Looking back to historic day on Wey and Arun Canal as work continues to restore London’s Lost Route to the Sea

​It is 15 years since the Wey and Arun Canal Trust reopened the waterway under Loxwood High Street, meaning boats could pass under the road for the first time in 140 years.

It was another milestone in the ambitious programme to restore London’s Lost Route to the Sea and the celebrations in May 2009 included the naming of the new, all-electric visitor boat Wiggonholt, still in use today.

The official opening of Loxwood canal bridge by Lord Sterling of Plaistow was watched by nearly 800 members of The Wey & Arun Canal Trust, supporters and visitors.

The opening also marked the end of an £1.8million project, one of the largest and most expensive anywhere in the country undertaken by a volunteer canal trust.

Peter Foulger, who was trust chairman, said at the time: "This is a great occasion for the trust as we celebrate the end of five years’ work to reinstate the canal under Loxwood High Street.

"Without help from so many people, we could never have reached this celebration."

In recognition of an £80,000 donation towards the cost of the new all-electric boat, the naming ceremony was undertaken by Mrs Doreen Mann from the Wiggonholt Association.

The addition of Wiggonholt meant the trust had three boats for public trips or for private hire. Leading the fleet, Wiggonholt can carry 50 passengers, Zachariah Keppel 30 and John Smallpiece 12 guests.

The expert assistance of members was given from the design of Wiggonholt through to completion by the boat builders.

Following the naming ceremony, Peter Flatter and Mrs Mann from the Wiggonholt Association, Lord Sterling and other invited guests, boarded Wiggonholt and passed through the rebuilt tunnel.

Lord Sterling officially declared the bridge open followed by the opening of the new lock. In his speech he spoke about the historical significance and congratulated the trust on achieving this milestone.

Interestingly, three years later, John Smallpiece was transferred to the canal section next to Dunsfold Park in Alfold for trip in September 2012, the first time the craft had run in Surrey for more than 140 years.

Related topics: