the Wymsey navigation


A navigatable waterway from Watchester, 12 miles East of Wymsey, and the sea, 11 miles West of Wymsey, is known to have existed from at least the Dark Ages, evidence to support this was uncovered in 1989 during excavations ahead of the building of the Watchester Riverside Marina. Wooden key quay posts were carbon dated to around 550AD. Merchants' records dating from the 15th century catalogue shipments of wine and dried fruit being landed at Watchester.

The Watchester Navigation Company was established in 1845 and work was started to broaden and straighten the existing waterway, the work also included the removal of immense amounts of silt and the laying of vast quantities of clay to seal the sandy subsoil. Most of the labour used was Irish and whole families encamped near Wymsey Bottom.

The Navigation was never a commercial success being soon overtaken by coming of the South Eastern Coastal Railway Company. By 1870 the Navigation had ceased to be used commercially. Over the following century the Navigation fell into disrepair, silting and drying up in many places; agricultural needs during two world wars led to various sections being filled in. Today all that remains of this human endeavour is the three quarters of a mile stretch at Wymsey.

the present

As can be seen from the above map, the water bearing remains of the Navigation are no longer straight but consists of number of near-straight sections and with minor straightening at bends the waterway could easily be made navigatable.The section shown right, at the Navigation Lane end of the waterway, is known locally as Clarkies Run and it's 600yds is the straightest section on the Navigation.

The Wymsey Navigation Restoration Society (WYMREST) was formed in 1995 with the express aim of restoring this stretch of canal to it's former glory, this being made a lot easier by the fact were no locks on this section. There is a four foot slope from East to West though and compensating for this will be by far the largest single cost in the whole Project. A pump house will be constructed with access from Navigation Lane and the return pipe will be laid in the waterway and run to the Wymsey Woods end, thus allowing re-circulation of the water It is expected that the cost of this alone will be in the region of 85,000 even allowing for volunteer labour.

The Wymsey Navigation today is a wonderful haven for a wide range of flora and fauna, over 300 types of plant were identified last year by the Watchester & District Naturalists Trust. This year a twelve month bird survey is being carried out by the Watchester Twitchers. So, it can be seen that great sensitivity will be required at all stages of the restoration. The Society's Environmental Consultative subcommittee (ECOSUC) has the responsibility of ensuring the widest consultations and advice are sought from all the major national and local environmental organisations as well as government both local and national.

The Navigation at Farthingdale

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