CHICHESTER CANAL: CASHER LOCK
Casher Lock was named after Edward Casher
who was a Portsmouth wine merchant.
By 1830 he was Company Chairman of the canal
and he later become mayor of Portsmouth.
There was also a swing bridge named after him a little further along,
behind the security office for the marina.
Six locks were built on the line of the Portsmouth and Arundel canal.
There were two at Ford, where the canal joins the River Arun,
two here near Chichester Harbour and two on Portsea Island.
Before the canal was built, the height of the land had to be surveyed.
Some areas were filled in and others cut through
so that the canal bed was level in order to retain the water.
Where there was a change in water level,
locks were used to move boats from one level to another.
Most of the coastal plain is very flat
so only a few locks were needed where the canal connected to the sea.
The lock is no longer in working order
as the gates have long since decayed
but the brick structure of the lock itself is still in place.
The metalwork from the lock gates has been restored
and can be seen in the visitor centre.
At the eastern end is a concrete dam
which regulates the water level back towards the canal basin
and out towards the Harbour.
There is a modern lock at the entrance to the marina
where the boats can be seen going in and out, how a modern lock works.
In the mature tree beside the road is a rookery.
Rooks nest together and they build their nests in the treetops quite early in the year.
Just beyond the public car park at the top of the marina,
there is a bird hide looking on to an area of reed beds.
In summer reed, sedge and cetti’s warbler’s can be found here
and in winter wigeon, teal, tufted ducks, brent geese
and even the occasional water rail.
Along the canal, emperor dragonflies catch insects
whilst sometimes the flash of blue of a kingfisher can be seen.
Several swans usually nest along here
and occasionally a black swan may be seen.
In spring, cuckoos seek out reed warbler’s nest
to lay their own egg in.
In summer there is a wonderful array of wild flowers in bloom
along the edge of the canal.
AREA OF OUTSTANDING NATURAL BEAUTY
The section of the canal between Cutfield Bridge
and Salterns Lock is within the
Chichester Harbour Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB)
and is leased to Chichester Marina.
WORLD WAR II
During the Second World War,
the canal was refilled with water as
an anti-tank obstacle and concrete blocks,
known as dragons teeth,
were also situated on the other side of the road.
Also the road bridges were mined
and a pill-box constructed to defend the main road from the coast.
Further down, Egremont Bridge allows access to the opposite bank.
The wing bridge mechanism and bridge structure
are modern and were constructed from part of a naval vessel.
Part of the main girders of the original bridge
showing its name is displayed alongside.
CHICHESTER CANAL: CUTFIELD BRIDGE
Cutfield Bridge was named after William Cutfield of Climping
whose family were shareholders from the beginning
of the Portsmouth and Arundel Navigation Company.
Canals were first built because the canal boats
were an economical way to carry heavy or bulky loads.
A variety of goods were transported along this canal.
Coal for the gasworks in Chichester was one of the main cargoes,
together with shingle for roads and buildings.
Ashes, chalk, limestone and manure to improve
the surrounding agricultural land are among the other goods carried.
Agricultural produce was also transported from West Sussex
to feed the fleet in Portsmouth.
The journey to London was 116 miles and took four days.
Gold bullion was regularly transported
from the Royal Navy at Portsmouth to the Bank of England in London,
guarded by armed Redcoats riding alongside.
It was reported that in one week in 1830,
40 tons of gold was transported.
One of the loads carried to London was
20 tons of marble from the Mediterranean for the king at Windsor.
The canal never carried the loads that were anticipated,
partly because they could not find enough cargo
to make the return journey profitable.
Also the Napoleonic Wars had ended
before it opened so it was safe,
and quicker, to sail around the coast again.
Today, this part of the canal is very tranquil
and home to a wealth of wildlife.
Reedmace, more commonly known as bulrush,
lines the edges, along with a range of marginal plants
as as great willowherb and purple loosestrife.
Along the banks are colourful display of oxeye daisies,
meadow cranesbill and vetches,
which provide nectar for butterflies.
Dog roses and traveller’s joy ramble through the elder and other shrubs.
Grasses are also important as meadow brown butterflies
lay their eggs on the stems.
The leaves and see are an important food source for many other creatures.
In summer, blue and green emperor dragonflies
patrol their territory and catch other insects in mid air.
Blue and blue-tailed damselflies bask on plants,
soaking up the sunshine or fly in tandem,
mating and laying their eggs on the water plants.
Cormorants can sometimes be seen swimming low
in the water and diving to catch fish.
DECLINE OF THE CANAL
With the coming of the railway to the area in 1846,
trade on the canal decreased.
The Portsea Canal had ceased to be used by 1827
and the Hunston to Ford section by 1853
although the Chichester branch continued to carry a meagre trade.
However, it was decided to wind up the Portsmouth and Arundel Company in 1888.
Chichester Corporation did not want to loose the use of the canal
and so an agreement was reached whereby ownership
was transferred to them in 1892.
By the beginning of the 20th Century,
road traffic had increased and vehicles were heavier.
The swing bridges, designed for horse and cart,
were showing signs of strain.
Complaints about the condition of the bridges
were made to the Corporation and in 1923
it was agreed with the Highway Authority
that the bridge would be replaced with a culvert,
as all trade had ceased some years earlier.
Chichester Corporation included in a clause
which enabled them to request the reopening of the navigation route,
if the need arose.