In my last news bulletin I was talking about how stable the river had been due to low rainfall and how productive I had been because of it. This dry and settled weather continued in to January, but it did bring with it some sub-zero temperatures. This of course caused problems, such as Stoke canal freezing over from the lock upstream as far as Woking Road. This meant that to all intents and purposes my work punt was trapped for much of January, so any work had to be carried out from the towpath. My volunteers did however persevere and break through the 2” thick ice around the lock itself so that we could at least boat downstream as far as Bowers. Typically the rain decided to start at the same time as the maintenance team began work on replacing the lock gates at Bowers. This not only meant for unpleasant working conditions for them, but the volatile river levels also meant sleepless nights for me. Accurate water level control during lock repairs such as at Bowers are especially important as water can very easily overtop the stop planks and bring work to a standstill. That’s why I have to check the water levels throughout the day and night, and on one memorable night/morning in January I carried out weir movements at 00:15, 00:35, 03:00, 06:15 and 06:30. Forgive me if I looked a little tired on that day!
As you can see, weir control is a 24hr 365 day a year responsibility, so to get some sort of
break, I have a Relief Weir Keeper who looks after things on my days off. This month I have
a new RWK Nick Georges, as in early January my previous relief Stuart moved into a house (which better suited their growing family). Nick has now moved his boat Rosie on to the mooring and is settling in nicely, so if you do see him give him a warm welcome. At least this month has given him plenty of chance to see how the weirs work and get a sense of what’s involved.
Other jobs this month have involved coppicing Hazel sticks from by the A25 bridge, which
we then used to carry out some bank repairs on Stoke canal cut. Another task was
removing low hanging branches so that they don’t interfere with boat traffic next summer
We also carried out a very in depth litter pick from Stoke Lock to Dapdune Wharf. This was
both from the water and the towpath and created 12 black sacks of rubbish which Guildford Borough Council very kindly collected. All in all the Stoke length is looking very tidy, now all we need is Spring to arrive with some sunny weather so that we can really enjoy the river once again.
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