The Basingstoke Canal was built in the late 1700s to provide a waterway link between Basingstoke and the Wey Navigation, thus providing access to the London basin and the remainder of the inland waterway network. The business case envisaged taking goods and produce to London and returning with such items as coal for the local market.
The venture was seriously compromised by the introduction of the train soon after the canal was opened and financial difficulties have dominated throughout its history. After a series of bankruptcies, the canal fell into disrepair after WW1 and became largely impassable to navigation by the 1930s.
During WWII much of the canal was blocked by defences associated with the GHQ line built in 1940 to defend against a possible German invasion. Remnants of these defences can still be seen in places along the canal.
In the early 1970s, the derelict canal was purchased jointly by Surrey and Hampshire County Councils.
In partnership with the local authorities, the Surrey and Hampshire Canal Society organised voluntary working parties, managed work-training schemes and employed a full-time team to restore the canal.
Thirty-two miles of the waterway, from the Wey Navigation junction to Greywell Tunnel, were formally reopened in May 1991 by HRH The Duke of Kent.
More detail is available on the Basingstoke Canal Society web site.