Fringe Box



Richard’s Wey, January 2015

Published on: 18 Jan, 2015
Updated on: 18 Jan, 2015

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

Happy new year and I hope you all had a good Christmas. After the flooding event of Christmas 2013 I am pleased to say that this year was relatively quiet with stable river levels meaning that we all got to wind down for at least a few days.

This did change somewhat after an evening of torrential rain on Boxing Day, which although wasn’t enough to cause any flooding, it did mean we were busy operating weirs.

The urban nature of Guildford town centre means that the river levels on the Stoke Length rise very quickly due to the water running off rather than soaking in. This immediate rise in levels is followed later by water working its way down the river from further up the catchment, and after stabilising for a period the levels begin to drop off requiring more weir management to reduce flow and maintain levels. This whole process can take days to happen, requiring regular monitoring and adjustments throughout.

A frosty morning at Stoke Lock.

A frosty morning at Stoke Lock.

One of the main tasks before Christmas was the winter cutback, which involves strimming all the bankside vegetation along the towpath.

This helps us to monitor the condition of the river banks and maintain the diversity of plant life by stopping the more aggressive species from taking over.

You will also notice that we have no trees growing between the towpath and the river, which is historically important as the original Wey barges would have been towed by horses using a rope so any trees would have got in the way. The winter cutback allows us to remove any saplings that have been hidden by the summer vegetation growth, stopping them from becoming trees.

Another job for my volunteers and me this month was trimming back the vegetation from the non-towpath side of the river. By working our way along the bank with a boat we can cut off low and protruding branches that are encroaching on the navigation.

This is a very slow and time consuming job, but with the help of my willing volunteers we are progressing well. We’ve also found that without the noise of machinery it’s a good chance to enjoy the waterway and get closer to the wildlife that is still around in this colder weather.

Richard Cant. Tel: 07786 703 832


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