A Trip Down the Chichester Ship Canal

As previously stated in the section about the Portsmouth and Arundel Canal, the Chichester Ship Canal was built to a larger gauge and designed to take vessels up to 100 tons. Whilst the rest of the canal quickly fell into disuse this section enjoyed moderate success and trade carried on until 1906. The canal was formally abandoned in 1928. The lease on the canal is now owned by the Chichester Ship Canal Trust whose aim is to restore the canal to operational standards. The canal has been dredged along its entire length and the main obstacles that remain are the sites of Cutfield and Crosbie Bridges which are now just unnavigable culverts across major roads. The canal can be neatly divided into four sections: Southgate Basin, Chichester to Hunston Bridge, Hunston to Crosbie Bridge, Crosbie Bridge to Cutfield Bridge and Cutfield Bridge to Salterns Lock. Click HERE to see a map of the route.
Starting at Southgate Basin, Chichester it is an attractive 1.5 mile walk or ride down to the Hunston Bridge. Not far after leaving the basin you come across Poyntz Swing Bridge which was named after W.S. Poyntz of Cowdray who was a
prominent shareholder in the canal company, a friend of the 3rd Earl of Egremont and M.P. for Chichester in 1826. This stretch is also popular with local fisherman and they are often encountered at the canal side. Eventually we come to the............
junction at Hunston Bridge where the barge canal to Ford started and the ship canal turns right and heads for Salterns. This is the site of the original Poyntz Swing Bridge which is now occupied by a modern structure. It is from this point that John Turner painted his picture of Chichester Canal in 1829, showing a large brig and Chichester Cathedral in the background.
Unfortunately a large part of the next section to Crosbie Bridge was closed as repairs to the bank were taking place. This section is fringed with marginal plants such as Wild Iris, Waterdock, Figwort and Water Mint, not to mention Moorhens and Coots nesting on the far side. There was also a Swan nesting right by Crosbie Bridge. This bridge was named after Sir John
Gustavus Crosbie (1764-1843), a shareholder in the canal and a local landowner. Before 2003 this next section was blocked by reed beds but the Chichester Canal Trust paid for contractors to clear them, the job being beyond their capabilities. This
one mile stretch to Cutfield Bridge has some very pleasant views. The second picture above shows the site of Dudley Bridge, one of the swing bridges on the canal. Eventually arriving at Cutfield Bridge, named after William Cutfield of Clymping whose
family were shareholders from the outset. Like all the bridges on the canal it was built by C & H Tickell of Southampton and like Crosbie Bridge was still there until about 1924/5 when it was blocked. After crossing the road it is only about one mile to
Chichester Harbour but there are some interesting sites before you arrive. First is Manhood End or Casher Lock. The name derives from the Manhood Peninsula south of here or a shareholder called Casher who had the adjacent swing bridge named
after him. The gates of this lock no longer exist and a concrete dam regulates the water level back to Chichester and to the harbour. Not long after this lock we encounter the section of canal which is now home to many houseboats that line the far
bank of the canal and we also come across the site of the last swing bridge on this section, namely Egremont Bridge, named after the 3rd Earl of that name who was instrumental in the development of canals in the region. Most of this last part of the
walk is within the grounds of Chichester Marina before finally reaching Salterns Lock and Chichester Harbour Conservacy an area of outstanding natural beauty. Salterns Lock is 100’ long and 20’ wide, having been designed to accept those ships of up
to 100 tons that the ship canal was designed to take. The lock is still operational although one of the lower beams on one of the lock gates had broken off due to decay when I visited. A lovely walk or cycle and just as enjoyable on the way back!