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Riverbank tales from our local St Catherine’s Lengthsman/Weirkeeper
by Robert Craig
On the 2nd of May I saw my first swift of the year and couldn’t help feeling sorry for them arriving in rain sodden Britain having travelled all the way from South Africa.
They must have had a real struggle finding sufficient food to build themselves up after their long flight.
With the wet weather continuing into the middle of May I was kept busy with weir operations, some 27 adjustments were made in May with the navigation being closed on two occasions due to high flow rates.
The high water at the beginning of the month brought down a large alder complete with root ball which fortunately wedged itself on the guard piles beneath the railway bridge just upstream of my weir, had it continued downstream it could very well have lodged in one of the gates as all were fully drawn at the time.
Having temporarily secured the tree with a rope and stake to the bank myself and colleagues were able to winch it out and clear it once the flow rate had reduced.
With the rain abating by the middle of the month at long last I was able to get on with some mowing and strimming the mild wet weather having provided the conditions for everything to grow apace.
Another task which had been curtailed by the wet weather was the painting of Millmead Lock which I managed to complete at the end of May having been thwarted back at the beginning of April.
Now is the time of year when the battle with the invasive Himalayan Balsam recommences and I shall be pulling up as much as I can along the navigation with the help of the Wey Navigation Conservation Volunteers hoping to make a significant impact on it before it seeds.
See you by the river,
St. Catherine’s Lengthsman.