The Wey & Arun Canal Trust has been commended for an outstanding contribution to the nation’s waterways.
The trust was one of the finalists at the 2017 Living Waterways Awards, which recognised its achievement in building the new Compasses Bridge at Alfold in Surrey.
Representatives received the commendation at a gala ceremony in Birmingham, where the Canal & River Trust rewarded inspiring waterway-based improvement projects across the UK.
Compasses Bridge, which was officially opened in October 2016 by Dame Penelope Keith, Patron of the Surrey Hills, was entered in the Community and Volunteering category.
The bridge replaced a 1930s concrete causeway, a major obstacle to navigation on the canal’s summit level on the site of the original 19th century bridge.
Contractors built the reinforced shell for the new bridge alongside the causeway. Volunteers finished most of the rest of the construction work, including laying the facing brickwork and the landscaping, and demolished the causeway.
The Compasses project was managed by Wey & Arun Canal Trust board member Tony Ford, who said the award was deserved recognition of the skills of the construction volunteers.
“The completed bridge will be handed over to the local highway authority, so the work of the volunteers had to meet their requirements for drainage, paving, fencing and earthworks,” said Tony.
“This was achieved whilst maintaining good relations with the residents of adjacent properties and with the owners and operators of Dunsfold aerodrome. The bridge is a heavily used access to the aerodrome, so the work of our volunteers had to be carefully planned around their events programme.”
Those who worked on the project included members of the trust’s own northern working party, which is led by volunteer Dave Evans, and visiting branches of the Waterway Recovery Group, an arm of the Inland Waterways Association.
Compasses Bridge is at the Alfold entrance to the Dunsfold Park aerodrome and business complex, on what was once the main road between Guildford and Horsham.
It is in the middle of a 1¼ mile section of the canal between Tickner’s Heath and Fast Bridge on the A281. Around half of this length has so far been restored for navigation by small boats, with plans being made to complete the de-silting.
The bridge, which is near the Wey-South Path long-distance walking route devised by the trust, has a viewing platform with an information board where the public can enjoy the enhanced environment.
The chief executive of the Canal & River Trust, Richard Parry, commented after the award ceremony: “These annual awards give us the opportunity to celebrate the tireless efforts of those who are helping to transform the nation’s rivers, canals, lochs, lakes, and reservoirs, making them exciting vibrant places where people want to be.”