The Wey & Arun Canal Trust (WACT) is restoring the 23-mile canal, built 200 years ago between the Rivers Wey and Arun, linking Britain’s inland waterways with the English Channel. The Canal was formally closed in 1871.
WACT was formed in 1973, and membership is now over 3,000, placing it in the top two voluntary canal restoration bodies in the UK. To date 11 locks, 24 bridges and two aqueducts have been restored or rebuilt. Well over half the canal has been cleared of vegetation. There is a 3-mile fully navigable section centred on Loxwood along which the Trust runs boat trips throughout the year.
Around 10,000 passengers each year are carried on scheduled and charter boat trips and in addition the canal is enjoyed by Kayakers and Paddle-boarders.
Planning, design and enabling works are under way on a number of other projects as part of the ongoing restoration programme. Much of the work is carried out by a band of some 300 volunteers, who in give ~ 21,000 hours of their time to the project each year.
For complex tasks such as designing new structures and large-scale construction, the Trust employs the services of professional engineers and civil engineering contractors. The Trust owns very little land, but has long leases from many landowners along the route to grant public access and allow restoration activities to take place. The landowners’ continued goodwill is much valued and is vital to the success of the project. In the meantime, the Trust will continue to negotiate with other landowners with the aim of securing their commitment and co-operation.
By restoring the canal the Trust aims:
To improve access to the canal for recreation, tourism and leisure
To protect and enhance biodiversity, flora and fauna by improving wildlife habitats
To regenerate local communities by bringing sustainable employment and economic growth
To protect local landscape character and amenities, ecological value, heritage interest and water quality