Dapdune Wharf
Dapdune Wharf
Surrey's oldest waterway, with an interactive visitor centre at the Wharf. Visitors can climb aboard an original Wey barge, and visit a smithy, stable, and barge-building shed in the largest building site on the 20 mile long Wey Navigation.

History

The Wey Navigations were one of the earliest canal projects in Britain. The first canal was begun in 1635 by Sir Richard weston, and helped link Guildford to the River Thames and on to London. The Navigation was a combination of man-made canals and dredged sections of the naturally shallow River Wey. The first section of the canal, from Guildford to Weybridge, opened in 1653, with a series of 12 locks.

The route was first used to transport goods such as gunpowder, corn, wood, and flour to London, and to bring back coal for manufacturing gunpowder. In 1760 the canal network was extended another 4 miles to Godalming, with 4 locks dealing with elevation changes. The route was later linked to the Basingstone Canal and to the Wey and Arun Junction Canal when it opened in 1813. The Dapdune Wharf at Gulldford was a centre for bat repair, and was subsequently converted by the National Trust to a visitor centre and museum.

For much of the 20th century the canal was privately owned by the Stevens family. In 1964 it was given to the National Trust, but commercial traffic on the canal continued until 1983.

The visitor centre has exhibits on the history of the Wey Navigation. You can see where the massive Wey barges were constructed, and explore two of the only 3 remaining Wey barges in existence. A barge named Reliance is in permanent dry dock, and can be explored by visitors, while the other, dubbed Perseverance, is moored in the water and awaits restoration.

The Reliance has had a hard life; she was built in 1932 and worked carrying goods between Guildford and London docks until 1968 when she ran into Canon street Bridge in London and sank. The boat was abandoned, and only discovered 21 years later at Leigh-on-Sea in Essex. Restoration took 6 months, but now the Reliance is back at Dapdune, and gives visitors a glimpse into what life was like on the canal in the early and mid 20th century.

The visitor centre tells the story of the people who built the boats, kept the locks, and used the Navigation to send and receive goods. Visitors can take a horse-drawn boat trip, and hire boats for themselves.

The canal towpath is a popular walking route, and connects to two national trails; the North Downs Way and the Thames Path. You can walk the entire length of the Navigation, and explore any part of it, as the entire route is easily accessible and free to enjoy. At the northern end of the route is Thames Lock at Weybridge, where the Wey empties into the Thames. The Navigation is divided into 6 'lengths', or short sections, maintained by lengthsmen.