New boat takes coach-load on Wey & Aru

Visitors to the Wey & Arun Canal, in the peaceful countryside around the Sussex/Surrey border, have been saying for some time: “We love your canal, but when are you going to get a bigger boat?” Others have said: “We’d like to come, but we need to fill our coach, and your boat only takes 30”. Now, the Wey & Arun Canal Trust can say “yes”, as it has launched a brand-new boat with space for up to 55 passengers.

The new Wiggonholt is a big boost to the Trust’s operation. It is electrically-powered, so offers virtually silent cruising, and takes advantage of the broad dimensions of the Wey & Arun Canal. At over 60 feet long and 9½ feet wide, the boat is spacious and its moveable tables can be arranged to meet the exact needs of each trip, or even taken out altogether for maximum seating capacity.

Sliding windows offer excellent views and the large open deck at the front is a great place to sit if the weather is good. For passengers with mobility difficulties, there is a lift that can accommodate a wheelchair. There is a flushing toilet on board. There are also two smaller boats, with capacity for 30 and 12.

In 2010, Wiggonholt will have new waters to explore from its base in Loxwood, West Sussex. A £2 million project to reinstate the canal route under Loxwood High Street, adds a further section when it officially opens in April 2010. This brings the navigable length to around three miles, with four locks, meaning that a further range of short or longer trips is possible. Most visitors opt for a cruise of 2-3 hours.

These are exciting times for the Wey & Arun Canal Trust as it moves closer to the long-term goal of linking the Thames to the south coast by water once again.