In the 50th Anniversary year of The Basingstoke Canal Society, and in the 25th year since the Canal was re-opened after many years of dilapidation and decay, I think that some reminiscing is completely justified and I am taking advantage of the opportunity to look back here…
There has been much written about the restoration of the Canal, which took place as a result of a huge, mainly volunteer, effort during the late 70’s, 80’s and early 90’s. A lengthy account of this mammoth project over a period of 25 years is given in the archive of Basingstoke Canal News magazines.
However, I think perhaps it is worth reflecting in particular on how bad a state the Canal structure had fallen into before the Society started its campaign to do something about it in 1966. With the Woking Canal Festival just around the corner, the following set of photos has been collected together especially for those familiar with the Canal in Woking to illustrate what a mess you had your doorstep before restoration was eventually completed in the late 80’s. The Canal had historically been subject to many years of under-investment and, frankly, had fallen into extreme neglect during the 20th Century.
Many hundreds of man- and women-years of work, largely from Society work party initiatives went into restoring the Canal from the dismal condition you see below to the wonderful amenity that passes through Woking today, and which is enjoyed by many boaters, walkers, cyclists and others alike. The result is a testament to all those involved in this extraordinary achievement.
After so much investment of effort over the last 50 years, I am sure that none of us would wish, through lack of care, will or sufficient funding, that this established and well-loved feature of the area returns to the parlous state for which it was once reviled.
The following photos, from Dieter Jebens’ extensive archive (for which, thanks), are ordered in sequence from east to west (click to enlarge).