The Wey and Arun Canal in West Sussex
First, it's a great place full of peace, nature and recreational opportunities.
But second, knowing a little about it's history, reminds us of how quickly history and nature move on and makes us think about ourselves and how insignificant we are and how quickly our greatest works can be turned to dust.
Canals - the motorways of their eraThe Wey & Arun Canal was a key trade route in the late 18th century and brought a great deal of prosperity to West Sussex for a while. It was part of a vast network of waterways which were the motorways of their era.
The canal itself is actually made up of two separate sections:
The Arun Navigation which allowed navigation from the sea right up to Newbridge Wharf near Billingshurst.
And the Wey & Arun Junction Canal - the extension of the route from Newbridge as far as Stonebridge Wharf near Godalming, where the connection with the River Wey was made after 1813.
Next stop - London!
Engineering on a massive scaleEven by today's standards, where technology does all the heavy lifting, the scale of the engineering involved in the creation of the canal is mind-blowing.
The navvies who dug the canals were men of superhuman toughness by today's standards. Anyone who has ever dug a hole of any depth will appreciate that, at 23 miles long, the canal took a whole lot of digging.
And the locks and bridges are a curious mix of craftsmanship, but executed on an industrial scale.
Yet once the canal was abandoned, nature effortlessly crept and crawled all over it in a few generations.
Abandoned to natureIn 1839, when the canal's traffic peaked, you would never have guessed that it would become virtually unused within 30 years. The railways made it redundant.
It was officially abandoned in 1871.
Nature reclaimed it.
Then man, in the form of the Wey & Arun Canal Trust, claimed it most of it back.
All this happened in the space of less than 200 years.
Wey and Arun Canal TrustIn 1970 the process of reclaiming and restoring the canal was started by enthusiastic canal-loving volunteers of the Wey and Arun Canal Trust.
Although some parts of the canal had been filled in or built over, much of it has been already been restored. Some of the locks and bridges have been repaired too.
The canal is in particularly good working order in and around Billingshurst, Loxwood, Wisborough Green and Dunsfold.
Things to do at the Wey and Arun CanalYou can take a boat trip along part of the canal.
Cruises run from early summer until the autumn and leave from the Onslow Arms at Loxwood.
It's also possible to charter a boat for private functions.
But why not just enjoy a peaceful walk along the banks of the canal and consider the fact that 170 years ago, this would have been the equivalent of walking along the A24 - although not as noisy.
Wey & Arun Canal eventsThere's a whole range of messing about on the canal type events throughout the year. These include small boat rallies and a variety of sponsored activities and they are worth checking out.
- Bognor Regis
- Burgess Hill
- East Grinstead
- Haywards Heath
- West Sussex Windmills
- Wey and Arun Canal
- Singleton Museum
- More Sussex Museums
- Sussex's industrial past
- Sussex history
- Balcombe viaduct
- Sussex beer festivals
- Morris dancing
- Derelict railways
- The Downs near Amberley
- Houghton Bridge