The journey from London to the South Coast is only a short train ride. But imagine a more scenic route, winding down the rivers of the Wey & Arun Canal… In the 19th century, this method of transport was the norm, but over time, railways became the new form of travel. Nevertheless, the canal still forms a vital link between the Thames and the South Coast.
It runs through Sussex and Surrey and links London with the English Channel and beyond. These days, most of the canal can’t be used, having been neglected to form nothing more than a stagnant, overgrown river. In 1970, the Wey and Arun Canal Trust was formed by a group of enthusiasts eager to restore the canal back to its former glory.
The trust is a purely voluntary organisation, relying on the support and generosity of members, local businesses and residents. Despite this lack of funding, it has already reconstructed 21 bridges, eleven locks and several miles of the canal have been cleared and restored. Once completed, there will once more be a waterway link between the capital and the Sussex coast.
Certain stretches of the canal are privately owned but most are flanked by pathways that can be accessed by the public. The canal runs through the scenic Sussex landscape, a great backdrop for a walk on the canal banks. This area is flourishing with wildlife, enjoying both the waters and the surrounding countryside that runs the length of the canal.
The Wey & Arun Canal Trust runs three fantastic boat trips along the Loxwood Link section of the canal, a stunning stretch of water on the West Sussex border. The boats they use are wide, electrically powered cruisers that hold up to 50 passengers. It’s a great way to spend a weekend, cruising amongst the idyllic Sussex scenery, as well as being a really worthy cause to reignite this classic watery route.
A new visitor centre opens 01 April 2012 at Loxwood.