August has felt like another hectic but productive month. With the grass finally slowing down after some prolonged dry weather I’ve had some time to get on with tasks other than mowing. One of these jobs was a day spent removing low branches from the towpath between Stoke Lock and Bowers Lock. Luckily I had some help from my regular volunteers, along with the assistance of one of my volunteer’s teenage grand children who happened to be over on holiday from France. The fact that both of them are over 6ft tall made the job of reaching high branches even easier, so thank you very much for giving up your holiday time to come out and help, I do hope you enjoyed yourselves.
Another task for this month was painting the Stoke punt, a 5m workboat which is my essential mode of transport for travelling my length and providing a stable work platform. Back in the spring this boat had sprung a leak so we had to pull it out of the water on a trailer, and since then I have been using a smaller punt that I borrowed from the maintenance team. After having my punt repaired by a mobile welder it seemed only right that it got a new paint job before going back in the water. So once again thank you to my volunteers for helping me with the mucky job of scraping and painting a metal work boat; she now looks a lot smarter and ready for action.
Speaking of action, August seems to have come with more than its fair share of call outs both on the Stoke length and the rest of the navigation. Firstly I’ve had two fallen trees to clear up in a hurry, one blocking the towpath at Byfleet and one completely blocking the navigation downstream of Stoke Lock. As well as this I have had to deal with two lifted lock gates, one at New Haw Lock and one at Unstead Lock. This happens when a boat going up through the lock gets stuck underneath the top gates, which then means the buoyancy of the boat lifts the gate out of its socket. This makes the lock inoperable so it is important that we reset the gates quickly so that boat traffic can continue, and in both of these cases we had them jacked back into position within 1hr of them being reported.
Other jobs this month have included hedge trimming on the towpath, clearing the river banks of vegetation in Guildford ready for mooring at the Wey River Festival on 24 September and re-surfacing the access track to Stoke Lock. This doesn’t include the time spent doing paperwork, fixing tools, meeting with contractors, oiling weirs, and assessing volunteer competencies on the use of boats. All in all a very busy month!
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