To the bridge being born
WEY & ARUN CANAL
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.