The Wey & Arun Canal Trust has begun work on a major restoration project in Surrey as the charity’s bid to resurrect the abandoned canal moves up a gear.
In what will be a two- to three-year project largely carried out by volunteers, a new canal cut and two bridges will be built at Tickner’s Heath in Alfold, near Cranleigh.
The route of the canal is blocked by the causeway which carries Dunsfold Road. Originally, a brick arch bridge built in the 1810s carried the road over the canal but by 1913 the original bridge had been demolished and the road realigned onto an earth causeway. The Trust looked at several options before deciding that the best solution was to avoid the obstruction altogether and so in an ambitious project volunteers will construct a new length of canal, approximately 180m long, to divert around the causeway and create a new road bridge at a point where Dunsfold Road is straight.
The road bridge will be similar to that constructed by volunteers at nearby Compasses, at the entrance to Dunsfold Park. This bridge was recognised with a highly commended award in the Waverley Design Awards 2019.
A short length of temporary road will be built to take traffic around the bridge site during construction and a separate, parallel bridge will be built for the use of pedestrians, cyclists and horse riders, along with a new footpath.
With both bridges in place and the road re-opened to traffic, the new canal cut will be excavated. The last 100 yards of the existing canal will be partially filled and landscaped with areas of wetland and replacement tree planting. Hedgerow planting will add 75m of native species to the site and a reptile pond and hibernaculum are to be added.
Volunteer working parties operating several times a week have so far built a compound area on an adjacent agricultural field, created culverts and ditching, erected fencing and constructed a base for power connections. Contractors will be employed for piling, but volunteers will carry out a significant proportion of the construction and landscaping work.
Project manager Tony Ford said: “Tickner’s Heath posed a particularly difficult restoration challenge. The road has sharp bends, there is residential property very close by, the canal water level is only a foot or so below the road and the whole area is within designated Common Land which has very strict rules for any works taking place within it. Our solution allows us to recreate the canal length, improve the footpaths for walkers and add to the existing biodiversity.
“Our volunteers are excited to begin such a project, which closely follows the success of the bridge building at Harsfold in Wisborough Green in Sussex, which was completed last month.”