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Riff Raff Diary – for August 2015

Published on: 22 Sep, 2015
Updated on: 22 Sep, 2015

Riff Raff Cottage and Weir

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

by Robert Craig

I was on holiday during August (as a lot of people are) so prior to going away I focused on making sure that the locksides and moorings were cut and strimmed. Also any narrow sections of towpath where the vegetation might encroach were strimmed back. There was even time for yet more Balsam pulling.

Purple Loosestrife

Purple Loosestrife has been used as an astringent medicinal herb to treat diarrhoea and dysentery. It is also cultivated as an ornamental plant in gardens, and is particularly associated with damp, poorly drained locations such as marshes, bogs and watersides.

Where I stayed in Western Ireland I was struck by the number of wild flowers growing in the damp boggy areas beside the roads which we also have growing on the Navigation. Such plants as Purple Loosestrife, and Meadowsweet were in abundance, though over there they were bordered by large amounts of vivid red Crocosmia flowers.

The name Crocosmia‘ comes from the Greek ‘krokos‘ – saffron – and ‘osme‘ – smell.  It is said that they smell of saffron when placed in water. They are not native to the British Isles but have been introduced from South Africa.

Red Crocosmia

Red Crocosmia

One very striking difference was the lack of any birds of prey; I did not see a single one.

Some of the locals suggested to me that the scarcity of birds was due to the sheep farming in the area and fears during the lambing season.

On my return towards the end of August the weather turned wet which meant that my attentions were focused on the operation of weirs more than getting back to mowing and strimming. I did however assist the maintenance team applying a temporary patch to one of the lock gates at St. Catherine’s.

Rob strimming the towpath just upstream from Riff Raff Cottage

Rob strimming the towpath just upstream from Riff Raff Cottage

The damage had been caused by a boat not roping up correctly in the lock. When the upstream paddles are raised the force of the water draws the boat forward towards the gates; if ropes are not held fore and aft the boat will surge forward, put its nose under the beam of the gate and lift it. In this case the boat rammed the lock gate and damaged the planking, and it was lucky that damage was not more extensive.

See you by the river.

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