2024 has started with the exciting completion of desilting work on the Dunsfold section, resulting in a fully navigable unobstructed wide and deep channel, for nearly 2km from Fast Bridge down to Tickner’s Heath, and a canalside path.

Our volunteers had made huge progress with restoration here over many years, but we were then set back by Covid. So we were very happy to step back when the final stage was taken over by Dunsfold Airport Ltd, which is behind the transformation of Dunsfold Aerodrome (now known as Dunsfold Park and which borders the canal here) into a new village, where 1,800 homes and further commercial zones will emerge. The first stage of new housing will border the canal.

The 2023 desilting operation

The principal contractors for the desilting were Sir Robert McAlpine. They called on Land & Water Group Ltd, recognised commercial experts in canal desilting, who spent much of the year on Dunsfold Airport Ltd’s behalf on this major project, with Environment Agency oversight.

  •  All the fish were removed and rehomed. Many of them were large carp, with which the canal here had been stocked by the British Aerospace angling club
  • All the canal water in the section – enough to fill 36 Olympic swimming pools – was pumped into temporary lagoons built on site.
  • The water was then cleaned by substantial process plant that uses the power of rising air bubbles to remove harmful contaminants, and returned to the canal.
  • 13,000m3 of silt was then taken out by a modern amphibious tracked excavator and a more traditional dragline and bucket. As far as possible it will be reused for landscaping on the development.

Unexploded Ordnance

The aerodrome was built in the Second World War by and for Canadian forces. During the dredging, the contractors encountered unexploded ordnance from that time which required professional disposal.

How the canal will be used and public access

At the moment the canal is within the secure perimeter of Dunsfold Park and will not be open to the Public until the housing development is underway.  However, Dunsfold Park will allow us to run special events on this stretch of canal and organise guided walks.   The Trust has a slipway within Dunsfold Park to launch small boats.

Tickners Heath Crossing

At the Southern end of this section is Tickner’s Heath where the route of the canal is blocked by the causeway which carries Dunsfold Road.   To overcome this obstruction a new road bridge will be built and a new canal cut excavated to rejoin the original canal to the west of the old crossing.  A new footbridge was built in 2022 but then work had to be but on hold while we awaited highway approvals for a temporary road and for a water main to be re-routed.  The Trust hopes to restart this project later this year.

Quotes from the Canal Trust and The Rutland Group (who manage Dunsfold Park)

Sally Schupke (Wey & Arun Canal Trust Chairman)  “We are delighted with the work carried out by Dunsfold Park and their support to ensure the canal becomes an important feature and community asset within the Dunsfold Park Masterplan”

Jim McAllister, Chief Executive, The Rutland Group, “The canal has undergone a significant transformation over the last 12 months. With nearly 2km of restoration now complete, we’re delighted that the desilting and re-profiling of the banks along the canal has made the waterways more open and accessible. Enhancing and building on the natural environment at Dunsfold Park is a key component of our plans for the new village and the canal is an important part of that.”