To the bridge be­ing born


Canal Boat - - News -

ON 28 SEPTEM­BER 1816, the 3rd Earl of Egre­mont of­fi­cially de­clared the Wey & Arun Canal open at a bridge by the Com­passes Inn near Dunsford, Sur­rey – and al­most ex­actly two cen­turies later ac­tress Dame Pene­lope Keith cut the tape at a cer­e­mony on the same spot to open the £770,000 new Com­passes Bridge.

Al­though the ba­sic con­crete struc­ture for the road bridge was built by en­gi­neer­ing con­trac­tors, al­most all of the re­main­ing work – para­pets, pave­ments, wing walls, brick fac­ing, and re­moval of the cause­way which had re­placed the orig­i­nal bridge – has been car­ried out by vol­un­teers from the Wey & Arun Canal Trust and vis­it­ing groups. In­deed, some were still work­ing to fin­ish the bridge dur­ing the open­ing week­end.

The bridge marks a shift north­wards in em­pha­sis, as the Trust’s first ma­jor project in Sur­rey (most restora­tion to date hav­ing been fo­cused on the Sus­sex end of the canal) and cre­ates a 1¼-mile length for a new trip-boat oper­a­tion.

Trust Chair Sally Schupke said: “With Dame Pene­lope gen­er­ously agree­ing to open the bridge, we hope we have sig­nif­i­cantly raised our pro­file in the county.”

The open­ing was fol­lowed by the first craft – a ca­noe – car­ry­ing a ‘ba­ton’ (ac­tu­ally a rolled-up copy of an orig­i­nal canal share cer­tifi­cate) as part of a re­lay by wa­ter and land along the length of the canal from the River Arun to the River Wey.

The Trust is al­ready is look­ing ahead to open­ing a slip­way near Dunsfold for vis­it­ing craft, bid­ding to host the In­land Wa­ter­ways As­so­ci­a­tion’s 2018 Na­tional Trail­boat Fes­ti­val at the site, and to a sim­i­lar new bridge project at Tick­n­ers Heath which will ex­tend the new length south­wards.

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