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Riff Raff Diary: July 2019

Published on: 19 Jul, 2019
Updated on: 18 Jul, 2019

Riff Raff Cottage and Weir

Riverbank tales from the local St Catherine’s lengthsman and weir keeper

By Robert Craig

I’ve spent a very productive time working in Shalford Nature Reserve, where I was joined by the West Surrey National Trust Volunteers.

Himalayan Balsam can take over a river bank and very effectively out-compete other species. Probably not a good thing.

Himalayan balsam can take over a river bank and very effectively out-compete other species.

Our task was to pull as much of the invasive himalayan balsam as possible prior to it going to seed and spreading further. We also had a good amount of fallen and overhanging willow to clear which we managed to do by the end of the day. Their help was much appreciated.

This time of year as always I am busy strimming and mowing along the length. I have mown St Catherine’s and Millmead locksides and moorings, and strimmed the section of towpath on Millmead island between the EA weir and Millmead Lock. I also had a small fallen Ash tree to clear from the navigation near to Broadford Bridge.

Talking of Broadford, our maintenance team have now completed surfacing the section of towpath downstream of the bridge. It will make a big difference to that area during the wet winter months.

A handsome cock linnet as referred to in the song “My old man (said follow the band…). They were kept caged in Victorian times as song-birds.

Down at St Catherines lock the swifts have finally arrived, albeit in fewer numbers due to bad weather conditions in Europe. They are putting on a wonderful show of aerobatics swooping down low at high speed over the water as they catch insects to eat.

Amongst the gorse and bramble there are still linnets to be seen; the males are looking handsome with their summer colours of red forehead and breast. Along the towpath there is an abundance of meadowsweet in flower, a plant once used for its aspirin-like qualities.

See you by the river.

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