An inland through-route by water once existed between the Thames and the South Coast which has been called "London's Lost Route to the Sea".
The aim of the Wey & Arun Canal Trust is to restore that route. It will rate amongst the most scenic in the country. Today the southernmost part of the canal system ends at Godalming. The plan is to take it south to Pallingham, where it will join the river Arun and thus out to the sea at Littlehampton.
This page aims to answer the questions of those who either live near the canal route or those who come across it in their travels.
Q.1. What work has been done so far?
Work has taken place on over half the 23 mile length. This has resulted in a third of the canal being cleared and dredged, a new lock being built from scratch, nine locks being rebuilt, over 19 bridges restored or constructed and the Loxwood Road Crossing under Loxwood High Street being reopened for canal traffic. Additionally, culverts have been put in place and breaches repaired. Restoration Map
Q.2. Is any of it open for use?
A. Public trip boats operate regularly on the Loxwood section in West Sussex by the Canal Centre. The stretch of canal by Lordings/Orfold is used regularly for small boat rallies and our new section in Dunsfold/Alfold at the summit level is suitable for canoes. Although some of the restored sections are currently isolated from each other, the benefits of restoration are clearly visible on the canal, being appreciated by both visitors and wildlife alike.
Q.3.Will it ever be finished?
A. Those who give their time and energy to the project have no doubts that it certainly will be completed. The vast majority of what is currently to be seen on the canal is the result of much effort by volunteers. Contractors are only employed on major projects that are beyond the expertise of volunteers.
Q.4. Who owns it now?
A. After the canal was abandoned its ownership largely passed to the adjoining landowners. Today over fifty owners have a holding between Pallingham and Birtley. Some own a mile or so of the waterway while others have as little as 100 yards.
Q.5. How do you know that restoration is possible?
A. An independent engineering and environment survey was commissioned in 1992, the findings confirming an earlier 1973 survey. This was followed in 1995 by a cost/benefit study. The conclusions indicated that the restored canal could be economically viable. In 2007 an independent report by Atkins plc, the 'Canal Completion Strategy Report', was commissioned. This indicated that, in their opinion, full restoration was viable.
Q.6. What about houses that have been built on the old line of the canal?
A. One study looked at this problem and proposed alternative routes for the canal, and these will form the subject of negotiations before a definite proposal is put forward.
Q.7. What about road bridges?
A. With the opening of the Loxwood Road Crossing on the B2133, two bridges have now been built. This means that there are nine remaining with the next one (Compasses), behind Dunsfold Park in Surrey, now open to traffic.
Q.8. What about water supply for the canal?
A. As we don’t have a dedicated water supply, electrically operated back-pumps bring water back above the lock after a boat has passed through. 'Puddling' the bed of the canal to keep it watertight is an essential task for water retention.
Q.9. Are all your people volunteers?
A. Almost all, the Trust having only six paid employees, these being job-share office managers, a Canal Centre Supervisor, Fundraising assistant and an Administrator. Everyone else is a volunteer and more would be welcome, without them the whole scheme would rapidly grind to a halt.
Q.10. What are your priorities?
A. Following the opening this year of Southland Lock on the Sussex-Surrey border, work will largely concentrate on three projects :- Hunt Nature Park in Shalford, Gennets Bridge Lock and Compasses Bridge . At the same time, maintenance of other stretches, whether navigable or not, will continue to be performed by our volunteers.
Q.11. How will you pay for this work?
A. Tasks are undertaken when permission and money allow, with grants being sought from many sources. Funds are raised from members, charitable trusts, legacies, recycling, an annual sponsored walk and from Wey & Arun Enterprises Ltd., the associated trading company.
Q.12. What is your policy on nature conservation?
A. The Trust has close links with the Sussex and Surrey Wildlife Trusts, Natural England and the Environmental Agency. With these links the Trust can obtain advice and help with surveys, keeping in close contact with local and national initiatives.
Q.13. Is it possible to walk beside the canal for the whole length?
A. Not yet. There are sections where there is a public right-of-way along the towpath, these being shown on Ordnance Survey Landrange maps sheets 186, 187 and 197. As many sections are on private land that is not accessible to the public, the Trust urges people not to jeopardise its relations with those landowners by trespassing. The walking route is shown in a walk-guide called The Wey-South Path, obtainable from the Trust's office or The Canal Centre.
Q.14. How can I help?
The best way is by joining as a member and if your subscription is Gift Aided, the Trust gains 25 pence in the £ - and you may also pay less income tax. Both 'armchair' and active members are welcome as both groups show their support for the Trust's objectives that can help influence local authorities and those who make grants. If you would like more information, without any obligation, please contact the Membership Secretary (firstname.lastname@example.org)
or call 01403 752403.