Volunteers and Autumn work
We started to make a gradual return to more normal activities on the Canal over the summer with the resuming of volunteer activities. We started with smaller groups for specific tasks and then built up to groups of six and managed to get the work boats such as the Patrol Boat and Weedcutter back up and running as well. With huge effort from the Weedcutter skippers and crew, we were able to tackle the mountain of Floating Pennywort (Hydrocotyle) that had built up on the Canal. We normally tackle this from the early spring and get on top of it quickly before everything starts nesting and then it is normally just a job of keeping on top of it for the summer. However, with lock down our volunteer teams were unable to get out and thus the Pennywort took full advantage and was right across the Canal in places. The Weedcutter spent several weeks lifting out all the larger clumps (carefully avoiding nesting birds) working its way from Woking right down to the River Wey and then back up again. Finally we were then able to start to get small groups of volunteers working from the towpath as well to start to clear from the banks and remove smaller pieces from in amongst the reeds where the Weedcutter can’t go. This was done by hand with the assistance of a canoe around the houseboats in Woodham. There is still a lot of work to be done as every little bit will continue to grow, so we can’t become complacent and will be continuing with clearance until after the end of the growing season as long as we have volunteer hands and government permission to do so.
People have been very active in their gardens this summer which has led to a lot of work responding to enquiries regarding land and trees and fences which has added additional work load. The towpath has quietened down a bit but still remains busy.
The annual round of Japanese Knotweed injection along the Canal has been carried out, but don’t expect to see results overnight as this feisty non-native takes years to kill off even with direct chemical injection as its height of growth each year.
As we come into the autumn it’s a good time to cut back vegetation. Please consider cutting back any rhododendrons that you may own that overhang the Canal. These can grow rapidly and shade out the Canal for wildlife and also narrow the Canal for boat passage. As a non-native species most are actually very poor wildlife value for our native wildlife.
We are starting to cut back the more woody vegetation along the towpath edges and are preparing for our winter work programme. This winter this is going to be principle inspections of locks through the Woodham lock flight (1 – 6) and then follow up works by contractors as required. We are also getting gates measured now ready for a couple of lock gate replacements this winter. Most likely this is going to be lock 28 lowers and lock 27 uppers in the Deepcut flight based on our recent annual inspections.
Canal Manager, Basingstoke Canal Authority