Welcome to my web site about the river Arun and the canals that connected it, at one time, with London and Portsmouth. I moved to Littlehampton in December 2007 and having learnt something about my immediate area and created the sister site to this (My Littlehampton) I started to explore the Arun further. The more I learnt about the river, the trade and industry that once existed on its shores and the history of its canals I became rapidly hooked on the subject and decided to create this site.
A Brief History is about the development of the river Arun over the centuries. The Canals section deals mainly with the histories of the Portsmouth and Arundel Canal, The Arun Navigation and the Wey and Arun Junction Canal (W.A.J.C.) as well as a bit about what is happening to them today but this is covered more extensively in the Walks Section which is about my walks up the river and canals as you see them now, a little of the history of the industry and settlements on or near their banks and what is being done, in terms of restoration, on the Arun Navigation and the W.A.J.C.
The countryside around the river is particularly attractive with the South Downs nearby and since initially creating this site I have spent more time slowly expanding my radius away from the river and up onto the Downs to the east and west of the river. Initially I started to explore the area to the east of Amberley and North Stoke and to reflect this I have created a Circular Walks section, dealing with some of the circular walks in the Arun valley and the South Downs that I have done and I continue to add, periodically, to this.
Subsequently, as I expanded my range to the west of the Arun Valley, I have recently added another new section recounting some of my walks Further Afield to the west of Amberley along the South Downs and surrounding countryside. These will be more circular walks that can be taken from various starting points, none of which are too far away from Amberley and Arundel.
The navigation buttons above, if clicked on, will take you to the ‘Home Page’ for that particular topic with a brief description of each of the subjects covered, .
Also remember to check out the What’s New Section where all the additions I have added over time are listed.
*Since creating it this site has become too big to maintain properly and I have had to make a few changes. To read about them go to the bottom of the page.
The river itself varies greatly in character, from its windswept lower reaches below Arundel where strong tides race up and down the heavily canalized river, to the more quiet river that meanders gently through pasture and wood further up. But you take the Arun for granted at your own risk! Despite many attempts over the centuries to tame it the Arun still periodically shows its teeth and breaks out of the constraints placed upon it and floods many hundreds of acres across its, not to be forgotten, large floodplain.
There was a time when it was a very important trading link with sailing ships and barges carrying goods up and down. Arundel was first mentioned as a port in the Doomesday Book of 1086 and flourished in the late 16th century. Littlehampton also, later on, developed as a port and shipbuilding centre. As mentioned above, rather briefly, from 1823, the river was linked to London and Portsmouth by three canals, the Portsmouth and Arundel, the Arun Canal and the Wey and Arun Junction Canal. There were wharves, shipyards and local industries by its side in places but the river remained largely rural. It was even used by farmers around Burpham to wash their sheep in!
As I explored further up the river I started coming across signs of the old canal system and some of the restoration work done by the The Wey and Arun Canal Trust whose web site I had read; and to quote from it: “The Trust aims to restore the Wey and Arun Canal back to navigation. When it is restored, there will be an inland waterway link from London, via the rivers Wey and Arun, to as far as Littlehampton on the Sussex coast.”
They have created a path, the Wey South Path, that follows as closely as possible, the route of these two canals apart from where access was not granted. The canal itself is recognized as a national heritage asset and the Trust is committed to sensitively managing and improving the environment in and around it, sometimes in conjunction with more enlightened landowners whose land it runs through, to create a ‘green corridor’ that will become even more of a haven for wildlife and flora and fauna in general as well as a waterway for people to enjoy. Having seen their work and the dedication of the volunteers I decided to become a member and also help out with their voluntary work parties. Plenty of examples of the work done by them is to be found on this site and my sister site My Wey and Arun Canal.
I enjoy finding out about the past and visiting sites to view any remains and feel that it is a pity that some things that have been lost could and should have been preserved. However there is a difference between being interested in the past and being nostalgic for it and wishing for a return to it. For most people life in earlier centuries was hard and often quite short, no matter what people may think, and as much as I feel the pull of the rivers past, that era has gone, but it is worth remembering and paying tribute to some of the people that helped create it and to others who were part of it.
This is just my personal take on the river and the surrounding countryside, past and present and is not intended to be an ‘official’ guide or history. All I have done is pull various sources of information together into what I hope is a coherent story and I make no claim to intellectual ownership of the following. I hope you enjoy reading about it, looking at the photographs and are encouraged to make your own explorations.