The Wey & Arun Canal Trust’s trip boat Zachariah Keppel made a spectacular return to its home at Loxwood, West Sussex, in June after spending several months away for repairs.
The boat was floated along the Thames from All 4 Marine yard in Chertsey to Penton Hook Marina, where it was transported by lorry to the wharf at Loxwood, and lifted by a 76-tonne crane over the towpath and into the canal.
The unusual sight of a 50ft long, eight-tonne narrowboat flying through the air created quite a stir, and was filmed by a BBC South team for a piece on that evening’s programme.
Zachariah Keppel was taken to the boatyard in January as it had developed rusty steelwork and the decision was made to appoint professional boat repairers to carry out the work required to allow ZK to be deemed passenger-worthy again.
With the rusty internal fittings replaced and the hull buffed off internally and externally, primed and painted with black bitumastic paint, the 45-year-old vessel should have another 10-15 years of life.
The boat was named after Zachariah Keppel, a builder from Alfold, was the contractor responsible for building the Wey & Arun canal. He went bankrupt and had to give up the job before it was completed.
Now that ZK is back home, volunteers will replace her ballast and flooring, making her ready to take passengers when government restrictions allow.
Wey & Arun Canal Trust volunteers rise to the challenge to complete bridge build
The last brick was laid in early July at the Wey & Arun Canal Trust’s latest restoration project, a bridge at Harsfold, nr Wisborough Green in West Sussex.
Volunteers worked flat out to complete the bridge building project after floods, winter storms and then Coronavirus lockdown put construction behind schedule.
Small teams of six volunteers worked five days a week to get the job finished and allow the landowner access to his fields ahead of harvest.
Work on the 7m clear span steel and concrete bridge began in September but was set back by the deluge of rain and storms seen over December, January and February, making work “hard going”, according to project manager Dennis Gillen.
The compound, which is close to the River Arun, just escaped being flooded, but the mix of clay and rain meant the construction site was a mud bath and delivery trucks and lorries struggled to reach the site. Just as the team managed to get the steel beams in, construction was halted due to Coronavirus lockdown.
When work resumed following easing of government restrictions, volunteers had to operate in very different conditions and strict social distancing, but the team carried on undaunted.
Dennis paid tribute to the dedication of the volunteers: “They are an amazing team,” he said. “Everyone comes and gets on with it. They are all very skilled and great volunteers. They’ve worked so hard to get the job done.”
The area will now be reprofiled and the temporary bridleway diversion removed.