Fringe Box



Richard’s Wey February 2013

Published on: 14 Mar, 2013
Updated on: 14 Mar, 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.

February began with another of our have-a-go events, and this time it was hedgelaying.  The event was held at Dapdune Wharf and involved 13 members of the public getting stuck in and laying a 30m section of hedge.

This traditional technique for managing hedgerows involves cutting the stem of each plant until it is thin enough to “lay” down, and then securing the newly laid hedge with stakes and binders, which in this case were all made from hazel coppiced along the navigation.

In the past the purpose of this was to make a nice dense hedge that would be livestock proof, but it is now seen as more of a wildlife friendly alternative to constant hedge trimming.  If you would like to see the finished result you can see it at our visitor centre Dapdune Wharf which re-opens on March 16, or alternatively you can see the pictures of the process on our Facebook page

On the first Wednesday of the month I was working with the Wey Navigation Conservation Volunteers to pollard some willow trees, again at Dapdune Wharf. The process of pollarding involves removing all the branches from a tree at about head height, leaving the main stump to re-grow.

This can come across as quite a drastic method of tree management, but in fact encourages new growth and reduces the weight loading on what can be often quite ancient stumps.

The reason pollarding was always carried out at head height was to stop the new shoots being eaten by browsing animals such as deer. The main purpose of pollarding was to produce a usable crop of timber and we still try to use the material wherever possible, and in this case the long straight poles have been kept for den building with the younger visitors at Dapdune Wharf this summer.

The early part of February seemed to be dominated by trees and not only the planned pollarding work. I also had to assist with an emergency call out to a tree blocking the navigation downstream of Pyrford Lock, and the removal of a rotten alder on the Catteshall length.

However, not all the work we do with trees involves physical action, I also had a site meeting with the Guildford Borough Council tree officer to discuss future works. This aspect of our role is very important as the Wey Navigations is classed as a conservation area, meaning that legally we need to gain permission for any major tree work we wish to carry out.

Lengthsman Richard Cant's punt out of the water and about to be re-painted.

Lengthsman Richard Cant’s punt out of the water and about to be re-painted.

With winter fast drawing to a close February has been the time to finish off any of our winter maintenance tasks. This has meant that on wet days I have been servicing machinery and on dry days (there have thankfully been a few) painting my work punt. With those jobs all done I’m now hoping for a dry and warm March so that the locks can be painted and the grass mown, ready for the start of the boating season at Easter.

Nicely painted and going back into the water.

Nicely painted and going back into the water.

Stoke Lengthsman

Tel: 07786 703 832

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