basingstoke.jpgBasingstoke Canal Authority

AINA Representative: Miss Fiona Shipp - Manager

Canal Centre
Mytchett Place Road
GU16 6DD

Telephone: 01252 370073
Fax: 01252 371758


Constitutional status 

The Basingstoke Canal is a local authority-owned partnership (not for profit) established under the 1777/78 Basingstoke Canal Act.

Description of navigation

The canal is a mainly rural, broad canal.


A brief history of the navigation

The Basingstoke Canal was conceived as an economical means of transportation for the development of agriculture in central Hampshire. The first route to be surveyed in 1766 was a line northwards to the Thames at Monkey Island, Bray, but the engineering problems proved it would be too costly. In 1776 a 44 mile route eastwards, to link the River Wey Navigation, and the Thames at Weybridge, was considered. The route, reduced to 37 miles by tunnelling through Greywell Hill rather than going round it, was approved by an Act of Parliament in 1778. But work did not commence until nine years later owing to financial restraints as a result of the costly War of American Independence.

Surveyed by William Jessop, the construction contract was awarded to John Pinkerton. From its junction with the River Wey Navigation at Byfleet, three miles from the Thames at Weybridge, the canal was built to rise 195ft by 29 locks to Ash Lock.

The mile long cutting at Deepcut, the 1,000 yard long Ash Embankment, crossing the Blackwater Valley on the Surrey/Hampshire border, and Greywell Tunnel, 1,230 yards long, are the major engineering features. The canal was completed in 1794 at a cost of £154,463 – almost twice the estimated cost.

Timber, flour and chalk were the principal cargoes to London. Barges returned with coal and fertiliser. But the canal did not prove to be a profitable venture: tonnages were below expectation; inflation led to rising costs and road improvements, from 1750 onward, made overland transport increasingly competitive.

The most stable commercial period was under the ownership of AJ Harmsworth. Already trading on the canal, he bought for £5,000 in 1923 and secured contracts carrying coal and timber to Woking.

After his death in 1947 the canal was sold at auction two years later for £8,000 and came into the ownership of the New Basingstoke Canal Co Ltd in 1950. In spite of efforts to keep it navigable, insufficient maintenance took its toll and by the mid 1960’s the locks were decaying, the channel was silted up and choked buy weed and much of the towpath became overgrown.

Current situation and use

basingstoke canal

The Surrey and Hampshire Canal Society was formed in 1966 to try and stop the rot. Unable to negotiate with the owner, the Society embarked on a 7 year campaign for public ownership and a policy of restoration. A successful conclusion was achieved late in 1973 when Hampshire County Council acquired their 15 mile length followed by Surrey County Council which acquired their length for £40,000 in March 1976.

Over the next 17 years the two county councils funded a programme of restoration supported by the Surrey and Hampshire Canal Society, the Inland Waterways Association and other canal restoration groups who organised voluntary working parties along 32 miles of the waterway. The period generated a number of innovative practices, such as the operation of the steam powered dredger Perseverance in Hampshire, manned by volunteers, narrow gauge railway supply lines, summer work camps and youth employment training schemes. The project was completed in 1990 and the canal was formally opened in May 1991 by his Royal Highness the Duke of Kent.

The canal not only serves as a recreational amenity but is also a notable wildlife habitat. The alkaline water from the chalk springs at Greywell and acid water content eastward where the canal passes through the heath land, has given rise to one of the largest variety of aquatic plants and invertebrates in the UK. As many as 25 of Britain’s 39 species of dragonflies and damselflies inhabit the canal. Recognising the unique ecological importance of the canal, English Nature (now Natural England) designated the entire waterway, except for a small length through Woking, a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) in 1995.

Plans for the future

An integrated Canal Sustainability and Business Management Plan is currently being prepared by consultants which will set a vision and way forward for the management of the Canal over the next 15 years. The BCA also has a very comprehensive asset management plan which provides a strategic, systematic and holistic framework for the management of a group of principal assets to deliver specified, or agreed levels of service.

The Canal SSSI is under threat and considerable effort is being put in to reversing the trend, whilst balancing this with recreational demand.

How we consult with our users

There are a number of clubs, associations and societies who we meet with and share information. Most all licence applications are administered through our main office. We keep an up to date data base of all moorings, house boats and visitor craft on the canal.

Information packs and literature are available from the Canal Visitor Centre at Mytchett in Surrey.

How we are structured

The Basingstoke Canal Authority (BCA), was set up in 1992 to manage the Basingstoke Canal as a maintaining agent on behalf of the two County Councils. The BCA has no legal or corporate identity itself and the staff of the BCA are employed by Hampshire County Council and work to the financial, health and safety and governance policies of that Council. A Service Plan relates to and supports the service level agreement between the BCA and the partnership of local authorities.
This Partnership also comprises six local funding borough and district councils: Hart, Rushmoor, Guildford, Surrey Heath, Woking and Runnymede. Hart District is further comprised of local Parishes and Fleet Town Council who contribute revenue funding to maintain the canal.  

We are a non profit organisation, any donations or funds raised by events, boat licences, angling and hire of facilities goes towards the up keep of the canal structure.

Other forms of grants and funding awards are sought to help with maintaining the SSSI and carrying out special conservation projects.

Navigation statistics

Length/area of navigable waterway

32 miles, 51 kms

Number of locks






22m (72ft )


3.96m (13ft)


0.91m (3ft)


1.7m (5’10”)

Boating statistics




Privately owned



Hire – day boats



Hire – overnight stay/timeshare



Hire – trip boat/ restaurant/passenger



Hire – hotel**



Other business/charity boats



Requirements for boating

Boat Safety Scheme


Third Party Insurance