Canals & Rivers
Escape the daily grind and explore one of the canals and rivers that wind their way through Surrey. The county has two purpose built canals, the Basingstoke and Wey and Arun and two navigable rivers including the River Wey and Godalming navigations and the River Thames.
The Basingstoke Canal was built in the 1790s to take bulk agricultural products (grain, timber, etc) from the heart of Hampshire to the markets and docks in London, and to bring goods such as coal and pottery back.
The Canal has had a chequered life suffering from a lack of water in summer and then increasing competition from the railways. It has become virtually derelict and been restored twice in its 220 year history. The second time was when Surrey and Hampshire County Councils came to the rescue of the canal in the early 1970s and during the next two decades the councils, supported by thousands of volunteer hours, restored 32 miles of the canal, which officially re-opened for boat traffic in 1991.
Today the canal is a green oasis connecting urban areas with the countryside. It is a popular and pleasant place for anyone to walk, jog or cycle on the largely level towpath and is also popular with canoeists and anglers. Larger boats can currently cruise from the Wey Navigations to Woking and from Mytchett to Greywell, while canal-boat trips operate from the Canal Centre at Mytchett and from Odiham.
There are many riverside strolls, riverside pubs and lazy boat trips to be enjoyed along the River Wey Navigations as well, which is looked after by the National Trust. Along the River Wey Navigations is Dapdune Wharf, the heritage centre which shows how the river way used to transport goods before the days of trains and roads. Up river is the Farncombe Boat House which offers a number of boat hire opportunities and boat rides. Further up river where the Wey meets the Arun, the canal is derelict and is not navigable. The Wey and Arun canal trust has been working tirelessly for over 40 years to clear and re-instate the canal.
The other important river which runs through the northern edge of Surrey is the famous River Thames. It passes through well known places such as Runnymede, where you can experience a river trip by the French Brother boats, and on towards Kingston. With river paths in many places on each side, as well as on occasions open spaces you can enjoy a flat walk in Surrey, as well as use the river for sailing, boating and canoeing.
A short length of the Thames Path National Trail runs through the northern tip of Surrey, from Staines to Richmond, providing an active way to visit Surrey from London.