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Richard’s Way – February 2020

Published on: 11 Feb, 2020
Updated on: 16 Mar, 2020

national-trustThe latest report from Richard Cant, the Stoke lengthman on the River Wey Navigations

To some, winter may always seem long and gloomy but, with Christmas out of the way, spring is definitely in sight.

Now I’m as overjoyed as the next person to see early daffodils, snowdrops and buds beginning to burst in to life and can’t wait for longer, sunnier and hopefully warmer days.

However, a little part of me is filling with panic as each day goes by and the “to-do” list only seems to get longer.

Winter is an important time of year for us lengthsmen, giving me the opportunity to cut back vegetation without it growing back instantly, carry out any rotation tree work, plant hedges…the list goes on.

This winter in particular has seemed shorter than most, as early heavy rainfall meant I lost a lot of time through weir operations. And now the mild weather and lack of frosts make it look like spring is going to arrive early.

In fairness it’s my own fault that the list of jobs is so long. That’s because I’m always looking for ways I can improve my length and set myself a massive amount to achieve (work’s not fun unless it’s challenging!).

A good example of this is a project I started with my volunteers to cut back along the mooring line at Stoke and fill in the gaps in the hedgerow.

Having gradually encroached on to the path, the vegetation needed to be cut back and now is the time of year to do it for minimum disturbance.

The buds are already bursting into life on a newly planted hawthorn hedge, a sure sign that spring is just around the corner.

With everything we cut being chipped along the bank we were ready to replant a native hawthorn hedge further away from the path.

This should not only help improve access and tidy up this area but also provide food and habitat for birds and insects for years to come.

Another task I have started is cutting back the low branches along the towpath from Ladymead to the A320 Woking Road, kick-started by a work party of our Wey Navigation Conservation Volunteers.

This is a rotational job that I carry out in sections over a number of years, spreading the workload and minimising the impact on wildlife.

Normally I would coincide this with cutting back branches and other encroaching growth from the non-towpath side of the river. But with increased flow rates this year boat access has been limited so I’ve decided to hold back on this until next winter and do more towpath work instead.

Luckily last winter river flows were abnormally quiet for much of the season so I got more offside cutback done than I had planned to, thus changing my plans this year should have minimal impact.

Of course, with increased river flows it generally means more weir movements and, with the ground already saturated, it seems that even the slightest bit of rain is having an impact on river levels.

The increased demand on my time from having to adjust weirs has meant that I was about a month behind strimming the river banks and I realised that it was one of the jobs that I wasn’t going to get finished by myself.

Thankfully the New Haw volunteers kindly came and gave me a hand for a day of mob-handed strimming and we achieved a massive amount. They did remind me more than once how I wrote in one of my previous diary’s how I like to strim by myself!

A big thank you to everyone who has helped me this month, with so much achieved I can definitely look forward to spring!

Richard

richard.cant@nationaltrust.org.uk

07786 703832

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