Fringe Box



Riff Raff Diary – July 2016

Published on: 6 Jul, 2016
Updated on: 6 Jul, 2016

Riff Raff Cottage and Weir.

Riverbank tales from the local St Catherine’s lengthsman and weirkeeper

by Robert Craig

June was a tricky month with what seemed like hardly a day passing without a heavy downpour – more like April really.

The warm damp conditions meant of course that the vegetation has put on a lot of growth. Despite dodging showers I managed to get a lot of mowing and strimming done, again concentrating on those narrow sections of towpath where the damp vegetation flops in to the centre.

Rob strimming the towpath just upstream from Riff Raff Cottage

Rob strimming the towpath just upstream from Riff Raff Cottage in 2015.

It is, of course, an ongoing process at this time of year and there are areas I have yet to deal with.

The maintenance team have been carrying out bank repair works on my length recently, in particular the section of towpath opposite the Riff Raff weir upstream of St. Catherine’s Lock.

The path here is vulnerable, having a deep ditch to the rear of it, and has now been built up and widened. This will prevent the water from flowing over the low sections of path during high flow rates and scouring them out.

There’s also been time to continue the battle with the invasive Himalayan balsam before it manages to seed. I have had help with this task from the volunteers on the Surrey Care Trust boat Swingbridge 2, particularly in Shalford Nature Reserve near Broadford.

Towards the end of June, with the wet weather continuing, the weir keeping aspect of my job took precedent. Over the weekend of 25th/26th I made 30 adjustments to the weirs.

Riff Raff Weir replacement well underway

Riff Raff Weir shortly after it was reconstructed in 2012

However, at the time of writing the sun is out and the skies are clear so fingers crossed for some more seasonal weather ahead.

In the middle of June near St. Catherine’s I was surprised to hear a late cuckoo. It was the first one this year for me and I had given up on hearing one this year.

Cuckoo calling in the evening sunshine on Whitmoor Common.

Cuckoo calling in the evening sunshine. Photo Malcolm Fincham

At the lock the swifts, swallows and house martins continue to put on a display of aerobatics as they swoop low over the water collecting food.

There are also plenty of young birds around at the moment to see including mallards, little grebes, goldcrests, stonechats and starlings.

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