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The Countryside Afloat
A Review of Recent Events by the Wey & Arun Canal Trust
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August 2004

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Pumping water uphill at no cost sounds as if it has come from one of the dodgier advertisements in the Press. Our predecessors devised a scheme for it and, although it all fell into ruins during the canal's 100 year 'sleep' the scheme has been restored by Trust enthusiasts and is pumping water very satisfactorily. How did the Trust manage to achieve something for nothing? The power is the force of the river Arun and this is sufficient to turn a waterwheel which lifts water about 10 feet into the canal. There were not many clues as to what the wheel looked like and indeed we do not know of another undershot wheel anywhere else on the British canal system. We hesitate to say it is unique but prefer, at this stage, to say it is PDU - Pretty Damned Unusual. Where can you see it? Take the footpath south from Newbridge (on the A272 to the west of Billingshurst) and walk for about a mile and a half along the line of the Arun Navigation (a 4 canal completed in 1787 between Pallingham and Newbridge). The replica waterwheel was fabricated off-site, transported in pieces and assembled beside Lordings Lock. This Lock is remarkably remote, even today, with the nearest road about three-quarters of a mile away. The wheel turns slowly, at about 4rpm, but the many vanes each bring up a little water at a time which, over 24 hours, amounts to a considerable amount. At present we are doing this purely for demonstration purposes so the water goes straight back into the Arun on the other side of the aqueduct. Well worth a visit for a piece of industrial archaeology which we think you won't see elsewhere - PDU, indeed.


May Upton ran on railway lines, to time, going up and down the dual slipway at Drungewick. It was mid- May and a glorious day with plenty of supporters out to see the culmination of so much planning and work

It seemed a long time ago - three years - that we paid Southern Electric to move the power-cable pole in our Chairman's field and install a transformer so that we could tap the 11Kv line for something a bit more manageable. The cable and meter are housed in a ready-use ammunition locker from an RN frigate which Eric Walker found for us in a Portsmouth scrapyard. It is also from there that the power goes the next half-mile to Drungewick Lock to run the back-pumps there.

Our Chairman kindly added land to the Trust to join the existing lease. This involved the access lane and the land for the dual slipways. The layout of the shallower slipway meant that some land had to be taken from the cattle meadow. If we had not done so the concrete on which the trolleys run would have been too far out into the channel.

Alan Johnson dealt with the planning applications which had to be approved by Chichester District Council. For reasons too long to recount here, this all had to be done twice. Like so much of canal restoration, this is administrative work which few people realise has to be done and most supporters of the Trust are quite unaware of the amount of work required. Alan has a full-time job with English Heritage and we are grateful to him for finding the time and using his architectural expertise, to deal with these planning applications.

The rails for the shallower slipway came from the Romney, Hythe & Dymchurch Railway and the cradles were made for us by Devizes Marina. The construction details were pored over and amended by Roy Sutton, of IWA, to make sure that we had the right design. The slipways were constructed by Richard Julian, partly with the help of his sons, in a variety of weather that varied from flood to drought. Steel piling had to be driven so that the lower part of the slipway could be laid in the dry; the overhead power cables meant that this could not be done with a crane but by Richard's JCB perched on an innovative design which modified the cradles.

The money to make it all possible came largely from a 25,000 bequest from Roger Dimmock. Roger had been a member of IWA Middlesex Branch and the legacy was to the IWA for a worthy project. The remainder of the 33,000 cost came from Trust funds with some additional money provided by the Local Heritage Initiative to pay for what is called the 'cross-over' where the approach lane joins Drungewick Lane.

The opening ceremony, much delayed for one reason or another, was performed by David Dimmock. A memorial plaque was unveiled and boats went up and down each of the two slipways. The sun shone and many of the 46 boats which had come for the Small Boat Rally added colour and spectators to the scene. One more project for the Wey & Arun completed. It seemed a suitable time for Vaughan Welch, the Chairman of IWA's Restoration Committee, to present Peter Foulger with the Kenneth Goodwin Trophy - for the canal which had made the most progress in the previous year. Much applause, to acknowledge how much had been done by Trust members, some of whom are named above.


The Inland Waterways Association says the answer is 18 metres; so by that definition our proposed bridge under the High Street at Loxwood will, at 21 metres, be a tunnel. A 70-foot-long narrowboat will momentarily be entirely hidden. The Trust plans to build this bridge to get the canal under the B2133. Some, particularly walkers, might prefer to see a lifting bridge but the alternative road, while the bridge is up, is a very country road (Drungewick Lane) and not suitable for emergency vehicles. The cost of maintaining a swing bridge over its long life is also considerable and the County Council might well demand a swingeing endowment from the Trust if the Council was to adopt the bridge. The original 1813 bridge was hump-backed but that would meet none of the criteria for sight-lines today. We could have raised the High Street to get the canal through at its original level, but that proved to be just as expensive and even more inconvenient for nearby residents than lowering the canal itself. So, in brief, we will reduce the height gained at Brewhurst Lock, take the canal under the road at this reduced height and then regain what we have lost at a new lock on the other side of the road to the Onslow Arms. The whole exercise, including the diversion of the Loxwood village sewer, BT cables and the water main, will cost in the region of 1.2M This is almost twice what the Drungewick Crossing cost and presents a fundraising challenge which the Trust is starting to pick up. News of its progress will be in the next editions of Countryside Afloat.


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,
The Granary, Flitchfold Farm,
Loxwood, Billingshurst
Telephone: 01403 752403
Fax: 01403 753991





Last updated August 2004