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Riff Raff Diary for August 2014

Published on: 18 Aug, 2014
Updated on: 18 Aug, 2014

Riff Raff Cottage and Weir

Riverbank tales from our local St Catherine’s Lengthsman/Weirkeeper

by Robert Craig

The beginning of July started with a couple of days mowing using the ride-on mower. This included a cut of the moorings and car park at Stonebridge and the allotments at Broadford, as well as the navigation towpath, locksides and moorings.

In previous years I would have been finishing preparations for the Guildford Boat Gathering at this time; this year we are having a change and holding a new event called the Wey River Festival at Dapdune Wharf. This will take place on the weekend of September 27 and includes a performance by the Mikron theatre company at 2pm on the Saturday and an illuminated boat pageant at dusk, with boats travelling up to Millmead Lock and back.

Back to vegetation and I have been clearing some ragwort near St Catherine’s Lock. I have also been able to pull up some Himalayan balsam, but due to a period of sick leave the window of opportunity (prior to seeding) has been reduced for me this year. Just downstream of Broadford Bridge I also had some small willow trees to clear from the towpath.

When walking the towpath in the St Catherine’s area you can’t help but be aware of all the activity between Broadford Bridge and the railway bridge crossing the navigation above the weir cottage. The gantry carrying the gas and water main is sited here and at present this is clad in plastic. The pipes, etc, are being refurbished and the plastic cladding is to ensure that the grit blasting materials being used are contained. The works should be completed by the end of August.

There are fewer sightings of the barn owls now in the St Catherine’s area as the young have fledged and the adults are not busy feeding them. One rare and unusual sighting that a friend of mine made recently (and I am jealous of!) was that of a marsh harrier passing over this area. I normally have to travel to the Isle of Sheppey to see these magnificent birds. A red kite and a hobby have also been sighted.

2014 marks 250 years since the opening of the Godalming Navigation and 50 years of the National Trust’s ownership of the Wey Navigation. In celebration of this, in late August and early September, we are ‘airing the archives’ and will be displaying historical photographs along the 20 miles of towpath, giving you an idea of how the area has changed (or not) over the years.

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