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Farncombe Boat House Family Tells of ‘Devastating’ Effect of Weir Collapse and ‘Official Silence’

Published on: 2 May, 2020
Updated on: 3 May, 2020

Farncombe Boat House

by Martin Giles

The collapse of the Tumbling Bay Weir has had a “devastating effect” on Farncombe Boat House, says its managing director, Russell Chase who has accused the National Trust and Guildford Borough Council of “appalling” communication with his business.

But the NT and GBC say they have been in regular contact with him.

The weir footbridge moments after its collapse in November. Photo taken by Julie Powell who had just leapt to safety. see: ‘I Was On the Bridge When It Collapsed’ – Dramatic Witness Account With Video

The collapse last November caused a water level drop in the River Wey navigation that made riverboating impossible. Normally, at this time of year, especially during the recent fine weather, boathouse bookings would be increasing towards a summer peak but now even routine annual maintenance cannot be done.

See also: Dragon Interview – Weir Repair Will Take Two Years

Mr Chase said: “In line with government Covid-19 measures, the boathouse remains in lockdown and closed. We have only have limited email access.

“The weir collapse had a devastating effect on our business, cutting us off from the rest of the navigation and leaving us unable to do our usual winter maintenance downriver in Dry Dock at Pyrford Marina. We’ve also been unable to take delivery of hire-fleet boats for 2020 season and unable to arrange for pre-booked customers to take up their moorings with us this winter.

Early attempts to fill the gap left by the weir and restore water levels failed after heavy rains in December.

“Communication and any response from our landlords and navigating authority, the National Trust, has been appalling, with a total lack of regard for the wellbeing of our small family business since the collapse.

“We feel we have been ignored and our issues dismissed by both The National Trust and Guildford Borough Council and despite numerous requests for information and support this has continually fallen on deaf ears.

“It seems nobody cares about the financial and reputational damage this closure has had on our long-standing business and now with the added lockdown issues rendering the River Wey closed by The National Trust, we do not know how much longer we can survive despite the government support received so far.

“It is such a shame the same level of support is not being shown by The National Trust who are very noticeable by their ongoing silence. Without consistent income through this crisis, no business can survive in the longer term, especially a seasonal one.”

A Farncombe day boat in Millmead, yards from the Tumbling Bay Weir, in 2015 after the closure of Guildford Boat House.

There are an estimated 2,000 Farncombe Boat House boat movements each season out of a total of “well over 3,500”.

GBC and the NT said, in a joint statement: “The National Trust, Guildford Borough Council and the Environment Agency are continuing to work together to resolve this complex repair as quickly as possible in the circumstances, given the storms and flooding we saw this winter.

“Work has now begun to repair the collapsed weir and will take several weeks. River levels will then return to normal so it will once again be navigable. At the present time, outdoor construction work is still permitted, but understandably this might change.

“The National Trust is in regular contact on this with Mr and Mrs Chase and all our tenants, colleagues and river-users along the Wey Navigation.”

The temporary dam currently in place by the Guildford Rowing Club, Millmead.

Paul Woolwat, chairman of the Guildford Rowing Club, also said the collapse was having major consequences. “The club is pleased work is progressing to repair the Tumbling Bay Weir. But the impact on the club has been severe.

“After the collapse, rowing had to stop on the Wey. Through an enormous effort, involving transporting boats each weekend to alternative venues, the club has been able to continue rowing, albeit on a more limited basis. The impact on volunteer coaches and junior member parents has resulted in many hours of additional work.”

Guildford Rowing Club Badge

Although the club remains closed due to Covid-19, there is concern about the lasting impact on its membership. With normally more than 100 junior members and a similar number of adults, the uncertainty is impacting membership renewals.

Mr Woolwat added: “Even after the weir repair, without extensive repairs to the bank, rowing may not be safe. The club has been at the forefront of supporting adaptive and junior rowing, but we fear long-term damage to the future of the club.”

For more articles on the Tumbling Bay Weir please click here.


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Responses to Farncombe Boat House Family Tells of ‘Devastating’ Effect of Weir Collapse and ‘Official Silence’

  1. Fiona Yeomans Reply

    May 3, 2020 at 12:15 pm

    Excellent article, thank you.

    It’s a disgrace that it took from November until now to do anything effective about this. The damage to the riverbanks over the winter will, presumably, hugely increase the total repair bill.

  2. Euan Houstoun Reply

    May 11, 2020 at 11:19 am

    I would wholeheartedly endorse Fiona Yeoman’s huge concern. A total lack of leadership.

    There is an absence of an individual given central command, supported by a small team made up of the plethora of interested parties.

    The totally woolly and ill-defined lack of precision shown during the excellent Dragon NEWS interview was entirely worrying but typical and in keeping with the incompetence displayed since the collapse six months ago.

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