Village Feature: Loxwood

WITH a fascinating past, Loxwood honours its heritage and ensures its historical roots are not forgotten.

At the very heart of the village is the canal, being restored by the Wey and Arun Canal Trust.

The Wey and Arun Canal is at the heart of the community: A wave to fellow trust members aboard the Wiggonholt.   Pictute by louise Adams C130277-3 Mid Loxwood Canal

The Wey and Arun Canal is at the heart of the community: A wave to fellow trust members aboard the Wiggonholt. Pictute by louise Adams C130277-3 Mid Loxwood Canal

It draws visitors with events including salsa dancing nights, wedding receptions and birthday parties.

However, not every villager was overjoyed about the influx of tourism and increasing traffic, and it has been the subject of arguments over the years.

But the canal does have an interesting history – it was built for the navy, but not finished until 1816 – a year after the Battle of Waterloo.

In 1840, the canal made a great profit, helping to build the railway, carrying railway sleepers.

Lyn Nash, manager at the canal centre and chairman of the Loxwood Historical Society, knows exactly what makes Loxwood tick.

“This is an incredibly friendly village, especially since our fundraising for the North Hall – everyone really rallied round.

“The village has changed a lot, though. The canal was overgrown and not maintained – people really had a job walking along it.

“Not everyone wanted the tourism the canal brought in.

“But I really think the area benefits from the trade.

“The North Hall has made a wonderful impact, with lots of fundraising events and the gardening initiative, which maintains all the green in the village.

“Next year we hope to have another half-mile of canal to use – this is the showpiece of the trust.”

The historical society, which holds exhibits through the year, is currently working on its website, which will aim to archive everything it has collected online.

An important moment in Loxwood’s history was in the mid-19th century, when the Dependent Brethren Chapel set up base in Spy Lane and changed the face of the village.

It opened its Combination Stores in what is now the post office and sold everything from clothes to food to furniture.

Members of the sect dominated village life, but when younger people did 
not come forward to take the place of the elders, it died out, as members did not marry.

Peter Hyem has lived in Loxwood for 40 years.

He is a member of the historical society, was a governor at the school and has been a skipper on the canal for 17 years.

“The events we hold on the canal – such as our recent salsa night – are something very different, 
and exciting, open to everyone. We cater for large and varied groups.”

Diana Bent has been the owner of the post office and village store since 2007.

She said: “Business is pretty tough at the moment.

“It is hard to survive in this climate of the ‘Tesco mentality’.

“We really need people to keep us going. The large majority of our stock is price-marked, so not over-priced, and we use, fresh, locally-sourced produce.”

Loxwood butcher John Murray has owned the store of his namesake for 27 years, currently employing eight staff members.

He was awarded the impressive accolade of Sussex Butcher of the 
Year 2012-2013 and ‘aims to win it again this year’.

John said: “I wanted to go into business on my own when I was young, and chose to open it here because it is an agricultural area, and people support us.

“Also, this is an area with a post office, a surgery and a school – the three elements needed in a village, so customers would need a butcher.”

Rosie Russel runs the Onslow Arms, with its delightful beer garden overlooking the canal.

Having been there a little more than a year, business is going well – the pub caters for those on boat trips, with homemade snacks.

Loxwood is also home to the famous Loxwood Joust.

The spectacular medieval festival is another nod to the past, with full contact jousting and daring displays of weaponry, archery and cannon fire as fully-armoured knights meet in a thunderous battle.

The village brings history to life with the thundering hooves of horses and the smell of hog roasts in the air.