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Richard’s Wey November 2013

Published on: 8 Dec, 2013
Updated on: 8 Dec, 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

With the October half term holiday finished, November really did feel like the end of the boating season and the navigation has been noticeably quieter over the past weeks.

The dropping temperatures also mean that vegetation has stopped growing, signifying the start of my winter work programme.

My main task this month has been cutting back all the bankside vegetation along my length using the strimmer. This not only makes the towpath look tidy, it also prevents one dominant plant species from taking over, maintaining the diversity that is so important for wildlife.

Another benefit of this is that is helps us to check on the condition of the bank and to see where repair work is needed.

Another one of the winter tasks that I have started this month is the offside cutback, where we trim back the tree growth from the non-towpath side of the navigation to maintain the width for boat users.

This is a vital task but one that has to be done sympathetically so as not to destroy wildlife habitat, which is why it is usually done during the winter to avoid nesting time.

Sometimes, however, the task does become a bit more demanding than the normal light trimming using loppers and bowsaws.  Such as the large willow pollard hanging low across the water near Dapdune Wharf, which required the use of a chainsaw and one of our large flat work barges to trim the tree back so as not to interfere with travelling boats next summer.

Surrey Wildlife Trust has been meeting for a week at Stoke Lock to Survey for small mammals in the Guildford Borough Council-owned Riverside Park area.This proved to be such a good site for harvest mice that I offered the services of our Wey Navigation Conservation Volunteer group to do a follow up survey for nests.

A harvest mouse found during Surrey Wildlife Trust's mammal trapping survey.

A harvest mouse found during Surrey Wildlife Trust’s mammal trapping survey.

This turned out to be even more impressive, as once the group had got their eye in they found 28 nests, making it the best known site in Surrey for harvest mice.

One of the nests found by the Wey Navigation Conservation Volunteers.

One of the nests found by the Wey Navigation Conservation Volunteers.

Although most of the other tasks of late have been very physical such as removing the last of the fallen trees from October’s storm and pulling the invasive floating pennywort from Coxes Mill Pond in Addlestone, not all of them have required muscle.

I did a talk for the Burpham Townswomen’s Guild where I was made to feel very welcome, and went to a National Trust rangers gathering where I got to meet up with other NT countryside staff doing a similar role to me.

We spent a productive day sharing ideas, and discussing problems and solutions. It was also our annual River Users meeting at the beginning of November for anyone who has an interest in the navigation to find out what we’ve been doing and ask any questions.

It was here that I was surprised to find that I had been nominated for the National Lock Keeper of the Year Award, so thank you all very much. I feel very honoured as I am proud of what I do and hope you all enjoy the river as much as I do.

Richard Cant, Stoke lengthsman. Tel: 07786 703 832.

richard.cant@nationaltrust.org.uk

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