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Wey & Arun Canal Centre opens at Loxwood

A crowd of over 200 enthusiastic supporters and guests attended the official opening of the Wey & Arun Canal Trust’s new visitor centre, at Loxwood in West Sussex, on 1st April.  

Mike Coleman, Chairman of West Sussex County Council, cut the red ribbon and saluted the exceptional work by all the volunteers. 

The new building is only the latest presence of the Trust at Loxwood, which forms the heart of the restoration. The first was a wooden ticket office in the car park, followed by what they called the ‘black shed’, a corrugated iron lean-to behind the nearby Onslow Arms pub. 
But in the last decade, with 10,000 boat passengers a year and tens of thousands towpath walkers, this had become completely inadequate. 

The Trust then started thinking about a larger log cabin. However, a chance meeting with generous sponsors led to an even more ambitious ideas for a very ‘green’ building. Designed by Fordingbridge, a specialist in environmentally sensitive buildings, the new centre uses sustainably sourced materials and exceptionally low energy requirements.  The centre has been entirely financed by private fund-raising by Trust supporters.

Speaking at the ceremony, Sally Schupke, the Trust’s chairman, said she hoped Loxwood residents would be proud of the canal in their village. She remembers that one of the first jobs canal restorers had carried out in the area was to remove tons of glass from the canal bed behind the Onslow Arms, which had been used as a bottle dump. 

The opening ceremony also honoured Tim Jolly, a Trust stalwart who died in 2010 at the age of 62. Tim used to spend most summer Sundays at Loxwood helping on the Trust’s publicity stand and sharing his enthusiasm with visitors. 

Sally Schupke also paid tribute to all volunteers who had been involved in the building, including project manager John Pryce and the Trust’s conservation adviser, Ian Burton , who produced the landscaping design.  

The Canal Centre is now open every weekend until the Autumn. Further information is available on the website www.weyandarun.co.uk.

Wednesday 4 April  | Andrew Denny  | 11.58am, Wednesday 4 April 2012

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