Fringe Box



Richard’s Wey November 2012

Published on: 12 Dec, 2012
Updated on: 12 Dec, 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.

November 2012

Early in the month I was out doing a litter pick along the Stoke length when I received a call from Thames Lock informing me that there was a boat stuck on the weir at Broadoaks, between Bowers Lock and Triggs Lock.

As lengthsman we work on a rota system so that there is always someone on call 24 hours a day for emergencies or incidents such as fallen trees, lifted lock gates and stuck boats, so this wasn’t a new experience.

It turned out that the boat had been blown sideways onto the weir by a gust of wind and then the pressure of water was stopping it from being able to move free. With the help of colleagues, we soon managed to winch the boat and its occupants free so that they could continue on their way, this time with an extra story to tell.

Volunteers help with pollarding of willow trees.

Volunteers help with pollarding of willow trees.

The Wey Navigation Conservation Volunteers met in November at Papercourt Lock to carry out some pollarding work on the old willow trees. This is an ancient tree management technique where all the growth is removed from the tree at head height, out of the reach of deer and livestock, which would have originally have supplied a crop for tasks such as basket weaving and charcoal making.

Today we use the same technique as a way of encouraging new growth, extending tree life and removing weight that would eventually cause the tree to collapse.

If you are interested in joining this group that meets at various locations along the navigation on the first Wednesday of each month, please email me for more details

You may have seen us out this month strimming in force, cutting back all the vegetation between the towpath and the navigation and also at the back edge of the towpath. This winter cutback is done for a number of reasons including encouraging new growth in the spring, stopping the build up of dead dense vegetation, keeping the towpath wide and open for river users and enabling us to inspect the condition of the river banks.

This is a big job to attempt as individuals so I have been working alongside Lucy, the Triggs lengthsman, Lex, the mobile river warden and Tom, my work experience student from Merrist Wood College. This has meant that we have managed to achieve a massive amount on both the Stoke and Triggs Lengths, which really helps to keep motivated.

As well as the more physically demanding tasks this month I also had the opportunity to try my hand at a bit of public speaking!  I was invited by the Rendezvous Club at Jacobs Well to give a presentation on the River Wey Navigations, an opportunity that I jumped at.

I spoke about the history of the navigations and then moved on to how we manage them for wildlife and river users today.  Judging by all the questions at the end I think everyone enjoyed it and I was made to feel very welcome, so thank you to all those who attended.

Stoke lengthsman. Tel: 07786 703 832.


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