Work has begun on another major restoration project for the Wey & Arun Canal Trust as it moves towards its ambition to bring the 23-mile abandoned waterway back to life for recreation and leisure use.

The project, at Birtley, near Bramley in Surrey, involves removing a causeway and installing two lift bridges to create a length of canal suitable for kayaks, paddleboards and canoes to use. The charity has launched a fundraising appeal to help fund the work.

The stretch at the Northern end of the canal was bought by the Trust thanks to the generosity of an overseas member and has already become a firm favourite with walkers thanks to the opening of a picturesque circular towpath walk here at the beginning of the year. The route takes walkers over a bridge constructed in 2019 by regular volunteers and visiting working parties, who built the substructure and later added a temporary deck to open the walk. They now plan to add a lift mechanism to this and build a second lift bridge.

Working parties have begun by setting up an access track, compound and readying the site ahead of creating a bridleway and cycle path diversion needed before the bridge construction begins.

In a first for the Trust, volunteers have used a SpeedyDam, a water-filled barrier often used in flood defence, to allow the construction of the temporary footpath and bridleway diversion (see below).

The project isn’t a simple one as it involves the relocation of a gas main under the canal and the Trust is liaising with SSE in this. Volunteers in the EWG working party have located the pipe and will be involved in the rechanelling needed.

The proposed traditional counter-weight lift bridges will be operated by a manually-wound mechanical system and are set to become a distinctive feature on this part of the canal.

For details on how to donate to the project, please go to

Wey & Arun Canal Trust turns to speedy solution for latest project

In a first for the Wey & Arun Canal Trust a water-inflated dam usually used to protect against flooding has been put to use in a restoration project.

AquaDam Europe’s mobile flood barriers have often been used to protect against floods and storm surges but are now being adopted by canal trusts as a fast method of creating a

protective barrier during construction work.

The company’s SpeedyDam model has been installed at the Wey & Arun Canal Trust’s latest major restoration project at Birtley, near Bramley in Surrey, where a lift bridge is set to be constructed.

Volunteers positioned the sausage-shaped device on the towpath in its rolled up state and filled it by pumping in water, causing the dam to roll out and push across the canal. The 3 metre wide cylindrical tube created a 1.2m high barrier in a matter of a few hours, much faster and cheaper than bringing in material to achieve the same result.

The dam means volunteers can now dig a trench below the canal bed and build a temporary footpath and bridleway diversion needed here ahead of constructing work on the bridge.

The SpeedyDam has a strong geotextile membrane with a seam-free blown polyethylene liner, much like a car tyre, allowing it to withstand tremendous force. When empty it is easily transportable and will be used on future Wey & Arun Canal Trust restoration projects.