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Richard’s Wey January 2017

Published on: 15 Jan, 2017
Updated on: 15 Jan, 2017

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

The one very noticeable feature of December was how dry it was, a stark contrast to the extreme flooding of Christmas 2013.

Of course this lack of precipitation has meant that the water levels in the navigation have been unseasonably stable, with only three weir movements necessary on the Stoke Length during the whole month.

Compare this to December 2015 which had fairly average rainfall for the time of year and I carried out 57 weir movements.

This doesn’t mean that I have been any less busy this month, it just means that I have been able to crack on with the rest of my work programme uninterrupted and thankfully without the sleepless nights normally associated with winter weir operations.

One of the main achievements for this month has been to finish my winter cutback, the task of completely clearing the front and back of the towpath of vegetation. This enables us to not only inspect the river banks for damage but also helps to maintain the diversity of plant life when it grows back in the spring.

As well as this I have also strimmed one third of the perched embankment next to Stoke Lock, a task which I do on a three year rotation to help maintain the wildlife habitat.

This vegetation clearance again enables us to check the condition of the bank which is very important on perched embankments as the canal is higher than the surrounding land so could potentially breach.

Keeping the navigation clear by removing overhanging branches from the non-towpath side of the river.

Of course, it’s not only me that’s been out working on the Stoke Length this month but also my hardworking volunteers. To make the most of their time and effort we have been concentrating this month on cutting back low branches and encroaching woody vegetation from the non-towpath bank of the river.

This is very important so that the navigation is clear and open to boat traffic, but is a very slow and time-consuming job that I find nearly impossible to do by myself so I really appreciate all my volunteers help.

Like with the perched embankment clearance, I carry out this offside cutback work on a rotational basis to minimise the impact on wildlife while keeping it at a maintainable level.

The section planned for this winter is between Millmead Lock and Dapdune Wharf, and fortunately with the low river flows we have been able to use the large flat- topped work barge as a stable platform to work from.

The use of this deck striker has really improved our work rate, and at 12ft wide and 70ft long has been an adventure to move around that my volunteers have relished!

Long may the stable weather continue!

Richard Cant

Stoke Lengthsman

07786 703 832

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