing restoration, do please contact the Trust's Office at -

Wey & Arun Canal Trust,

Telephone; 01403 752403

The Granary, Flitchfold Farm,

Fax.. 01403 75399l

Loxwood, Billingshurst

e-mail: wact@weyandarun.freeserve.co.uk

West Sussex RHl4 0RH

Website; www.weyandarun.co.uk

 

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Last updated June 2004