We have just finished our inaugural cruise along the River Wey from Weybridge to Guildford and return.
Since 1964 the River Wey has been owned and run by the National Trust, one of Britain’s most respected and important independent charities. The NT relies on the generosity of its members, supporters and visitors. The Wey runs for 15 ½ miles from the River Thames at Weybridge on tranquil waterways through the heart of Surrey. Most of the river is tree lined with some open countryside and very few built up areas with houses dotted here and there.
This navigation is the oldest waterway dating back to 1653 and was built 100 years before the canal age. The early navigation had the usual battles with mill owners but gradually trade developed, predominantly by local and agricultural in character. As late as 1960 barges were still carrying timber to Guildford.
The navigation combines stretches of (normally) fast flowing river with slow flowing canal sections. This year due to the very dry weather this has not been the case and the water levels in some places are quite low. The river consists of 12 locks in total, 2 of these are flood gates which are only closed when the river is in flood. One of these at Walsham is a turf sided lock similar to the ones found on the Kennet and Avon canal. The rise/fall of the locks range from 5ft 3in to 8ft 6in and are wider than on the canal network able to take wide beam boats.
As you begin the River Wey navigation at Weybridge you first encounter the Stop Lock before proceeding into Thames Lock. This is necessary to ensure boats do not falter on the cill of Thames Lock – mainly when the level of the river is low or running slowly – like this week! The 2 locks are manned by the National Trust lock keepers and are very knowledgeable about the navigation and give you plenty of information to help you on your way.
Staff are also helpful regarding mooring and places of interest along the route. They also loaned us a special Wey Windlass, longer than the normal windlass used on CRT canals. This WW is heavier than the norm, but you are able to give lock spindles a bit more umph or welly (technical terms) with it. Thames lock is very tranquil and pretty in lovely settings, even though there is property around – and the M25 near Byfleet.
Our run up to Guildford took 8 hours, with our first night’s mooring at Pyrford. We made a brief stop at TLC (The Locker Maintenance) Boatyard at Parvis Bridge, Byfleet, for Alan to buy a “River Wey Bridge Plaque” to add to his collection – and we bought one, too.
Beyond Pyrford we encountered the “usual” bridges on bends, silted channels, reeds in the middle of the navigation, low water etc etc. But we also found the lock gates light weight and easy to work, beautiful scenery at each turn, NO plastic bottles or rubbish ANYWHERE and best, very few boats moving. We are assured it does get busier in the school holidays! In Guildford, we moored on Dapdune Wharf (pronounced Dapdun) after the small cottage there. The wharf is well situated for town visits, shops etc. and the NT facilities here are first class.
Our return the Weybridge was quicker, as we no longer had to push against the flow of the river. We took our time anyway and, so often, saw things differently on the return trip. We left Guildford after lunch and stopped near Triggs Lock in a beautifully quiet position, completing our journey the next day.
Crew and guests thoroughly enjoyed the trip and D&G look forward to returning in 2019.