The Yarkhill section of the canal being restored by the Trust runs westwards from the A4103, around 900m to the site of the former Barr’s Lock and Cottage, and to the Kymin East section beyond.
To the east lies Monkhide, and its famous Skew Bridge, the focus of many of the canal restoration activities started by the Canal Society so many years ago.
Nearest postcode: HR1 3SU
OS Grid Ref: SO 60691 44283
The lock cottage was demolished many years ago, and no traces now remain. Similarly, no signs of the lock can be seen, although preliminary excavations to try to locate any remains have been undertaken.
This was the next section considered for restoration following the work undertaken by the Society nearby to the east at Monkhide. The owner, Mrs Oram, was approached by the Trust, and agreed to a ‘landowner agreement’, giving the Canal Trust a legal right of access to the section of Canal concerned.
Unlike the Monkhide section, this length was dry most of the time and had probably been so since the canal closed in 1881. However, in several places it had been filled in, and the entire section was virtually impenetrable jungle.
Plans for the site
Immediately after the agreement was signed in 1994 the Trust started work, with the intention to clear and fully restore the canal from a point around 350m west of the A4103 as far as Barr’s Lock at the west end of the site.
The development of the Trust was such that by this time there was money available to acquire two large 360° excavators.
And so, in September 1995, these and four hired-in dumpers were put into operation at Yarkhill for one week.
Many of the volunteers took the time off from work, and were joined by members of the Prince’s Trust and the RAF.
Progress to date
A very successful week ensued where about half the Canal was dredged to the original depth and the spoil taken away for spreading on an adjacent field with the kind permission of the farmer. Interestingly, he found he had better crop yield from the material dredged from the Canal than from the rest of the field.
This was largely successful, with a full profile canal channel and towpath being created.
After a period of consolidation, work then continued in a similar fashion back towards the A4103 at Crew's Pitch.
In 1996 the same routine was repeated, and by the end of another week the full 900 metres of the canal bed had been cleared and some of the ditches alongside the Canal had been cleaned out as well. It turned out that all the fill removed from the canal was good soil with no rubbish as we had been led to believe.
The following winter there was sufficient rain to fill the canal for the first time in over 100 years but unfortunately it did not last as the puddle clay had dried out to such an extent that leaks allowed it to almost empty again within a week. Volunteers Brian Fox and Mike Potts were able to take a boat along the full length of restored canal from the far end of Monkhide, under the main road, to Barrs Lock – about 1½ miles.
Following a period of in-activity due to Trust commitments elsewhere, restoration and maintenance of the Yarkhill section recommenced in December 2005. A team of volunteers who, meet at least weekly, have notched up around 1,000 work parties under the guidance of team leader Chris High.
The Yarkhill team, assisted by the Waterways Recovery Group on several occasions, have re-claimed the canal towpath, bed and banks. Work continues with pulling tree-stumps from the canal banks, keeping vegetation in the canal under control and general maintenance of mowing and strimming. The towpath is now a pleasant walk attracting an ever increasing number of walkers.
Open Days have been held at Yarkhill in the past, presenting an opportunity for the volunteers to show their achievements to the wider public.
In 2008, restoration work saw the installation of a replica milestone at Yarkhill. This event was marked by a formal ceremony during the Open Day on the site in August.
A delightful and easy walk between the A4103 and Kymin now exists for all to enjoy.
To profile and seal the canal bed, banks and towpath so as to regain the original form, find and seal any remaining leaks, find a reliable source of water and return the Yarkhill stretch permanently to water.
Attention will then focus on restoring Barr's Lock to the west, and creating a connection through to Monkhide in the east.