Tuesday 8th March
Engineering Aspects of the Wey and Arun Canal Restoration by Mr Eric Walker MBE, C Eng.
Eric gave a very full overview of the restoration of the Canal, which was finally completed in 1816 as part of an inland route from London to Littlehampton from whence other canals connected to Portsmouth.
The intention was to avoid the use of coastal shipment, which was at the time plagued by French raiders. It is sometimes referred to nowadays as London’s Lost Route to the Sea. The Canal was a success at first, it’s peak being in 1839, but with the advent of the railways loads diminished and the Wey and Arun part was abandoned under an Act of Abandonment in 1871 although several parts remained in use for many years.
The Restoration Trust was formed in 1973 with the intention of connecting the navigable River Wey near Godalming to the Arun near Pulborough thus restoring the 23-mile section of the 82-mile route from London Bridge to Littlehampton. Eric oversees all the engineering works needed as part of the restoration for which he received the MBE.
Eric described the works carried out so far but emphasised that there is still a long way to go to complete the route. He covered locks, aqueducts, bridges, the canal itself tow paths and water supply. Perhaps of particular interest are the works at Loxwood with a new lock and the main road bridge re-built to give adequate clearance. At all times, particular attention is paid to enhancing the diversity of natural habitats. He mentioned a routing problem where the site of the canal had, in the past, been sold and in some places built over necessitating rerouting causing problems of land purchase.
Altogether an exceedingly interesting talk of quality enjoyed by one of our largest attendances in recent times indicating a great local interest in the project.
Tuesday 8th March