Fringe Box



Richard’s Wey December 2016

Published on: 16 Dec, 2016
Updated on: 16 Dec, 2016

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

The wonderful display of autumn colours continued through November, and we were even treated to some moody misty mornings and the odd crisp frost.

The general theme of settled weather has made for a very productive few weeks, especially as it was time to make a start on the winter work programme.

Willows at Papercourt on the Wey Navigation.

The first of these tasks involved the help of the Wey Navigation Conservation Volunteers, who spent the first Wednesday in November pollarding the willow trees at Papercourt Lock.

This may not be on my length but I do enjoy the chance to get out and about elsewhere on the navigation so I joined them for the day to help carry out this traditional tree management task.

Pollarding is the name for removing all the branches from a tree above grazing height, and would originally have provided a renewable source of timber. We continue to do this on a short rotation to encourage new growth on the trees, reduce the strain from increased weight and extend the life expectancy of the tree.

Now that the vegetation seems to have finally stopped growing I have also been able to start my winter cutback, clearing all the vegetation from the river bank and pushing it back from the rear of the towpath.

With very limited access along the towpath we can’t get heavy machinery in to do this task, meaning a lot of long hard days with the strimmer.

There are benefits to doing this though as it maintains a diversity of plant life, keeps the towpath clear and open, and helps us to inspect the condition of our banks.

Another winter task that I have started this month is the offside cutback, which involves removing woody growth and low branches that are encroaching over the navigation from the non-towpath side bank.

Generally this bank is owned by our neighbouring land owner, but it is still our right and responsibility to remove any branches that may be restricting boat traffic. This is another time consuming job and one that I can’t do by myself, so many thanks to my regular volunteers who have been assisting me with this.

Of course the weather couldn’t hold forever and we had the first storm of the winter called “Angus”. Over the course of the weekend the storm hit I was informed that one of my volunteers had recorded two inches of water in his rain gauge!

This had quite an impact on river levels and required 24-hour monitoring and weir adjustments, something that came as quite a shock after what has been a quiet few months for weir control.

Thankfully as I write this the river has calmed back down and I have been able to continue with my long list of jobs, but who knows the next lot of precipitation could even be snow!

Stoke Lengthsman

07786 703 832.

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