Ok, so some of you may say I was asking for it when I said how dry January had been, but less than an hour after I finished writing last months it started raining! The heavy rain, accompanied by the fact that the river flow rates were down to start with, meant that the river levels became very volatile, rising quickly and dropping even faster. This made for a very intense period of weir operations which saw more adjustments to the weirs in one day than the whole month of January. Thankfully this pattern hasn’t continued or I really would have been cursing myself for tempting fate.
As the weather improved and the river stabilised I was able to get on and finish some winter jobs, which is really important as spring is definitely in the air and nesting season is round the corner which will see the end of tasks such as hedge cutting for the next few months. With the help of my volunteers we’ve finished the offside cutback of low branches from the non-towpath side of the river between Stoke and Bowers Lock, and we’ve hedge trimmed the towpath through Guildford town centre so that it doesn’t encroach on this busy walking and cycling route. We’ve also been raking leaves at Bowers Lock and cutting back the epicormic growth from around the bottom of the lime trees in preparation for mowing the grass (I can’t believe it’s that time again already!).
I’ve also spent a lot of time this month servicing and repairing the team’s machinery so that it’s all ready to go when everything starts growing. This is a job that we started to do in house a number of years ago to keep costs down but also to ensure that all the equipment was safe and working effectively. It means that I have got to know how everything works inside and out, which I find very interesting and adds another element of variety to my work programme.
Knowing from experience that the next few months are going to be very busy with vegetation cutting, lock painting etc. I have made time this month to get on top of the events planning for this summer. This has involved meeting with the Steam Boat Association of Great Britain about our annual steam boat event Puffing-A-Wey in June, and also a number of meetings, walks and research sessions about my WWII guided walk in the middle of September. Planned to happen on Heritage Open Days weekend, it will mark 80 years since the outbreak of WWII. The walk will follow the river and surrounding area looking at remnants of that period that can still be seen today whilst talking about role of the Navigations during the war. A big thank you to local historian David Rose, and Malcolm Watson from our volunteer research group, for all their help - it’s looking like a really interesting event.
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