Two bridges opened on the Wey and Arun

Published: Friday, 03 November 2023

AFTER five years of work and spending of over £400,000, another section of Wey & Arun Canal has been revived.

LiftBridge1The Wey & Arun Canal Trust celebrated a major milestone with the official opening of two attractive Dutch-style lift bridges at Birtley, just outside Bramley in Surrey on Saturday 28th October.When the trust acquired the Birtley section of canal in 2018, it was severely overgrown, inaccessible to the public and blocked by two causeways.

Circular walk

Now residents and visitors can enjoy a circular walk along the canal banks and the Downs Link (the old Guildford to Horsham railway) and the canal route is clear for future use by boats. The new walking route has been enormously appreciated by local residents and has highlighted the benefits of a restored canal.

At the official opening attended by over 150 members and guests Mary Creswell, Deputy Lieutenant of Surrey, paid tribute to the tremendous amount of work carried out by volunteers on the project and enthused:

“What a great achievement and a great asset for Surrey."

LiftB2Another major investment

Up to a few years ago, the Wey & Arun Canal Trust concentrated its efforts in Sussex, where a section of around three miles near Loxwood is fully navigable. In 2016, Compasses Bridge near Alfold, Surrey, was rebuilt and the latest work at Birtley represents another major investment in the northern part of the canal, with Chairman Sally Schupke commenting:

"This project is big for the trust, big for Surrey and big for Bramley. It really showcases the achievements of our volunteers and the benefits we can bring to the community.”

The does not stop with with the Birtley section. The trust is keen to improve the next section to the south (Fanesbridge/Rooks Hill). This will create more attractive canalside walks and recreation opportunities. An application for planning permission is currently with Waverley Borough Council.

Successfully raised

The two lift bridges were successfully raised on the opening day as a group of canoeists passed underneath. The bridges are painted green to blend with the landscape and are manually operated (with no electric power, although it could be added in the future).

The distance between the two bridges is about 600m and for the technically minded they have the same dimensions. They are 3.0m wide with a clear span of 4.5m. The steel decks weigh 3.5 tonnes with 1.5 tonnes of lifting frames and four tonnes of concrete counterweights.

The Wey & Arun Canal Trust aims to restore the 23 miles abandoned canal which runs through Surrey and Sussex and create the missing link between Britain’s inland waterways and the English Channel. 

Restored significant stretches

Our 3,000 members, volunteers and staff have restored significant stretches and our showcase site at Loxwood, West Sussex, hosts public boat trips from Spring to Autumn as well as welcoming canoeists and paddleboarders. The Wey & Arun Trust was formed in 1973 and we are celebrating our 50 years anniversary this year. 

Our long-distance footpath the 'Wey-South Path' is shown on Ordnance Survey maps and runs either next to or near to the canal route.