The Basingstoke Canal & Wey Navigation
The surprisingly rural Wey Navigation is 60% artificial cut, 40% river. Built in 1653 it is one of the earliest canals in the country. It originally formed the northern part of ‘London’s Lost Route to the Sea’ with the long derelict Wey & Arun Canal and the River Arun entering the English Channel at Littlehampton. It was donated to the National Trust in 1963, who also acquired the Godalming Navigation, and restored it rebuilding many of the locks.
The River Wey
The River Wey is one of Surrey’s best kept secrets, a haven of rural tranquillity, especially when considering that it is at the heart of commuter-land and within sight at one point of the M25.
It was donated to the National Trust in 1963, who also acquired the Godalming Navigation, and restored it rebuilding many of the locks. Thames lock, the first lock on the Wey, operates opening times, so you may have to wait until you can gain access. Check the opening times with the navigation authority, The National Trust at Dapdune Wharf, Guildford Tel: 01483 561389.
From a narrowboat you’ll appreciate the stunning Surrey landscape from a different angle. Apart from the tranquil meandering river, the views, open spaces and wildlife there are riverside villages such as Send, Pyrford and Ripley or the larger towns of Godalming, Guildford and Weybridge with their shops, theatres, cinemas and restaurants.
The Basingstoke Canal
The Basingstoke Canal was opened in 1794 to carry agricultural produce from Basingstoke to London via the rivers Wey and Thames. It passes through wonderful countryside in Surrey and Hampshire.
By the mid 1960’s the Canal had fallen derelict and the campaign for restoration began.
Today the Canal is in public ownership with 32 miles and 29 locks from King John’s Castle to the Wey Navigation, restored and linked once again into the 2,000 miles of British inland waterways.
The vast majority of the canal is designated a “Site of Special and Scientific Interest” (S.S.S.I.), acknowledging the Canal’s reputation as an outstanding site for aquatic plant life, animal life and dragonfly habitat.
Architectural features of the canal include the carefully restored canal bridges, the 1,000ft long Ash Embankment, including the aqueduct over the new A331 and the Greywell Tunnel, home to many species of bats. The tunnel collapsed in 1932 and is a barrier to onward navigation to the original terminus at Basingstoke.
However you can peer into its gloomy depths and the water here is very clear with white sands and you may be lucky to see one of the natural springs bubbling up in the canal bed, which help to keep the canal in water.
Also at the western end of the canal you can visit the remains of King John’s 13th century castle from where he rode out to sign the Magna Carta in 1215. The Deepcut flight has 14 evenly spaced locks and in the often chilly 1000 metre long Deepcut cutting is very deep and overhung with trees.
Water shortages can close the links between the summit level and the River Wey and rest of the canal system. This does not affect cruising on the pleasant 20 mile summit level between Deepcut and Greywell tunnel.
Check with the Basingstoke Canal Authority Tel 01252 370073 if you want to enter or leave the Basingstoke Canal.