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Official Opening of the Wey & Arun Canal Centre at Loxwood

More than 200 supporters and guests enthusiastically welcomed the opening of the Canal Centre at Loxwood, West Sussex, on Sunday 1st April. Mike Coleman, Chairman of West Sussex County Council, cut the red ribbon and saluted the exceptional work by all the volunteers.

Sally Schupke, Chairman of the Wey & Arun Canal Trust, said that the history of the Canal Centre went back a long way. The Trust had started by planning a wooden ticket office in the car park, then started thinking about a log cabin. A fortunate meeting with generous sponsors led to more ambitious thoughts and the splendid new building was the result. The Canal Trust was an environmentally aware group and had wanted a very 'green' building - constructed from sustainably sourced materials and with exceptionally low energy requirements.

Peter Flatter generously sponsored the building of the Canal Centre and without his assistance we would certainly not have achieved the fine building that we have to promote the canal's history, activities and aims. The Trust wishes to record its thanks to Mr Peter Flatter.

Sussex company Fordingbridge plc had responded skilfully to the Trust's requirements. Sally hoped that Loxwood residents would be proud of the canal in their village; she recalled that one of the first jobs canal restorers had carried out in the area was to remove tons of glass from the canal bed behind the Onslow Arms, which had been used as a bottle dump. Later the "black shed", a corrugated iron lean-to behind the nearby Onslow Arms pub, became the Trust's publicity centre, but by the 21st century it had become completely inadequate. 10,000 passengers enjoyed boat trips on the canal last year and many others visit just for a walk along the peaceful canalside paths.

Sally asked members to remember Tim Jolly, who had sadly died in 2010 at the age of 62. Tim used to spend nearly every Summer Sunday at Loxwood helping on the Trust's publicity stand and sharing his enthusiasm with visitors. The Trust was also proud of the fact that no public money had been involved as all the fund raising had been done by the Trust's supporters.

She finished by thanking all those who had been involved in the building: John Pryce, the Project Manager and Ian Burton, the Trust's Conservation Advisor, who produced the landscaping design. Both are volunteers for the Trust. The Canal Centre is now open every weekend until the Autumn.

Editor's note:

The Wey & Arun Canal Trust

The 23-mile Wey & Arun Canal was built between 1813 and 1816 to link the Rivers Wey and Arun, thus forming an inland barge route between London and the south coast in order to provide a safe inland route for military supplies to the fleet in Portsmouth. However, after the Napoleonic Wars, it became a largely agricultural canal, carrying goods including coal, chalk, lime and farm produce. The coming of the railways finally sealed the canal's fate, the waterway being abandoned in 1871.

Since 1971, the Wey & Arun Canal Trust, a registered charity, has been working to re-open navigation along the waterway and, once fully restored, to again link Littlehampton on the south coast with the River Thames via the River Wey.

For further information please contact Sally Schupke 01483 560543 (daytime) or mobile 07771 923368. Photos are available - please indicate what type of photo you would like. email: sas@weyandarun.co.uk

Last updated  Saturday, 14 April, 2012
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