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• Introduction

• History
• The Godalming

• The Wey

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• Introduction

• Lock
• Barges
• Life on the

• The Horse-
drawn IONA

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• Introduction

• Watermills
• Flour & Bread
• Fulling & Cloth
• Chilworth

• Charcoal

• Brewing
• Papermaking
• Ice Houses
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• Introduction

• Habitats
• Trees & Plants
• Insects
• Birds
• Fish
• Countryside

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• Introduction

• More About

• More About

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• Introduction

• Legends
• The Big Names
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• Introduction

• Boat Art
• Inn Art
• River Graffiti
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• Basingstoke

• Wey & Arun

• The Thames
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We welcome
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The Wey & Arun
Junction Canal
and Dunsfold

Built in the 19th century the canal joined the Wey with the Arun in an attempt to secure prosperity by attracting waterborne traffic wanting to take a route from London down to the south coast. The waterway lost its battle against the railways and the roads, and fell into disuse until a highly motivated group of volunteers started to renovate it, section by hard-dug section. Nearby Dunsfold and its famous WWII aerodrome are also steeped in transport history.

Britain's waterways?


“I had my first banana after three war years, and oranges and lemons were in very short supply. Even bread was rationed. We ate a lot of spam, though it was perhaps different to today.” Pamela Harvey – Surrey resident. Surrey Memories and Families at War. Michael Green

You should encounter a duck or two along the river, and there are a number of different species to look out for. By far the most common is the Mallard, the male easily recognisable by its distinctive green head and purple-brown chest. Unlike the Mallard who prefers to bob along on the surface on the look-out for any tasty morsel within easy reach, the Gadwells regularly disappear beneath the surface as they forage at the bottom of the river. They too though can have their lazy side, for they're not adverse to stealing from any hapless Coots that happen to be feeding nearby.

click images to enlarge


"I am a bit of an enthusiast for canals and this probably started back in 1964 when an early edition of the then brand new Daily Telegraph colour supplement featured extracts from a book called London's Lost Route to the Sea. This was the story of the Wey and Arun Canal, which links the River Wey near Godalming to the River Arun and thence to the English Channel.

"The photos were so romantic and exciting, showing hidden glimpses of water illuminated by shafts of sunlight through the overgrowing vegetation, I just had to go and visit it. I did this a number of times in the late 60s, but then rather lost touch until the 80s when I discovered there was a group devoted to the canal's restoration, imaginatively called the Wey and Arun Canal Trust.

"My contribution to the project's success is purely financial because to join one of their many working parties would mean almost as much time spent driving there and back as it would actually helping. But it is still most exciting to read about the project's progress in their quarterly magazine. One other thing I do is to recycle my newspapers in a particular skip, at Hurst Farm. The proceeds from this skip supports the Trust." Blogger Richard Mascall 14th February 2007

The popular BBC TV series Top Gear films much of the programme at Dunsfold aerodrome (MORE HERE) including vehicle test sequences. Following the government's banning of smoking in public places (July 2007) the BBC has faced criticism for allowing the programme's presenters Jeremy Clarkson and James May to light up during an episode broadcast (October 2007) from a hangar at Dunsfold. The stunt filmed in front of a live audience involved the presenters lighting 40 year old Bruyere wood pipes in a feature about Porsche. Waverley Borough Council has promised to investigate . . . Source: thisislondon.co.uk 15th October 2007


“I fancied a walk away from the coast today and have long looked at the Wey-South Path as a small project with a great deal of interest.  The Wey-South Path is the creation of the Wey and Arun Canal Trust and is a 36 mile long path running from Guildford in Surrey to Houghton Bridge near Arundel in West Sussex.  It is intended to be the nearest right of way to the old Wey and Arun Junction Canal, the so-called ‘London’s Lost Route to the Sea’.

“While heading under the three arched Tannery Bridge, the link path to the North Downs for the Downs Link comes into view and its route uses what at first glance to be an addition to the rail bridge.  However, on closer inspection it is clearly the original canal bridge, which has been built over and incorporated into the former railway bridge.  The canal bed here is still visible but very weed choked as nature has taken over.

“Eventually at Run Common, the Wey-South path diverts away from the Downs Link and initially takes the old tow path route. Run Common was once an important wharf along the route and this can still be picked out as a pond in an otherwise waterless stretch of canal bed.  Apparently this was one of the first stretches to be restored, but probably needs another go as it is starting to return to nature after 35 years.” Blogger: Worthing Wanderer  8th July 2009

Dunsfold boasts a private detective agency that not only provides the typical services you would expect from undercover surveillance to sweeping for bugs of the electronic variety - but it also specialises in a team of teenagers to undertake investigations. Answers Investigation, which was featured by bbc.co.uk (May 2010), says that using investigators as young as 16-years of age has positive advantages including that of their targets not associating someone of that age shadowing them with a detective agency. Until now perhaps given all the publicity . . .



London's Lost Route to the Sea

Romantically referred to as ‘London’s Lost Route to the Sea’ the 23 mile (37 km) Wey & Arun Canal was built to provide an inland link between the River Thames and the English Channel by connecting the Wey Navigations with the River Arun in West Sussex. Author P A L Vine first coined the description London's Lost Route to the Sea in his book of the same name first published in 1965 (David & Charles). (1)

The canal actually consisted of two individual canals. The first to be built was the Arun Navigation which provided a fully navigable route along the Arun River from the coast to Newbridge Wharf near Billingshurst in West Sussex. This canal was in operation from 1787.

Meetings started in earnest from 1811 to plan for the opening of the second canal, the Wey & Arun Junction Canal, with many of these being held at the quite grand White Hart in Guildford High Street (sadly demolished in 1905 to make way for what is today a small Sainsbury’s convenience store). The canal was officially opened in 1816 with much grandeur including a celebratory cruise from Alfold in Surrey (what remains of this stretch of the canal runs close to Dunsfold Aerodrome (GR: TQ028363)) to Guildford, and culminated in a banquet for the luminaries involved.

(1) Many thanks to Lesley Bradley-Vine for this reference. P A L Vine has written many books on waterways including The Wey & Arun Junction Canal (1998 Tempus, Stroud).

Forced to Close

At its peak in 1838 the canal was generating an income of £7,763 from tolls on a tonnage of 86,003, but by 1900 the volume of traffic had dropped to 28,297 tonnes producing only £896. There were a couple of welcome but temporary spikes in the sales graph after this but the canal owners finally gave up hope and were forced to close in 1871 when an Act of Abandonment was carried by Parliament.


Today much of the waterway remains completely un-navigable with large stretches completely overgrown, devoid of water and partially infilled, and at places overbuilt. However several lengths of the canal have been restored in an ambitious project run by an enthusiastic and can-do group of volunteers under the auspices of The Wey & Arun Canal Trust. Originally started as the Wey & Arun Canal Society set up by a handful of enthusiasts in 1970, the group was granted the charitable status of a Trust in 1973. Today (2008) the Trust has over 2,400 members and is the third largest in the UK. Their work has also resulted in the Wey & Arun being recognised as one of the leading canal restoration projects in the country.

Their aim is to restore the navigable link between the Rivers Wey and Arun to provide a managed amenity. So far the Trust has secured backing from landowners across half of the original 23 mile (37 km) extent, but many obstacles still stand in their way, including the fact that part of the original course of the canal has been built over.

The volunteers have had considerable success since the Trust was formed through their dogged determination and the skills they have evolved as a close team. So far 12 bridges have been reconstructed, an aqueduct rebuilt, and 6 locks restored. Along the length of the restored sections culverts have had to be completely rebuilt and miles of canal bed cleared and dredged.

In 2006 work along the canal continues apace. One current project is the installation of a new lock at Loxwood which is scheduled for completion in the summer of 2006..

The Trust raises much of the money needed from well supported events. One I attended in May 2005, a well attended Small Boat Rally, highlights the infectious enthusiasm that spurs the volunteers on. The rally attracted 54 boats and the Trust’s own 50ft narrowboat the Zachariah Keppel, named after the original builder of the canal, ferried passengers along the waterway. Capable of carrying 30 passengers the boat runs public trips over weekends and public holidays usually commencing at Easter and running through the summer. The Zachariah Keppel, which has had a new engine installed (2008), is to be joined by a new electric boat with a 50 passenger capacity bringing the Trust's fleet of public boats to three. The purchase has been made possible by a donation from the Wiggonholt Association (1), and will enable the Trust to cater for a coach load of visitors.

Regular Working Parties are organized and volunteers are always welcomed.

The volunteer project manager who drove the construction of the Drungewick Aquaduct (2002/03) and the Loxwood link beneath the B2133 (2008) has had his efforts acknowledged in The 2008 Queen's Birthday Honours. Eric Walker was appointed a Member of the Most Excellent order of the British Empire (MBE) for voluntary services to the Wey & Arun Canal.

(1) The Wiggonholt Association is a voluntary organisation dedication to the protection of Rural Sussex

New Grant for Completion Strategy

The Inland Waterways Association (IWA) announced in December 2005 that it had awarded a £4,000 grant to the Trust's ongoing restoration project. The grant will contribute towards the cost of producing the Completion Strategy which will identify issues and recommend solutions to enable the restoration of the waterway to continue in its overall aim of linking again the River Wey at Shalford with the River Arun at Pallingham. Independent specialist consultants have been appointed to develop the strategy which is expected to take 6 months to complete.

Summit Level Section Opened

The restoration of a section of the Wey & Arun Canal near Dunsfold has been officially opened (October 2006) with a boat rally. The section lying between the Three Compasses and the A281 at Fastbridge is part of the 'summit level' on this complicated waterway that has each end lower than its middle. The canal here was cut twice as deep as lower lying sections to ensure that the canal didn't run dry during the summer months.

This is a significant milestone for the hardworking volunteers of the Wey & Arun Trust as the opening ceremony for the canal in 1816 took place here, a ceremony which also saw a boat rally. The navvies who had spent three years digging the canal out by hand managed to consume 200 gallons of ale in the celebratory party that followed.

The 2006 boat rally was a very different affair to that held in the 19th century when a train of eight barges laden with coal and timber trailed behind the official party headed by Lord Egremont. Instead a flotilla of small boats set out to mark the occasion.

"I’m thrilled at the enthusiastic response we received from everyone which all contributed to a great day out," said Andy Bowerman, the Trust's Summit Level manager. "It was wonderful to see the canal being used after all the hard work by our volunteers to get the site ready and the towpath cleared."

Additional work (2007) has been carried out along the summit section which climbs up from Shalford through to its highest level between Dunsfold and Cranleigh. Volunteers have reclaimed a long section from the undergrowth.

The Fast Bridge just off the A281 between Elmbridge and Alfold was restored by the trust in the 1990s.

The Trust continues to work towards its ultimate aim of opening up the full length of the canal although there remain some considerable obstacles to be overcome. When the original canal was closed sections were filled in and sold off to developers and modern road traffic demands resulted in bridge construction that severely restricts canal access. However a consultancy firm Atkins is working on behalf of the Trust with local authorities in order to find workable solutions. Already work has started on a difficult conversion of the low-lying bridge carrying the main road through Loxwood in West Sussex.

Wey & Arun Trust 4th October 2006

Loxwood Crossing Project
a Success

The latest project to restore the canal link beneath the B2133 road by the Onslow Arms in Loxwood, West Sussex is now moving into its final phase.

Construction at Wey and Arun Canal, Loxwood

The Wey & Arun Canal Trust has so far spent £625,000 on the project which has provided for excavating the section of canal that passes beneath the road to provide adequate passage headroom and rebuilding of the existing Brewhurst Lock to lower it by 4.6ft (1.4m). The project also involves the building of a brand new lock, to date unnamed, on the other side of the road to bring the canal back up to its original level. The Trust also intend to build a footbridge alongside the canal beneath the road to provide safe passage for pedestrians, and the approach pound by the pub has already been lowered and a new winding hole constructed there.

Much of the work has been undertaken by volunteers working alongside the contractors to help contain costs and keep the project ontrack.

Loxwood Crossing bridge, Wey & Arun Canal

The Trust are now seeking donors to make up the remaining £150,000 to complete the project, and details are on the Trust's website. The Manifold Trust (1) has pledged to match all donations, which to date (November 2006) total £38,750.

"Looking back at the last six months it is amazing how much has happened. I am sure it will not surprise anyone when I say that the B2133 crossing has been foremost in our minds," said Peter Foulger, Trust chairman. "It is a massive undertaking and its scale has only really become apparent with the recent excavation work next to the main road. No one can fail to see that we are really making visible progress towards complete restoration of the canal."

All of the canal's stakeholders are represented in the Canal Completion Strategy Steering Group (CCSSG) who have commissioned the build consultants to deliver a strategy document outlining how continued restoration along the full length of the canal can be best achieved. The document, which is due for publication at the end of 2006, will provide for the implementation of a restorative plan over a 10 to 15 year period.

(1) The Manifold Trust which is based in Maidenhead supports the preservation of culturally important structures and activities.

Waterscape.com 15th November 2006 / The Wey & Arun Canal 15th November 2006

The new Loxwood lock on Wey & Arun Canal

A conservation officer has been appointed (February 2007) by the Wey and Arun Canal Trust. The voluntary position will have as a first priority coordinating landscaping on the lowered banks and winding hole at Loxwood following the reinstatement of the canal crossing under the main road at Loxwood.

Chichester Observer 9th February 2007

In March 2007 boats were allowed to return to the Onslow Arms section of the canal having been prevented from accessing this stretch during the Loxwood Crossing construction. The new lock on the far side of the road built by volunteers during 2006 is due to open during the first part of 2007. The lock simply known as Loxwood New Lock is looking for a permanent name.

New Loxwood Lock at Wey & Arun Canal

The 35th Paddle, the Trust's annual sponsored walk, raised (June 2007) over £11,000 which is earmarked to help fund the completion of the Loxwood crossing. 202 walkers completed the course from and back to the Bandroom at the edge of Cranleigh covering 13 miles through Hascombe and Dunsfold.

The Trust started (January 2008) to build the new bridge which will complete the Loxwood Crossing stretch of the canal. This will allow the new lock to be connected to the lowered section of the canal. 142 piles, each up to 39ft (12m) long, are being placed along the sides of the bridge enabling them to tunnel beneath for the new canal route and pedestrian walkway.

A grant from Biffaward (1) has come (March 2008) at an appropriate time for the Trust as work on the £1.2m Loxwood Crossing enters its final stage. The £50,000 award will help towards the costs of the piling used to shore the canal up. The South East England Development Agency supported the Trust's bid with a 10% matching fund contribution.

(1) Biffaward is a Landfill Communities Fund scheme and has awarded nearly £100m to worthwhile projects since 1997. Awards are made to projects in the UK that 'enhance communities or biodiversity, sometimes both'. The fund was established by Biffa Waste Services who donate landfill tax credits and is managed on their behalf by the Royal Society of Wildlife Trusts.

Loxwood Bridge tunnel on Wey & Arun Canal

The official opening of the Loxwood canal bridge was presided over on the 22nd May 2009 by Rt.Hon the Lord Sterling of Plaistow, effectively opening this stretch of the canal for the first time in 140 years.

"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 for the first time in 140 years,” said Peter Foulger, chairman of the canal trust. “Without help from so many people, we could never have reached today's celebration. Nearly 800 members, supporters and visitors enjoyed the day in Loxwood."

The three-year project involved a number of construction stages:

  • The water level in Brewhurst Lock was lowered to gain headroom under the re-built tunnel. The lock was also lengthened to 70ft (21m).
  • Onslow Pound was remodeled with the adjacent towpath and a new winding hole was constructed opposite the Onslow Arms.
  • The new Loxwood Lock was constructed on the River Wey side of the tunnel to raise the water to its original height.
  • Rebuilding of the tunnel beneath the road allowing increased headroom but also retaining the original height of the road above. Major instruction work also required the diverting of services including a sewer, water pipes and telecommunications cables.

All-electric passenger boat Wiggonholt on Wey & Arun Canal

A new all-electric 50-seater boat bought by the trust was named the Wiggonholt in recognition of the £80,000 donation from the Wiggonholt Assocation towards its purchase. The trust now has a fleet of three vessels including the 30-seater Zachariah Keppel and 12-seater John Smallpeice. MORE HERE

narrowboat world.com 22nd May 2009

MP for Arundel & South Downs Nick Herbert was given a tour of the canal (July 2009) on the recently commissioned electric boat Wiggonholt. Herbert has also taken up the invitation to become a Vice President of the Trust.

"I love canals and it was a huge pleasure to visit the Wey & Arun Canal again on Friday morning. I attended the official opening of the Loxwood crossing last month and I was fascinated to return and take a closer look at some of the work that the Trust has been doing,” said the MP. “I’m honoured to have been asked to serve as a Vice President of the Trust and look forward to supporting their work for many years to come. I was especially interested to hear about the Trust’s plans to restore more of the canal, part of which runs through my Arundel and South Downs constituency. Let’s hope that, one day, the Trust fulfils its dream and manages to open up the canal all the way from London down to the coast."

waterscape.com 8th July 2009

A two-day exhibition held at Shalford Village Hall (September 2009) reinforced the resolve of the Wey & Arun Canal trust to reinstate the link between the original line of the canal and the River Wey.

"Although our aim is to recreate the inland waterway link between the River Wey and the south coast, it is even more important to provide a useful amenity that will be an asset to be enjoyed by local people and visitors - not only in boats, but walkers, horse riders and those who like to observe wildlife and nature," said trust chairman Sally Shupke. (Our aim is to recreate the waterway as part of a wider green corridor."

Although reinstating the canal on its original line is technically possible, engineers believe that a better solution may be to improve the Bramley Stream for navigation linking with the original line of the canal south of the Shalford and Bramley areas.

Surrey Advertiser 2nd October 2009

The Devil's Hole Lock restoration originally began in 1996 but work to reinstate the canal crossing under Loxwood High Street in 2009 stimulated the final spurt to complete the lock. The official opening ceremony (April 2010) coincided with the naming of the Trust's newest trip boat, the 12 seater Josias Jessop. Local historians reckon that the lock, which was abandoned in 1871, was rendered totally useless by the antics of Canadian Army engineers in World War II who used the structure for demolition practice prior to the Dieppe Raid. A delegation from the Canadian High Commission and a contingent from the Canadian Veterans Association attended the ceremony to make amends.

IWAC Applauds Wey & Arun

The newly formed Inland Waterways Advisory Council (IWAC) reports on the state of inland waterways in the UK in its capacity as the government's formal advisory body for this sector.

IWAC's inaugrual report (April 2007) highlighted the Wey & Arun Canal as an excellent example of how a volunteer group can successfully restore a waterway. The Council has applauded the progress being made towards the Trust's objective of completely restoring the canal link between the Thames and the south coast.


Bramley Junction

The Trust have cleared the area (2007) around Tannery Lane bridge close to the junction of the Wey & Arun canal and the Godalming Navigation. The bridge is the only surviving example of a 'roving bridge' on the canal, designed to allow horses to cross the canal without disconnecting from the tow rope.

The route of the canal around Bramley is having to be changed as houses were built over the original canal when it fell into disuse. The Trust has commissioned engineering studies and organised a public consultation to identify practical routes.

Licences for Small Craft

The Wey & Arun Canal trust has now introduced (February 2008) an annual licence to allow authorised access to small unpowered boats including canoes, dinghies and kayaks. The annual licence costs £15 and a day licence £5. Purchase of the licence doesn't allow the holder to operate any locks on the canal however. Motorised boats are only allowed on the canal with prior approval from the Trust.

Local Support Waning?

Years of disruption not just to the main road through Loxwood but also all along the canal path it seems has led to a number of local residents becoming disgruntled with the rejuvenation of the canal.

The Trust and its volunteers, many of whom are not local people, are enthusiastic over the restoration of the canal and exude the benefits the canal will bring to the village of Loxwood. However it would seem that many of the villagers just see traffic chaos, ruined landscapes and lumps of concrete and complain of their favourite routes for walking either lost or disrupted. They also say that their local shops don't benefit as they're too far away from the canal for people to visit.

The major 2008 works under the main B2133 road through the village has resulted in complicated plans to construct a bridge over the road with traffic controls and a single carriageway for six months. The road in January had to be closed for five days.

"The negative side is our walks have been altered, they have set about so many trees with their chainsaws," said Alison Sanderson, Loxwood Parish Council chairman. “The trust says it will replant all along the canal, but it won't bring back the landscape in the lifetime of those living there now. We accept the trust want to do this, but to keep hearing it will be the best thing that has happened to Loxwood for a long time is counter-productive to their case - most people just see it as an inconvenience."

"Whatever you think of it, it's a huge achievement," countered Peter Foulger, chairman of the Trust and local farmer. "It's really exciting and the biggest thing the trust has ever been involved in. I think it will bring good to the village, you need something vibrant to keep a village alive – you need pubs and attractions.  We have never felled trees when it was not necessary and we have replanted trees and a hedge – we have put back as much as we have taken. There has been a lot of disturbance at Loxwood, but nature will come back and it will look good."

Foulger owns much of the land the canal runs through and has also provided the headquarters for the Trust.

Midhurst and Petworth Observer 21st August 2008

The 'anti-bridge' movement by local residents culminated in a protest (October 2008) by over 600 Loxwood villagers who demanded that 'unsightly' steel barriers are removed from the new bridge.

"It's hideous and I believe it to be a complete blot on the landscape," said Loxwood shop owner Colin Allmark. "From a personal point of view the work on the canal bridge pretty much closed the road for a week in January, then what was supposed to be a four-month project lasted for nearly nine months and then we end up with this hideous monstrosity."

The Wey and Arun Canal Trust (WACT) have also come under attack for not consulting with locals during the canal renovation.

"It's not just the bridge. They close the footpath when they want to, they are a law unto themselves and I am pretty angry about it," added Allmark.

WACT has responded by explaining that a higher-than-normal crash barrier was erected to protect the bridleway on either side of the road under the insistence of the county council. The Loxwood parish council has taken up a formal complaint to county and district councils.

Midhurst and Petworth Observer 23rd October 2008

The Trust celebrated an important milestone in September 2008 when they welcomed their 2,500th member. Their 2,000th member had signed-up in September 2005.


Under the watchful eyes of a team from the Maritime & Coastal Agency (MCA) the new 50-seater electric boat Wiggonholt, named after the Wiggonholt Association provided funding for the project (1), was craned into the water on the 27th April 2009. The MCA conducted a heeling and stability test on the boat which involved volunteers loading 200 25kg bags of cement onboard to simulate a full complement of passengers and crew. The total weight loaded was 5.5 tonnes.

The craft was built by Colecraft Engineering of Warwickshire and measures 60ft 8in in length (18.5m). Its unladen weight is 19 tonnes. The electric motor is powered by two banks of 24 volt lead/acid traction batteries, and although there was not sufficient funding available to also a install solar panel recharge facility the construction allows for this to be added in the future.

"We had thought of extending an existing boat, the Zachariah Keppel,” said Dusty Miller, of the trust. “When we were asked by the Wiggonholt Association if the diesel engine could be replaced by an electric one it became clear that this was impractical, hence the birth of the new boat, thanks to the Association’s generous support."

waterscape.com 29th April 2009

(1) The Wiggonholt Association was formed to help preserve rural Sussex and funds causes sharing their objective.

The Historic Dunsfold Aerodrome

The aerodrome at Dunsfold was constructed by the Royal Canadian Engineers in just 20 weeks, with the first flights of the Royal Canadian Air Force becoming operational there in October 1942. The airfield, then known as RCAF Dunsfold, launched its operations with RCAF Mustang Mark 1 fighters of 400 and 414 Squadrons. Within a year both the RAF and the Royal Netherlands Naval Air Service were also operating from Dunsfold which saw considerable traffic from Mitchell Mk11 medium bombers which were involved in numerous raids across the Channel and also supported the D-Day Landings and Arnhem operations. Towards the end of the war Spitfire, Typhoon, Tempest and Auster aircraft were all running sorties from the airfield.

Almost 50,000 POWs released from liberated Europe and the Middle East started to arrive at Dunsfold from April 1945 when it was designated as an Arrival Centre to help co-ordinate repatriation of the servicemen. The airfield also processed hundreds of returning Spitfires and Typhoons from overseas bases.

The RAF relinquished the aerodrome as an active base in 1946 which then saw the airfield as a centre of a charter fleet of aircraft operated by Skyways. Aircraft including Lancastrian, York, Dakota, Dove, Rapide and Skymaster were based at Dunsfold and many of these were used in the Berlin Airlift in December 1948. Spitfire and Hurricane for the Portuguese Air Force were refurbished and serviced by Skyways at the aerodrome.

Berlin Airlift
Loading milk : Berlin Airlift
US Federal Gov't - released into public domain

Hawker Aircraft acquired the airfield in 1951 and for the next 40 years actively used the site to design and build aircraft, and it was from here that aircraft including the Hunter and the Harrier GR7 made their inaugrial flights. Other aircraft that were tested and refurbished at Dunsfold included Sea Hawks and Sea Furies Gnats. British Aerospace (BAe), who as a company grew out of Hawker Siddeley and an amalgamation of other companies including the British Aircraft Corporation, closed the airfield in 2000 in the same year that the Airbus consortium was restructured.

World Firsts witnessed at Dunsfold include the following:

  • World speed record in a Hawker Hunter which hit 709 mph (1,140 kph) over a 62 mile (100 km) course (1953)
  • The first fixed wing aircraft to vertically take off when a tethered hover of the Harrier Prototype P1127 was successfully achieved (1960)
  • First flight of a production Hawker Siddeley Harrier GR1 (1967)
  • US Marine Corp accepted its first AV-8 Harrier into service at the airfield, the first vertical take-off and landing (V/STOL) ever accepted for use as a combat aircraft by US armed forces (1971)
  • Maiden flight of the first production Hawk XX154 (1974)
  • Maiden flight of the first Sea Harrier FRS2 (1988)
  • Maiden flight of the BAe Harrier II GR7

Hawker Hunter
Hawker Hunter : two-seater trainer
Photo by Adrian Pingstone - released into public domain

The Dunsfold Aerodrome continues to operate, as it has done for over 65 years, as an operational airfield and covers 600 acres with three miles (5km) of runways each wider than all six lanes of the M25. It has been estimated that there is enough material in the runways to build a single lane carriageway the 55 miles (89km) from London to Brighton.

In 2002 the airfield was acquired by the Rutland Group who began to develop the site for business use under the badge of Dunsfold Park. In 2008 the site has over a million square feet of commercial buildings employing around 1,400 people. The company encouraged a return to aviation by allowing a group of aviation enthusiasts to base their light aircraft at the site.

The current owners of the site are actively wanting to cease aviation operations at Dunsfold to develop 2,600 new homes. MORE HERE

The last airshow at the aerodrome was in 1999 but with the sale of the site by BAe any further public events seemed unlikely. However with the aviation museum at Brooklands having lost their runway, when the Brooklands site was fully turned over to corporate use, the feasibility of running air shows at nearby Dunsfold became a reality. In 2005 the first Wings & Wheels event was launched to great acclaim from the public, press and the aviators and vintage vehicle owner groups. With an even busier event having been successfully held in August 2006 the fixture looks a popular one, but until the future of the flying facilities at the site are confirmed by Dunsfold Park a cloud will continue to hang over the fixture.

Dunsfold Vintage Aircraft

The Wings & Wheels event, which is run as a non-profit fixture to support local charities, in 2006 saw the return of many old favourites providing breathtaking aerial displays. These included a Battle of Britain Memorial flight with a Lancaster bomber and her escort of two Spitfires, Hawker Hunter and Hawker Hurricane, B25 Mitchell, a heartstopping display by a Chinook HC2 helicopter and the madcap antics of wingwalkers atop two bi-planes. The wheels aspect of the show provides displays of vintage vehicles including sports cars, motorcycles and military vehicles. On wheels displays included high speed runs along the runway featuring such classics as a Type 35 Bugatti from the 1920s, a 1913 aero-engined Vauxhall Viper and a 1933 Napier Railton.

The following were scheduled to make display appearances at this year's event:

  • BAE Systems Hawk T1A (RAF Red Arrows & 208 Sqn)
  • BAE Systems Harrier GR7A (RAF)
  • BAE Systems Sea Harrier FA2
  • Shorts Tucano T1 (RAF)
  • Supermarine Spitfire (x2 Battle of Britain Memorial Flight)
  • Avro Lancaster (Battle of Britain Memorial Flight)
  • Westland Merlin HC3 (RAF)
  • Boeing Chinook HC2 (RAF)
  • Hawker Sea Fury FB11 (Royal Navy)
  • North American B-25J Mitchell (Royal Netherlands Air Force)
  • Hawker Hunter & Hawker Hunter T7
  • Hawker Hurricane
  • Douglas DC-3 Dakota
  • Sopwith Triplane (replica)
  • Sopwith Pup (replica)
  • Vickeys Vimy (replica)
  • Boeing Stearman biplanes (Utterly Butterly Barnstormers)

The event also features a vintage aircraft fly-in which included Beagle Pup; the deHavilland Dragonfly, Fox Moth, Gypsy Moth and Tiger Moth; Miles Falcon and Hawk; and Pientopol Aircamper amongst many others.

The 2006 Wings & Wheels has been announced as a resounding success and provided the aerodrome's future is assured looks to be a permanent fixture on the calendar. Proceeds from this year's event will go towards CHASE hospice for children, the Cranleigh Village Hospital Trust, the Brooklands Museum Trust and the Surrey Community Association.

"We look to raise even more money this year, said Jim McAllister of Dunsfold Park. "It was an immensely successful show and we have been inundated with thank you letters and emails. It attracted enthusiasts from all over the UK as well as many local families. We will definitely be holding a third Wings & Wheels next year and we might even make it a two-day event." (Surrey Advertiser 1st September 2006)


The 2009 Wings & Wheels raised a record-breaking £80,000 for its chosen charities Help for Heroes, Surrey & Sussex Air Ambulance, Cranleigh Village Trust and Brooklands Museum Trust. The  25,000 strong crowd enjoyed a rare visit from the only Avro Vulcan still flying as well as the Eurofighter Typhoon and a grand finale by the Red Arrows.

The BBC's motoring show Top Gear is based on the aerodrome and films many of the programme's road tests on the runway, and part of the Da Vinci Code was also filmed here.

The film production company seeking a setting for action sequences of the new Bond film Casino Royale chose Dunsfold Aerodrome to double as Miami Airport. Filming stunt sequences in June 2006 Sony Pictures deployed over 250 people to the airfield for the stunt sequences which involved James Bond, played by Daniel Craig, having to tackle an oil tanker on a collision course with a plane and airport passenger bus parked on the apron. The stunt, which was filmed at night, results in a police car hitting the tanker and launching into the air crashes to the ground, and in reality took one of the film crew' remote runway cameras with it adding to the spectacular nature of the footage.

"Dunsfold Park has done an excellent job for us," said production manager Terry Bamber. " We needed an airfield we could close down. We've been a little nervous because anything can happen but we have succeeded in not damaging the main runway and everyone is pleased with the way it has gone."

Surrey Advertiser 10th November 2006

Dunsfold Park played a part in aviation history when the world’s first road-legal bio-fuelled flying car made a pit stop at the airfield (January 2009). The two-seater Parajet Skycar, which flies at 70mph (113kmph) beneath a parafoil, left Dunsfold to start its 3,700 mile (6,000km) expedition to raise over £100,000 for charity.

The nearby village of Dunsfold, after which the aerodrome is named, was first recorded as Duntesfaude in 1259 with the name taken from the Old English 'dun' (hill or down) and 'fold' (enclosure) following the practice locally of enclosing land to enable sheep to graze off the remnants of harvested crops. This method is still practised on land around the village today.

The Norman church of St Mary and All Saints contains what are claimed to be the oldest pews in England and the nearby Holy Well was a site of pilgrimage with its waters believed to have healing powers. Common House, a well preserved 16th century hall, stands in the village.

Tree-ring Dating Uncovers
Dunsfold Church Age Secrets

A local academic, Alan Bott, has been researching the history of the church at Dunsfold since 2004 and using tree-ring dating techniques has established that the tower was started in 1503. Disappointing to the village is the fact that the ancient pews, although still of considerable age, are of early 15th century manufacture.

The yew tree outside according to core analysis was planted in 1200, and was probably in commemoration of the new church which was built about the same time.

The Surrey Advertiser 1st September 2006

Development Plans for Dunsfold Aerodrome Create Local Rifts

The Surrey Advertiser (February 2006) reported that the old airfield located at Dunsfold is to be further developed as an expanded business park and a new residential development of 2,600 homes if the owners Dunsfold Park Ltd are awarded planning permission. At the focus of the 600 acre site's plans is an option to excavate the old runway and have the new 'village' front a waterway that will be linked to the Wey & Arun Canal. The company has also bought 1,000 acres of surrounding land which will be absorbed as a buffer between the residential and business areas.

Dunsfold airfield opened in 1942 and has a distinguished history. The airfield played an active part until the close of the war as a transit base for Spitfires, Mustangs, Typhoons, Mosquitoes and B-25 bombers. After the war it was utilised as a repatriation centre for returning British and Allied POWs and became a major contributor to the Berlin Airlift of 1948 - 1949.


Protesters to the Dunsfold aerodrome development scheme have (August 2006) appealed for support following the public exhibitions and consultations mounted by the developers. In launching their STOP (Stop Dunsfold Park New Town) campaign and website, support to their opposition of the scheme by the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) was revealed. CPRE believe that the existing 'brownfield' parts of the site should be the limiting boundary of the new development with the 'greenfield' sections being reserved for genuine rural use.

"CPRE Surrey objects to the plan for a new town development at Dunsfold Park," said Surrey chairman Tom Harrold. "We do not believe that this proposal is sustainable. The choice is clear. Urban encroachment or beautiful landscape and countryside tranquility. It is time that all those who value the rural environment stand up and be counted and say no to this damaging development."

The developers Dunsfold Park Ltd argue that their proposal, which includes a large percentage of low cost housing, will provide a considerable contribution to Waverley Borough Council's affordable housing commitment, especially as expanding the business park will provide up to 2,000 jobs. Their plans include the provision of a church, primary school and health facilities on the site.

There is however reportedly some concern over the STOP campaign from local villagers in that the pressure group has so far not revealed who is backing them and have not named their management team. The villagers fear that the protesters do not represent their views.

"Am I alone in thinking that I am pleased our aerodrome is being used?" asked villager Jack Woodward who is co-ordinating the villagers' own campaign. "There are lots of local businesses using it and so many interesting things go on there. These activities do not make my life a misery as according to the DAG (1) they do to so many people in Dunsfold. I am not saying that carte blanche should be given to the present owners, but do we have to be so negative about it? I don't think the majority of Dunsfold people are but that is the perception because we allow one particular group made up of a few individuals to speak to the media as if they are Dunsfold."
(1) Dunsfold Aerodrome Group who locals suspect are the motivating force behind STOP

The Dunsfold Park plans can be viewed online at www.dunsfoldpark.co.uk and the STOP campaign at www.sdpnt.com.

The Surrey Advertiser 11th August 2006

"Dunsfold Park is running a textbook PR campaign and lots of greenery is used in the drawings on the website. Do not be taken in - the same sort of drawings appeared in the plans for what turned out to be the worst excesses of poor inner city planning in the 1960s. There is only one motivation here - profit maximisation masked by a propaganda campaign. Once the cash is banked I would be surprised to see the owners of Dunsfold Park for dust. Don't believe this would be the end of it either. The pressure for the new out-of-town retail park would be next, followed by the new superstore and the new car parks." Letter to Surrey Advertiser. Andrew Scadding 25th August 2006

A meeting (September 2006) attended by parish councillors, Waverley Borough Council (WBC) planning department officials, representatives from Dunsfold Park and members of the public revealed the degree of dissent locally over the proposals. Objectors' concerns centred on the strain the development would impose on the local road network, local facilities and the social impact of a 2,600 unit development housing 7,000 people. Dunsfold Park and WBC are in negotiation over the proposal for the developers to provide a new link to the main access road (A281) and the fact that the development would provide for affordable housing to help WBC over their annual 600 unit deficit.

"Affordable housing is needed in each community not in isolated settlement," said Alan Ground, Dunsfold parish council chairman.

"There is clearly a future for Dunsfold Park and we want to do it nicely with, and for, the community - and not to the community," said Jim McAllister, CEO of Dunsfold Park.

The Surrey Advertiser 15th September 2006

Waverley Borough Council received (April 2008) the largest planning application for a single site in its history when the developers for Dunsfold Park submitted 22 documents detailing their plans. The plan for 2,600 new homes and associated infrastructure has been greeted in dismay by the Stop Dunsfold Park New Town (SDPNT) objectors who plan to fight the application vigorously.

"This is devastating news for anyone living in the towns and villages in the Guildford, Haslemere, Horsham triangle,” said the group's chairman Barry Myers. “Our infrastructure can’t cope with such a huge increase in population. Just think of the impact on the roads, particularly on the A281 and in Cranleigh. It will mean more cars, more traffic jams, more pollution. We think of Cranleigh as being a big village, but this development is two times larger and will be built in 10 years rather than 1,000. This planning proposal has to be fought all the way."

The developers however appeared to be upbeat.

“Our master planning submission is a major milestone for Dunsfold Park,” said Jim McAllister, Rutland Group chief executive. “It is the culmination of six years’ extensive research, investigation and consultation to create an exemplar model for sustainable and green development in the UK. Doing nothing at Dunsfold Park is not an option and we are confident that we have put together a masterplan which will not only create a new village community, but actively sustain, enhance and improve the infrastructure in the surrounding villages.”

The borough council will not make the plans public until they can be checked and registered.

Surrey Advertiser 11th April 2008

The joint venture by the Rutland Group and the Royal Bank of Scotland ground to a halt when Waverley Borough Council rejected the planning application (September 2008) and has resulted in a decision to appeal. A final decision is not expected before autumn 2009.

“We were disappointed, but not surprised, by Waverley's decision to refuse the master planning application for Dunsfold Park,” said Jim McAllister, the joint venture's Chief Executive.“We have decided to appeal the council's decision, which we believe is wrong and not in the community's interest, and our efforts will now be focused on the appeal process.”

The plans made public confirmed the provision of 2,600 homes of which 30% would be 'affordable'. The new village, which is intended to be carbon neutral for water, energy and waste, includes a primary school, Primary Health Care services, shops and sports facilities. The plans also allow for the construction of a heritage centre providing aeronautical history of the site, 350 acres of parkland and a church.

propertyweek.com 5th November 2008

Veteran campaigner Professor Chris Marks, who led the successful campaign to save the Royal Surrey Hospital in Guildford, has joined the Dunsfold protest group (January 2009). Marks has been appointed the chairman of the Stop Dunsfold Park New Town (SDPNT). The group has pledged their support for Waverley Council who is challenging the application and has estimated that it may cost up to £200,000 to argue its defence.

“We now have a race on our hands to get ready for the public inquiry in March,” said Professor Marks. “The whole process is going at an unprecedented speed and we intend to fight it all the way. It’s our job to make sure the co-owners of Dunsfold Park, the Rutland Group and the Royal Bank of Scotland, realise the strength of local feeling against this development.”

Dunsfold Parish Council has also pledged £5,000 to commission expert statements to support Waverley's defence. A public enquiry is due to start on March 10th.

Surrey Advertiser 16th January 2009

A surprise announcement was made (March 2009) at the public enquiry into the development by Stop Dunsfold Park New Town campaigners who state that they are prepared to buy part of the airfield to ensure that the land is used for environmentally friendly causes.

“Nine local residents of whom I am one have just put in a serious offer to buy part of the airfield and restrict it to substantially green uses,’ said campaigner Peter Barker. “We are suggesting we purchase the lease of the green area. Originally £3 million was paid, which reflects the agricultural value.

“At best their proposal is impractical as it omits reference to the future of aviation at the aerodrome,” said Dunsfold Park’s chief executive Jim McAllister. “At this late stage our focus and priority is to continue putting forward our case for the eco-village and demonstrating why our proposals are the best alternative for the aerodrome.”

Surrey Advertiser 20th March 2009

The four week public enquiry in March 2009 has finally resulted in planning consent for the new housing development at Dunsfold Park being withheld (September 2009). Waverley Borough Council’s original decision to refuse permission was challenged by the developers, however communities secretary John Denham ruled that the development was unsustainable as it would have a severe impact on the local road network.

"This is the right decision and shows yet again that local campaigning does work," said MP Jeremy Hunt. “Had this been allowed it would have been a disaster for the environment and surrounding areas as increased traffic and pollution would have impacted severely on neighbouring towns and villages. We all want more affordable housing, but it must be sustainable and in a way that is in character with a very beautiful rural area. I am delighted with the Minister's decision and pleased to see that common sense has prevailed.”

However, campaigners fear that the decision may result in aviation activity at Dunsfold increasing.

"Instead of being a truly outstanding development needed to meet the challenge of climate change, Dunsfold Aerodrome is now likely to expand its airfreight and services and its Business Park," said Friends of the Earth spokesman Mike Smyth. "Waverley East housing will be built on agricultural land in the green fields around coddling and crammed into the town centres without the same car reduction and public transport measures Dunsfold provided. This was a one off opportunity in a recession to create a low carbon development, which could transform our response to climate change, and would have also brought huge biodiversity benefits. The main reason given for refusing it, local traffic, is weak and totally unconvincing."

“Environmental organisations, locally and nationally, expressed their outrage and deep concern and are looking for answers of why a decision has been taken based on outdated planning policies which give no weight and directly conflict with the government's own climate change agenda," said Jim McAllister, CEO Dunsfold Park Ltd. "We will be examining the secretary of state's decision in detail to determine our next steps but in the meantime, we must ensure the continued economic well-being of all of the companies here at Dunsfold Park by maximising our existing planning consent is where possible."

Surrey Advertiser 2nd October 2009

Dunsfold Airfield
Waste Treatment Plan

Dunsfold Park has become the focus of a new row (January 2007) as plans to site one of Surrey's waste treatment facilities became public. The three local parish councils who feel they will be directly affected have objected on traffic grounds fearing major volumes of traffic will be generated through local villages.

The site is also next to an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

The Surrey Advertiser 5th January 2007

Dunsfold Park Leads
Alternative Energy

Dunsfold Park will be the location for a ground-breaking development in alternative energy research. Guildford-based TMO Renewables will construct a 38ft (11.6m) high testing plant for a new strain of second generation bio-ethanol.

Construction of the unit, which will be the first in the UK to demonstrate a pioneering development in the alternative energy sector, has been given (July 2007) planning go-ahead and it is hoped will be in production by the end of the year.

"The thermophilic process we use captures an organism from the compost heap and trains it to make more and more ethanol from any crop by-product that has cellulose in it, such as straw," said TMO CEO Hamish Curran. "It's very benign and uses no dangerous chemicals. We have the opportunity to deliver and we can't rest on our laurels. The edge we have is that the rest of the world has to turn cellulose into glucose and then ethanol, and that gives us the advantage."

Surrey Advertiser 6th July 2007






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