Fringe Box



Richard’s Wey December 2012

Published on: 11 Jan, 2013
Updated on: 11 Jan, 2013

Richard Cant, the Stoke lengthsman of the River Wey and Godalming Navigations.

The latest of our riverbank tales from the local Stoke lengthsman Richard Cant

The River Wey and Godalming Navigations are owned and maintained by the National Trust for the benefit of both river users and wildlife. For this to be possible the navigation is split into six lengths, each looked after by a lengthsman, with my length stretching around 3.5 miles from Millmead Lock to Bowers Lock. My main roles include weir operation to control the water levels, grass cutting, painting, tree work and running events. With the other lengthsmen I work on a rota system so that there is always someone on hand for any incidents that may occur along the Navigations.

December 2012

Not every aspect of a lengthsman’s job involves physical work and I spent a morning at the beginning of December in a Volunteer Recommendation Group meeting.

This group meets regularly to look at the different roles our volunteers play across the property, whether they are enjoying what they do and how we can encourage new people to join us. The group’s title comes from the idea that if our existing volunteers are happy then they will recommend the National Trust and the idea of volunteering to other people.

Whether it’s spending time on the river helping with maintenance and conservation work or serving our customers with a smile in the tea room at Dapdune Wharf, this property would not be able to work if it wasn’t for our volunteers so it is worth us getting the whole experience right.  f you are interested in more information on volunteering please contact the Wey Navigations’ office at or phone 01483 561389.

December was a mixture of wet days and dry days and with the ground already saturated any drop of rain seemed to have an impact on the river levels. To control this it is up to the lengthsman and our relief weir keepers to monitor the river levels day and night and to then operate the weirs to speed up or slow down the flow accordingly.

The mixture of rain followed by drier spells meant that levels were fluctuating constantly and 91 weir movements had to be carried out on the Stoke Length alone. The more persistent rain in the second half of the month also meant that the river flow became too strong for boats to be able to safely navigate so we had to put out the red flood boards (advising boaters of strong flows) for a total of 14 days out of the month.

When December wasn’t wet it was cold, making for some very interesting working conditions. One of the continuing tasks for the month was the winter cutback, where we strim down all the dead vegetation from the river bank which helps to keep the towpath open and encourage variety of plant growth next year.

Doing this in very frosty weather with Lucy from Triggs, we found that strimmers are great at clearing frost from the ground but unfortunately they have a tendency to deposit it around your feet and ankles, making us look a bit like Frosty the Snowman from the knees down!

The other side effect of the cold weather was that as the light started to fail and the temperature dropped the moisture from our breath was freezing on our clear plastic visors – certainly a sign that it’s time to go home to the log fire.

The boat cut loose from its moorings vandals stuck in the weir at Stoke Mill.

The boat, cut loose from its mooring by vandals, stuck in the weir at Stoke Mill.

On a sadder note, a few days before Christmas some vandals broke into the Sea Cadets centre in Guildford and set a boat adrift from its mooring. This is obviously dangerous and likely to cause damage at the best of times, but at this point the river was in full flow and the boat ended up being sucked into a weir and sinking. Thankfully nobody was hurt but it did destroy somebody’s prized boat and put a dampener on their Christmas.

If you do see someone tampering with boats or even just acting suspiciously please do call the police and then hopefully we can stop this from happening again.

Stoke lengthsman. Tel: 07786 703 832.


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