Show me the Wey

WholeCanalOct12Nearing the nadir of the slow days of narrow-boat transportation, the Wey-Arun canal was constructed, connecting commercial London to the English Channel and beyond. Utilising the eponymous rivers it was begun in 1813 but barely reached a century before the canal fell by the wayside of competition from the new and faster, rail networks

For most of the 20th century, the canal remained “no more than a stagnant, muddy overgrown depression in the ground” until a group of enthusiasts formed the Wey & Arun Canal Society and bit by bit have dragged and drained it back towards eventual restoration.

There is still much work to be done and the start of this walk from High bridge, Alfold, shows where the canal has all but virtually disappeared under its overgrown channels. Dredging and bank clearing is a Sisyphean task but the tremendous work has already brought lengths of the canal back into life. And before long, the waters are seen to be flowing alongside the path to Loxwood.

Locks and bridges have had to be re-built too with much of the time, money and manpower from donations and volunteer labourers. Even benches are provided not so much for the weary but for those who want to stop and stare

Part of the charm of a neglected canal is the sheer density of shrubbery and grasses that have overgrown along with the canal’s decay. Set in an arable and arboreal landscape of this Surrey-Sussex border, paths and bridleways criss-cross the footpath, making it both accessible yet surprisingly solitary.

In this intensely rural setting, crowds of foxgloves stand about in clearings, briar roses of white and pink dangle decorously, massed ox-eye daisies are blindingly white in sunshine, and grasses of every texture invite the touch. Not all is desirously tactile though as there are ominous gatherings too of Giant Hogweed – the alien invasive that is impressive to look at but has a sap that burns in sunlight.

A walk such as this has one dominant theme, with barely a nod to passing places. Yet water offers many vistas (as well as invitations for panting dogs) but on a simmering summers day, the colours were often bleached out so I preferred to take cool B&W shots. And on that note, enjoy the slideshow.

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For such sterling restoration see – The Wey and Arun Canal Trust

A stroll between High Bridge, Alfold and Loxwood – lunch at the Onslow Arms and a leisurely return to join Jo and others for her regular Monday walk


11 thoughts on “Show me the Wey

  1. I love canals, and Thomas Telford being a great canal builder and hero of mine, I feel that we made such a mistake when we let canals fall into disuse in favour of railways. Such a pity we didn’t have an and AND and approach. Telford was very sniffy about railways apart from ones serving industrial concerns. He felt he had helped create a fully integrate transport system with his canals. I was only surmising the day before yesterday that it would be good if our canals could carry more freight, rather than it clogging up the roads in big trucks. A container quietly floating by on a narrow boat would be far more pleasing than a mega HGV. Very soothing and lovely pix, Laura.


    1. with such craft these waterways were built and with such carelessness they were cast aside – Telford must be turning with delight in his grave to see them come back to life. Glad you liked the pix Tish – got a bit carried away with the sheer delight of this place (contrasted to Central London!)

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  2. Sorry, Laura! I didn’t get a ‘ping’ with this walk so have just seen it tonight when I’m nearing the end of my visits to the people who commented. As I was reading down the post I was thinking ‘ooh, I’ll ask Laura if I can include this on Monday’! It’s beautiful in black and white and I love the subject matter. Thank you so much 🙂


  3. Pingback: Jo’s Monday walk : Lealholm to Glaisdale | restlessjo

  4. Awfully pretty area, and I’m cross with myself that I didn’t explore this canal when I lived close to that area. Drove through Billingshurst many, many times too! Canals are delightful places to walk beside – peaceful, level and usually lots of wildlife.


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