Fringe Box



Richard’s Wey for August 2012

Published on: 3 Sep, 2012
Updated on: 3 Sep, 2012

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.

August 2012

August finally saw the start of some more settled weather, after such a wet June and July.

This meant that the lengthsman’s team were able to turn their attention from water level control, to the more usual summer work of vegetation management.

This better weather is best summed up by the fact that I only had to carry out seven weir movements to control the water levels on the Stoke length in August, compared to 109 movements in July.

The good weather and the school summer holidays did bring out the boaters at last, making the navigation feel alive again after a very quiet start to the year. The higher level of boat movements does however increase the chance of incidents happening, which is why there are always members of the lengthsman’s team on duty to assist deal with any issues.

During the first weekend in August a boater accidentally lifted the lock gate at Unstead near Godalming out of its socket, which is caused if a boat becomes caught on the upper lock gates and the buoyancy of the boat as the lock is filled lifts up the gate.  Thankfully this was one of the easier ones to slot back in with the help of a bottle jack, and Mandy Griffith the lenghthsperson for the Catteshall length and I managed to have the navigation back open again within an hour of the incident being reported.

Not knowing when the weather would break it was important to “make hay while the sun shines”. This meant that August was extremely busy trying to get back on top of the vegetation work that has had to be put on hold up until now. This has meant not only mowing the towpath, but mowing the locksides twice, hedge trimming all along the back edge of the towpath, strimming fishing swims and visitor moorings for boats and cutting the bankside vegetation at 45 degrees to keep the path clear while keeping the bulk of the growth for wildlife. I hope you’ll agree that that is enough to keep anyone busy.

August also saw some new faces start on the navigations, with Lucy Proctor taking over the role of lengthsperson at Trigg’s Lock, and Stuart and Vicky Hall starting as seasonal relief weir keepers at Stoke Lock and living on the boat Intermezzo. With new faces it seemed appropriate to have a ‘get to know each other barbecue’ at Dapdune Wharf for all the lengthsman team and relief weir keepers. It was a great success, especially as the rain just about held off until we’d finished eating. Three cheers for the great British summer and enjoying it no matter what!

After 80 years of being wound up and down by hand, the Environment Agency’s weirs at Bowers have now been motorised ready for the winter.

Stoke lengthsman. Tel: 07786 703 832.


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