By Kevin Smith
Enthusiasts are hoping to make an historic feature part of the future of Ford.
The Friends of the Old Ford to Hunston Canal are keen to ensure the route of the Victorian waterway is a valuable open space for residents of the area.
They hope to mark the enterprise’s forthcoming bicentenary to begin to create a route for walkers, cyclists and horse-riders along the line of the canal.
richard Boulter, one of the Friends, said: “We think it’s an opportunity that, with the increasing number of people in the area with the increased housing, the canal will help to meet the growing demand for green spaces.
“The Ford to Hunston section is fast disappearing as the number of housing developments in the east in Ford and Yapton multiply.”
Fellow Friend Elaine Cordingley, and a Ford neighbourhood plan committee member, said: “For all the new people moving into the villages, it will be nice to make them aware of the local heritage.”
Within four to five years, the Friends want to support a linear way between Yapton and Barnham – and to re-instate the former canal line as linear greenway from Ford to Yapton as part of the housing development plans for the one-time Ford Airfield.
The near 10 mile stretch of canal was opened in 1823 as part of the former Portsmouth and Arundel Navigation. It effectively closed to through traffic about 1853 as the growing rail network took its place for transporting people and goods.
The Ford to Hunston section was the eastern section before the waterway joined the Chichester Ship Canal. It stretched south and then westwards to Birdham, through Chichester to Portsmouth via Portsea Island.
The group’s 20 volunteer members have issued their first vision statement after being formed by Vince Anderson in October, 2018.
This seeks to preserve the remains of the canal and its heritage features, while encouraging wildlife and a sustainable environment for all.
Its members’ interests include canal maintenance and signposting, industrial archaeology and history, access and rights of way and sustainable transport.
The remains of the canal include a Grade II-listed bridge at Tack Lee Road in Yapton and the remnants of a lock in Ford.
Work is also being undertaken by the Friends with groups like the sustainable transport charity Sustrans and other cycling and horse-riding groups to promote the greenway concept.
They are intending to form part of a working group of key partners – which will also include parish, district and county councils – as well as neighbourhood groups.
Mr Boulter said the benefits from an enhanced canal route included a reduced number of vehicle movements as people would use the canal to reach stations, schools, shops and their workplaces.
An increased number of visitors to enjoy the canal will also boost the area’s economy and the route will link the proposed housing developments.
Detours will be needed where existing buildings block the canal’s original route.
More details can be found on the group’s Facebook page: Friends of the Old Ford to Hunston Canal.