Fringe Box



Riff Raff Diary for January 2012

Published on: 25 Feb, 2012
Updated on: 2 Mar, 2012

by Robert Craig

Riverbank tales from our local St Catherine’s Lengthsman/Weir-keeper

Well a busy start to January with some twenty adjustments made to the weirs between the first of the month and the fifth, quite a few of them in the early hours of the morning and late at night.

Combined with the high winds everybody along the length of the navigation has had their share of fallen limbs and trees to clear.  In these circumstances we all tend to work together as a team, for example I helped out clearing a pair of fallen willows just above Newark Lock near Ripley.  These were blocking the towpath and so were a priority.

A Common or Black Alder by St Catherine’s Footbridge

There were also a couple of trees on the Catteshall length to deal with – one just downstream of Unstead Lock, an alder heavily laden with ivy, and another alder just upstream of Unstead Lock, both of which were lying across the towpath.

The tree above the lock was also partially blocking the navigation.  On my own length of the navigation I got off quite lightly with just a few small fallen willows on the Railway Walk, the loop which you can join by the Pill box just downstream of Broadford Bridge that connects with the old Cranleigh line at Peasmarsh. These I could clear with a hand saw.

During the month, with the aid of the Wey Navigation Conservation Volunteers, I was able to spend a very productive day in the Shalford Nature Reserve, cutting back overhanging trees and vegetation on the embankments surrounding the ponds.

The reserve is a triangular piece of land bordered by the allotments downstream of Broadford Bridge and the Redhill railway line on the non-towpath side. Originally part of Dagley farm in Shalford (which is now a static caravan park) some 20 plus years ago it was purchased for use as a rough shoot and for fishing. On what had been wet meadow four artificial ponds were dug out, these were stocked with fish and on the larger pond two small islands were created on which a decoy bird was caged to draw in ducks and geese.

Eventually, the licence to shoot on this land was revoked following complaints from neighbouring houses and users of the navigation and, it no longer being of any use to the owner, the National Trust was able to purchase it.    When creating the ponds, embankments were formed which serve as a pathway around the reserve and it was here that the volunteers were working, to keep the walkways clear of brambles and the many willow trees which surround the ponds.

The previous barn owl, seen in the area until last spring

If you are interested in volunteering with the Wey Navigation Volunteers you can get in touch by phoning the Navigation office on Guildford 01483 561389.

For the birders I have been fortunate enough to see a Barn Owl in the area around St.Catherine’s Lock recently, also finding several owl pellets beneath one of the veteran oaks near the lock. So if you’re walking the towpath around dusk its worth keeping your eyes peeled.

See you by the River.

Robert Craig

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