Fringe Box



Riff Raff Diary for February 2012

Published on: 2 Mar, 2012
Updated on: 2 Mar, 2012

Riff Raff Cottage and Weir

by Robert Craig

Riverbank tales from our local St Catherine’s Lengthsman/Weir-keeper

February proved to be another very dry month during which I made only three adjustments to my weirs. With the forecasted water shortage, unfortunately the decision has been taken to cancel the Guildford Boat Gathering at the beginning of July this year.

It has also been necessary in previous years of limited rainfall to call off the event due to the additional lockage (volume of water required to operate the locks) brought about by a large number of boats over a short period of time.

On my length work to cut hedges, trees and general vegetation prior to nesting continues, with the birds already gathering nesting material and taking an interest in nesting sites, brought on early by the milder weather. A Hawthorn and a Yew, part of the hedge at Weirhouse Meadow opposite the rowing club in Guildford, had some of the lower limbs removed as they were beginning to encroach on the towpath. For relatively small trees it is surprising how much material there was to clear especially the Hawthorn, which was host to a large amount of ivy

An Egyptian Goose

During the month I had a large alder tree to winch out of the river it having come down during high winds. The tree was by the moorings at Guns mouth (Stonebridge) and we winched the tree onto the island opposite the moored boats. Guns Mouth was originally the entrance to the northern end of the Wey and Arun canal. This canal linked the Wey Navigation at Shalford with the Arun canal at Newbridge near Wisborough Green thus providing an inland water route from the Thames at Weybridge to the English Channel at Littlehampton.

An attempt to link the Wey and the Arun had been made in 1641 but the parliamentary bill failed to pass through the House of Lords. An act of Parliament was passed eventually in 1813. Opening for traffic on the 29th of September 1816 the canal was in use until officially closing on the 22nd of July 1871, an Act of Abandonment having been obtained after much difficulty in 1868. The Wey and Arun Canal Trust have leased land at Guns Mouth from the National Trust as part of their plans to reunite the northern end of the Wey and Arun canal with the River Wey and Godalming Navigation.

In the St Catherine’s lock area work has begun to lay on power to the Environment Agency weirs alongside the lock. This is the first stage of the work being carried out by the E.A. to motorise the weir gates by the Lock, which should be completed this summer. For me this means that after years of winding the weirs manually in order to regulate the water levels I shall be pressing a button instead – something I shall particularly appreciate in the middle of a cold wet winter’s night!

On the bird front I have not had any sightings of the Barn Owl this last month but I did come across a pair of Egyptian Geese perched in one of the veteran oaks towards St Catherine’s Lock, much to the annoyance of the resident Jackdaws. This African species was introduced to England in the 18th century. The sexes are similar, being pale brown with large white wing panels, an orange buff tinge to the body and a dark surround to the eye with dull pinkish red legs and bill. They also have quite a harsh raucous call if disturbed.

See you by the river.

Robert Craig

Share This Post