Fringe Box



Richard’s Wey August 2019

Published on: 16 Aug, 2019
Updated on: 21 Aug, 2019

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

The last few weeks (much like the past couple of months) have been focused on vegetation management.

Mowing the locksides and strimming the towpath seems to be my equivalent of painting the Forth Bridge at the moment!

Of course, I’m not trying to cut back all the plants along the river as they provide a valuable habitat and food source for insects and other fauna, but it’s all about getting the balance right between keeping the towpath clear whilst preserving what we can for wildlife.

One plant I would like to see the back of though is Himalayan balsam, just one of a number of garden escapees brought back by the intrepid explorers during the Victorian era.

Don’t be fooled by this non-native invasive plant’s pretty pink flower – it spreads like wildfire and out-competes our native species reducing biodiversity.

My volunteers and I started the annual task of pulling up the plant back in June and have been working on it ever since, cumulating in a last-ditch effort on one of the hottest days of the year.

Realistically we are never going to eradicate it but if we can pull more each year than re-seeds then we may be able to get it down to an acceptable and controllable level.

Grass snakes are surprisingly good swimmers and I spotted this large one going across the river. However, as soon as it was in the reeds it was brilliantly camouflaged.

With the help of my volunteers, I’ve made a start on removing some of the low hanging branches along the towpath; a task I usually save for the autumn but for some reason this year they seem to be heavy in leaf and need trimming back a bit early.

This is particularly important for those people cycling the towpath as even just a few low hanging leaves can be a real nuisance and difficult to avoid, something that is exacerbated when the leaves are covered in rain and hang even lower.

Something we experienced first-hand as the day we chose to start this job it rained nearly non-stop!

As well as low branches, I’ve had two fallen trees to deal with this month and as jobs go they couldn’t have been more different.

The first involved cutting back a fallen tree downstream of Dapdune so that it didn’t interfere with the annual Lions Raft Race.

Working with our maintenance team and the floating excavator Hoe made it much easier and meant that they could pick up the tree with their grab whilst I cut it in to pieces with the chainsaw.

The other tree however was on the St.Catherine’s length and was on a very inaccessible piece of towpath which meant plenty of walking with a wheelbarrow before slowly winching the tree out of the water by hand bit by bit.

Amazing how essentially the same task can be so different and just highlights the logistical issues and problem solving involved in working on such a unique National Trust property.


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