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Richard’s Wey December 2013

Published on: 17 Jan, 2014
Updated on: 17 Jan, 2014

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

December began with some unseasonably settled weather, giving me and my volunteers a good opportunity to crack on with my winter work programme.

This consists of jobs that can only really be done when the vegetation has stopped growing, so we’re no longer madly cutting grass and the leaves are off the trees.

The first of these tasks was to continue strimming the vegetation at the back edge of the towpath so that it is more manageable next year. We also cut back encroaching branches from the river between the ‘horse bridge’ and the canoeists pontoon at Stoke Lock so that it more accessible and user friendly.

Not all the winter tasks however involve heavy cutting back, as we also spent a day “weeding” the towpath in Guildford, which involved gently drifting down the river while pulling out any tree saplings growing from the bank.  This is an important task not just because the roots can damage the type of bank protection on this stretch but also because historically trees would not have been allowed to grow between the towpath and the navigation as this would have impeded the ropes used by the horses to tow the barges.

The good weather also meant that I could look forward to the 2014 season and how I could improve visiting boaters first impressions of the navigation. With help from my volunteers we filled in the pot holes in the access track to Stoke Lock, meaning a smoother drive in for visitor which is especially important when towing a boat.

We also looked at how we could improve the hut that I use for issuing licences to make it feel more inviting.  The first task was to push out the spiders and other creepy crawlies living in there, followed by ripping out the old shelves and painting the woodwork inside. This means that the only task left to do is rebuild the shelving/workbench and it will be ready to welcome our visitors next season.

Of course the settled weather couldn’t last forever and just as we were preparing for Christmas the wind and rain hit with a vengeance! This meant lots of weir operations to try and manage the water level, along with clearing fallen trees to keep the towpath and navigation safe and clear.

However, the onslaught of storm after storm meant that even opening all our weir gates couldn’t prevent the flooding. The river levels were the highest they’ve been since the floods of 2000, flooding over the tops of the towpath making it impassable in places.

The towpath opposite Dapdune Wharf in Guildford has been closed until further notice after flood water caused it to collapse.

The towpath opposite Dapdune Wharf in Guildford has been closed until further notice after flood water caused it to collapse.

Of course the water also caused a lot of damage, eroding the towpath surface, causing banks to collapse and sinking boats. We’ve even had to close the towpath in Guildford town centre due to bank collapse – all of which will take months to repair.

As I write this the wind is still howling and the rain still falling, so I’ll end on a cautionary note; please don’t try to pass through flooded parts of the towpath and keep away form the water’s edge as the banks are soft and the water may be deeper than you think.

Richard

07786 703832

richard.cant@nationaltrust.org.uk

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