Messing about on the river is not what springs to my mind when Guildford is mentioned. A rather fine cobbled High Street with many enticing shops and a railway station that offers trains to all points of the compass are more obvious attractions. Yet if you head away from the shops and duck down a path that looks as if it is heading nowhere, you end up by the riverbank and in the heart of National Trustdom.
Dapdune Wharf was home to a barge building yard and a port on the River Wey Navigations. The Wey was one of the first British rivers to be made navigable using the new canal technology and when it opened in 1653, the 15-mile waterway opened up the London market to Guildford. To begin, business was sluggish but the Great Fire of London created a huge demand for local timber for housing and the route began to make a profit. Corn, timber, flour and gunpowder all floated from here to London. One of the barges made here stands on the bank and is open for you to wander around.
Nowadays the Dapdune Belle and electric craft await to take you on a 30 minute drift along the river. On your way, you pass the town wharf that houses a real oddity; a crane operated by a treadmill. The crane dates from the 17th Century and was last used as recently as the 1960s to lift the stone that was used to construct Guildford cathedral. Looming up on one bank is the former electricity works that now houses the Electric cinema. If you are feeling energetic then there is a tow path along the river enabling a waterside stroll.
Six buildings at the Wharf house several interesting displays all about the history of the navigations and cargoes that were carried. The Junior CW’s and I enjoyed discovering the effectiveness of pulleys and the art of knot tying. Dapdune Wharf makes an ideal site for a picnic but if you haven’t packed sandwiches or just fancy a nice cup of tea and a slice of cake the café, there are comfy chairs indoors to shelter from the cold and shady benches outdoors for long lazy summer days.
except school Summer holidays, Spring and Autumn half terms when open every day. Best to check website
Admission: Adult £3.95, Child £2.30, Family £11.50
National Trust members get in free but have to pay for the boat trip
Boat Trip: Adult £3.95, Child £2.30, Family £11.50