Tuesday 28 May 2024

Bower’s lock to Godalming Wharf. Wey and Godalming Navigation.

Continuing the family visit theme, Rob and Sara came to see us at Bower’s lock. We hadn’t seen them since we went up to Scotland several years ago, so it was really good to catch up.

As soon as the rain stopped the following morning we set off for Guildford. We passed some delightful Egyptian goslings on the way and a ‘richness’ of swallows at Stoke lock.

There were hundreds of them circling the lock keeper’s cottage and we reckon they must have been newly returned from Africa that day and were re-acquainting themselves with their summer home. It was amazing to watch them. When we got to  the National Trust visitor centre at Dapdune Wharf there was a perfect Legend sized gap on the high wall so we tied up.

Dapdune Wharf (NT). Canoe hire, tea rooms, museum, boat trips, book shop and a lovely mooring. 

It is supposed to be a 24 hour mooring, but they said that as it was quiet, it would be OK to stay for two days so we could go to our dentist appointments the following morning. We managed to walk back to Bower’s for the car before the rain came again, then had a walk round Guildford with brollies in the afternoon. The fabulous castle gardens were mid-way between spring and summer displays, so not as glorious as they usually would have been, but obviously very well looked after.  

Guildford Castle and (soon to be) stunning gardens.

We are registered with a dental practice in Southam in Warwickshire and continuously cruising the whole country means that we are rarely nearby for our check-ups. However, being in the midlands between the M40 and the M1 means that wherever Legend is on the network, the surgery is never more than a couple of hours away. We get mid-morning appointments together and afterwards we can usually find someone to drop in on on the way home. This time we picked on Martin and Yvonne who were moored in Jericho in Oxford and had a lovely afternoon on board Nb Evolution.

We made plans to try and meet up on  the Thames; they will be going down from Oxford on their way to London, and we’ll be going up from Weybridge. Hopefully tide and time will be kind to us. We stayed longer than we should have and plunged into the 5pm traffic on the way back, so getting home was a bit of a slog, but it was worth it to spend time with such lovely people.

Nb Iris Lily, who we shared the locks with from Weybridge, was moored in front of us when we got back to Dapdune and in the morning we had a very pleasant chat with them over our morning coffees. While we were talking, a chap from one of the permanent boats came by with his dog.

“Did you hear that come down?” he asked.

“What come down?” We all said in unison.

“That tree.” he said pointing to the boat shed at the end of the little arm where the beautifully restored Wey barge is displayed on the hard.  

We all looked, and sure enough there was half a big ash tree lying across the arm with its branches resting on the barge. Apparently it had fallen at about nine o’clock that morning. Despite being awake with the doors open we’d not heard a thing and neither had Elaine.

By the time we’d got Legend in stealth mode ready for going under Broadford bridge (6’4” air draught @ normal river levels) and crammed most of our roof-tat inside, a couple of tree surgeons had arrived, armed with chain saws and a big shredder and were busy taking the ash tree to bits.

Luckily the fallen tree didn't damage the historic Wey barge

Before - Box full of tat, roof full of plants.


Legend all ready for a 6'4" bridge.

With the bikes and plants in the cabin and all the camping gear on the bed there's not much room left inside.

The Wey Navigation originally terminated at Guildford. Nowadays it seamlessly becomes the Godalming Navigation and continues to Godalming Wharf.  We set off from Dapdune onto our final stretch of New Water, heading for the limit of navigation, and the most southerly point on the navigable Inland Waterways.

Boating through Guildford was glorious; lots of people around Town lock, loads of little kids to recruit for gate pushing, and paddle boards and canoes all over the place. 

Broadford bridge was a bit of a squeeze, but we got through without issue.

Round  the next bend was Gun’s Mouth junction, where the short lived Wey and Arun Navigation leaves the river on it’s way to Littlehampton.

Guns Mouth. you used to be able to go to the sea-side from here. Maybe one day.....

Dad had phoned first thing that morning to see if he and Mum could join us, so we were on the look-out for suitably accessible stopping places on the way. We picked the Manor Inn at Farncombe, hoping that, as it was a riverside pub on the towpath side. it would have somewhere to moor and a car park. It did, there was a smashing 70’ length of scaffolding-and-post mooring right outside the pub garden and enough depth to get into the bank. Almost perfect. Almost, apart from the Herras fencing between towpath and the pub because the pub was shut! As we got ready to pull away, Andrew appeared, walking along the towpath. He works nearby and was on his lunch break, so had come to see if he could find us. We quickly scooped him aboard and carried on to the next accessible spot at Catteshall lock, which was where he’d parked. We thought we’d be able to hang about there on the top lock landing till Mum and Dad arrived, but as we slid under the road bridge before the bottom gates we noticed a lay-by on the left hand side that Dave reckoned we’d fit into. The lock landing was on the right before the bridge, so even if the bottom gates were shut, we’d not be in anyone’s way if we could squeeze in there. Dave crept forward and very neatly tucked Legend into the gap with about 3” to spare at either end.

A perfect fit.

Legend hidden in plain sight.

Mum and Dad duly arrived and came on board, Ann-Marie made lunch and we all found somewhere to sit surrounded by all our plants, bikes and camping gear. After lunch Andrew went back to work and we carried on, up the lock and on along the ever more winding and narrowing river Wey to Godalming Wharf.

When we got there we were greeted by a bunch of Japanese students doing crazy stuff with paddleboards, so we abandoned plans to turn round and tied up on the services mooring.

When it had all calmed down we pulled forwards, leaving the services free, then Andrew came back after work and took Dad back to get his car. It all worked out like clockwork. After everyone went home we had a go at turning and backing as far up the river as we could get towards Town Bridge. That didn't go like clockwork at all. Reversing round a bend into the stream proved to be a complete waste of time and diesel, so we gave up and went back to the wharf.

Because of the bend, the most southerly point is actually the wharf building, so we’d already achieved our objective anyway, plus we’d got turned round without having to negotiate our way through a melé of unpowered (and unpredictable) inflatable watercraft.

So that's all four of the Inland Waterway compass points finally reached. Tewitfield services at the northern end of the Lancaster canal in Lancashire. Llangollen basin at the western end of the Llangollen Canal in Denbighshire, Wales. Brandon lock at the eastern end of the Little Ouse river in Suffolk. And now Godalming Wharf at the southern end of the river Wey in Surrey.

We've also gone to no end of navigation limits in-between - Bedford, Bishop's Stortford, CambridgeLeek, Ripon, Runcorn, Slough - to name but a few, and there are very few bits of the network in-between that we haven't been on.

What we'd love to know, (but never will) is Legend's story before we owned it. Has it been to any - or even all - of these places before?

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.  

New Haw Lock to Boveney. River Wey. River Thames.

After pulling the pins at New Haw we dropped down the last four locks on the Wey... Cox's Mill Lock Town Lock The final stretch of the W...