Fringe Box



Richard’s Wey December 2015

Published on: 13 Dec, 2015
Updated on: 13 Dec, 2015

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

November is the unofficial start of our winter work programme, even if it has felt unseasonably mild still.

With boat traffic now at a real minimum and the vegetation growth slowing to a halt, it’s time to get everything cut back before the winter weather really sets in and I become busy controlling water levels through the use of weirs.

My first task was pollarding the willow trees at Papercourt Lock with the Wey Navigation Conservation Volunteers.

Now this may not be technically on my length, but for tasks such as this it is good for us lengthsmen to team up and help each other out and make the most of our volunteers time.

Pollarding involves removing all the branches from a tree at head height, which may look drastic to start with but actually helps the tree by encouraging new growth and reducing weight.

Traditionally it would have also provided a usable “crop” of material for things like charcoal making and bank repairs.

For us though it is just a very effective management technique for some of our veteran trees, helping them live longer so that we can all enjoy them.

A brief cold snap in November gave my colleague Chris Charman a chance to take this stunning frosty morning photo on the Triggs length.

A brief cold snap in November gave my colleague Chris Charman a chance to take this stunning frosty morning photo on the Triggs length.

Another big task for me has been strimming the vegetation from both sides of the towpath, something which is now nearly complete.

This is done to help maintain a diverse mixture of plant growth and to enable me to check the banks for erosion.

Like with most of the tasks on the river, access for heavy machinery is very limited so I have to do this using a strimmer or hedge trimmer.

This can prove hard work and slow going, but it does mean that next year I’ll have a nice open towpath that’s brimming with wildlife.

My volunteers and I have also started the important task of trimming back the overhanging branches from the non-towpath side of the river, concentrating on the two narrower canal sections above Stoke lock and Bowers Lock.

This is a job that is done on a rotation, cutting back short sections each year making it more manageable and preventing the loss of wildlife habitat.

As this involves working from a boat it would be virtually impossible for me to do by myself so thank you very much to my hard working volunteers for all their help.

I’m sure that next summer the boaters will really appreciate the extra width and sight lines that this task has created.

As this will be my last diary notes published in 2015, I would like to take this opportunity to wish everyone a very Merry Christmas and a happy New Year.  I look forward to seeing you all out and about on the river in 2016.


Stoke Lengthsman

07786 703 832

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