Saturday 25 May 2024

New Haw Lock to Bower's Lock. Wey and Godalming Navigations

On the Friday, with Legend safely tied up at New Haw lock, we braved the clockwise M25 and battled our way round to Ware. Frankie & Harry were over for a few days camping with Harry's family so we went to join them for the day. We joined them in the pub and for a walk afterwards. When we got back we had a quick tour of Norm & Jude’s new (to them) Chausson motorhome. We were very impressed with the layout; it has a clever double bunk hide-a-way system where two side by side singles retract up into the roof, leaving a pair of convertible sofas underneath. At the push of a button you can have the upper bed in a half mast position giving you 4 bunks, or all the way down giving you a nice double, all without the need to move cushions or get bedding out. That, combined with swivel seats in the cab, make a really spacious van on quite a short wheelbase. We’ve filed that idea away for our van conversion. We had a lovely afternoon sitting in the sunshine in the company of some of our oldest friends and left at about half six, by which time the M25 was greatly improved.

That week our parkrun was at Brooklands and very enjoyable. The 2 lap course included a straight run up the old runway, a wiggly bit round the go-cart track, and even a bit of woodland, all with a backdrop of the old racetrack banking.

Dave trying to keep up with some much younger people.

Crazy running round the wiggles on the old go-cart track!

Ann-Marie was resting her leg, so she volunteered and was scanning bar-codes at the finish, which meant she had the privilege of seeing what a snotty mess Dave was when he crossed the  line.

In the afternoon we moved Legend to The Anchor at Pyrford lock ready for a family gathering the next day, and booked a table for Sunday lunch in the pub.

Passing the junction with the Basingstoke Canal. The last time we went that way we didn't come back for six months. Click HERE and HERE to see why.

Beautiful Rhody Dodies in full bloom everywhere.

Ann-Marie raising 17 tonnes of narrowboat in Pyrford lock.

On Sunday morning we walked back to New Haw lock and picked the car up, then in the afternoon Norm arrived with F&H, shortly followed by Mum & Dad, Karen & Andrew and River. We spread out from the well-deck onto the towpath drinking tea and chatting, then wandered over to the pub.

It was a glorious sunny Sunday by the river and the pub was predictably rammed, so although it was disappointing, it wasn’t altogether surprising to find out that at 5 o’clock they’d run out of all the roasts, which most of us had been looking forward to. However, we made the best of it; the company was the most important thing and we had a very nice time. Afterwards we all squeezed into the boat for a rather hastily produced apple and custard pudding.

Later on there were lots of goodbye hugs, and we drove F&H to Gatwick, where they’d booked a hotel just outside the airport ready for and early flight home the next morning. A really good day and great to see everyone.

After a long lie-in, Dave took the car on to Bower’s lock, on the outskirts of Guilford, and then managed to run the 10k back along the river towpath. He’s been trying to increase his midweek runs to 10k for a while, so that was quite and achievement. After lunch, we left Pyrford and boated up the river to join the car at Bower’s lock, pushing the flow and working our way up through four more of the big heavy river locks, and both the open flood locks, arriving at about 6pm.

Going through the open flood gate at Walsham

Pushing off into Newark lock.

Newark Priory (spot the cow!)

Wiggling round the river sections

More bendy bits.

Tied on securely at the back end

Pennywort in the river. Hopefully we'll be off before it becomes a problem.

Beautiful cygnets.

More floodgates at Worsfold.

Triggs lock with extra paddles so that it can be used as a weir in times of flood.

Approaching Bower's lock. We need to go under that bridge on the right!

Safely through.

Willows infested with caterpillar webs 

Leaving Bower's lock, the last one for the day.

The Wey Navigation was first opened from the Thames to Guilford in 1653, more than 100 years before the rest of the canal system in England and Wales, and still had commercial traffic up to 1983 - an astonishing 330 years later. The extension to Godalming opened in 1763, and the Wey & Arun canal further extended navigation to the coast in 1816 in an effort to provide a safe passage from London to Portsmouth during the Napoleonic war. Ironically, the opening of the Wey & Arun coincided with the end of the war with France and the return to coastal traffic. It was never profitable and within 50 years was unnavigable and closed. Like most other abandoned waterways, there is an active restoration society - the Wey & Arun Canal Trust - who have made some very good progress, but still have a very long way to go.

The National Trust, who own the Wey and Godalming Navigations, have quite strict rules about how they are used in order to lessen the damage caused by boats. They ask that both gates on every lock are opened for both narrow and widebeam boats to avoid wear on the leading edges. It is also mandatory that all boats are secured fore and aft, especially when penning up, as there are no ground paddles and the top gate paddles are big and fierce. There is a yellow painted bollard right at the back on both sides of the lock for tying your stern line to. This is very important as the strong flow rushes to the back of the lock and pushes the boat forward which - if wasn't secured properly - would get slammed into the top gates.

After an afternoon spent walking round locks, opening the heavy gates, tying ropes everywhere and winding all the paddles, Ann-Marie was whacked and very grateful to be tucked onto the end of the lock landing at Bower’s lock.

Dave, on the other hand, was as fresh as a daisy after loafing about on the back of the boat, watching the world go by and chatting to the gongoozlers.  

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