- Hits: 1973
The Wey and Godalming Navigations is the name given to the navigable parts of the River Wey, in Surrey, UK.
The navigation runs for around 20 miles (32.2 km) between the River Thames below Shepperton Lock near Weybridge, to the south-west of London, and the centre of Godalming, in Surrey; it runs through Guildford and Pyrford and is joined by the Basingstoke Canal at West Byfleet, and the Wey & Arun Canal near Godalming. Some parts of the navigation are canal sections and others are the original River Wey which intertwines with the canal sections.
The River Wey was one of the first rivers in England to be made navigable. The canal was built by Sir Richard Weston, beginning in 1635. The 25 km from Weybridge to Guildford were made navigable by an Act of 1651, with work completed in 1653, allowing barges to transport goods to London. Further improvements were made under another Act of 1671.
Originally the Wey Navigations were used for transporting barge loads of heavy goods via the Thames to London. Timber, corn, flour, wood and gunpowder from the Chilworth Mills were moved up the canal to London whilst coal was brought back.
In 1760, another Act authorised the Godalming Navigation, taking navigation a further 7 km upstream to Godalming. Work was completed in 1764.
From 1900 to 1963, the Wey Navigation was owned by the Stevens family, who were commercial carriers on the canal. It was then donated to the National Trust in 1964 which operates a visitor centre at Dapdune Wharf, a former boatyard in Guildford. The Godalming Navigation was donated to the Trust in 1968.
Commercial traffic ceased in 1983.
The railway line between Guildford and Horsham crossed the Wey just south of the entrance to the Wey & Arun Canal. The line was in direct competition with that canal and accelerated its demise. However, the railway itself also closed in 1965, as a result of the Beeching Axe, and the bridge across the river was subsequently demolished, leaving just the supporting abutments visible.
In more recent times there had been proposals to install a footbridge on the same site, to link the public footpaths which run along the trackbed of the line on both sides of the river. In 1990, the National Trust's own navigation guide shows such a footbridge at this point, and even gave the headroom as 8 ft 6ins. However, on 7 July 2006, the Unstead Woods Downslink Bridge was re-instated – a single-span metal structure providing a cycleway connection across the river.
Moving upstream from the River Thames, there are various features. Between the Town Lock and Coxes Lock is the Blackboys footbridge and Coxes Mill. Between New Haw Lock and Pyrford Lock is the Woodham footbridge,Byfleet boat club, the boat club has been on the site for over a hundred years, Grist Mill, Parvis Wharf, Murray's footbridge and Dodds footbridge.
Between Pyrford Lock and Newark Lock are the Walsham Gates and the ruins of Newark Priory. Between Papercourt Lock and Triggs Lock are the Tanyard footbridge, High Bridge (foot), Cartbridge Wharf, Cart Bridge and Worsford Gates. Between Triggs Lock and Bowers Lock are the Send Church footbridge and Broad Oak Bridge. Between Stoke Lock and Millmead Lock are Stoke Mill, Dapdune Wharf and Guildford Town Wharf. Finally between Millmead Lock and Unstead Lock are the Guildford boathouse, a footbridge carrying the North Downs Way and Broadford Bridge. The towpath is open throughout and is a popular walking route. As well as linking with the Basingstoke Canal towpath at Byfleet, it has links with many public footpaths and with two National Trails. These are the Thames Path at Weybridge and the North Downs Way at St. Catherines. Due to this convenient connection, and its mostly traffic free route through a densely built-up part of South-East England, that part of the towpath has been designated part of European long-distance path E2. This runs from Galway in Ireland to Nice on the Mediterranean coast of France.