How to Restore a Canal

In reply to: "How shall we restore this canal?" The answer surely has to be: "You restore inwards from the ends".

Over the years few restoration projects have realised this and suffered as a result. Notable amongst these is the Wey & Arun Canal which has been being restored since the 1970's and to date a small isolated section has been restored at the cost of millions. They seem to have picked the most challenging section first

So why should a canal be restored to navigation starting from either, or both, ends?

  • Momentun to restore increases as the gap narrows.
  • The public will not wonder how so much money could have been spent providing a stagnent pond.
  • It's possible to raise funds by providing moorings along the restored length.
  • Unused structures are more susceptable to vandalism.
  • The canal becomes usable for navigation from the outset.
  • Economic benefit becomes evident immediately.
  • Further along the restoration route residents and businesses will want to see the restoration reach them and apply pressure accordingly.
  • No opportunity for protected flora & fauna to occupy the unused water.
  • The infrastructure will be used instead of slowly decaying.
  • The final hurdle will have have the greatest pressure to be overcome. This will more often than not be the most difficult project.
  • The restored section can be handed over to the navigation authority once completed, relieving the restorers of the responsibility for maintenence.

Recently I hear that the Wey & Arun Trust are planning to spend £700 000 on restoring 1¼ miles of the summit pound — somewhat expensive and usable by whom? The answer is: their tripboats, canoes, a very occasional trailboat, but mostly by no‐one. The section will remain inacessible to high‐rollin’, high‐spending holidaymakers until the canal is finally is reconnected to the River Wey at Broadford, Surrey.

The Wey & Arun is not alone. The Cotswold Canals Restoration Phase 1A, has restored 6 miles of isolated canal, between “The Ocean” & Brimscombe Port together with nearly 5 miles of additional towpath, at the cost of over £12 000 000 from the HLF & local authority. Further details are here.