You are now at Loves Bridge. What a romantic name and what a romantic area, right out in the countryside, away from it all. The name, of course, comes from Loves Farm just up the track west from here. Go along the track in the opposite direction and you get to the old Okehurst Estate, a collection of farms built up by the Locke-King family in the 19th century. Hugh Locke-King sold the Okehurst Estate in 1908 when he was developing one of his other estates up at Brooklands in Surrey. Under his direction, Brooklands became one of the most famous motor racing circuits in the world and the host of two Grand Prix.
The River Arun curled and curved all over the place around here, making a wonderfully scenic landscape but causing major problems for the builders of the Wey and Arun Junction canal. Josias Jessop, the surveyor and engineer of the canal company, needed to keep construction costs down so he diverted the meandering old river to run in a straight line alongside his intended line for the new canal. This avoided the necessity of additional aqueducts which were very costly structures both to build and to maintain.
Horses, towing heavily laden barges, would pass underneath bridges like this one but sailing barges would have had to lower their canvas to pass underneath.
Initial work on restoring Loves Bridge was carried out by volunteers of the Wey and Arun Canal Trust (WACT) between 1974 and 1976. In 1974, volunteers from the Royal Navy (HMS Daedalus Lee-on-Solent) completed further work to strengthen the arch. The picture below was taken in 1973 when initial clearance had been completed.
Further work was carried out by WACT volunteers in 1992 to strengthen and rebuild the parapets and they followed the line of the arch, causing eyebrows to be raised by professional bricklayers! But the result makes for one of the most attractive bridges on the canal.
The Trust continues its quest to restore the canal for use by pleasure craft and as a well-kept green corridor for walkers through the beautiful Sussex and Surrey countryside.
Flora and Fauna
Watch out for deer running through the fields around here and keep an eye open for water mammals in the canal. Sometimes there are swans along this stretch and the occasional grass snake can been seen wiggling through the water at surprising speed.
In the spring wild flowers abound: as well as the expected more common flowers, look out for stitchwort and other rarer species.
In the summer you will see damsel flies, some red, some blue, performing their mid-air ballet and different species of dragonfly darting incessantly back and forth.
Next Information Posts
Heading north from here, the next structure of interest on the canal is at Malham Lock. It’s less than a mile away as the crow flies but there is no direct path so you will have to go via Okehurst Lane (and Bignor Bridge). Malham, though, is a lovely area in itself and the lock there was restored by WACT volunteers between 1976 and 1980.
Going south, our next Information Post is about ¾ mile away at Rowner Lock which was the scene of the WACT’s very first working party on March 28th 1971. It’s a great walk with the River Arun bending and twisting along the straighter line of the old canal. Whichever way you go, enjoy your walk.