The River Wey lengths
Each length is very different to its neighbour. New Haw length hums in places with the sound of the M25 passing high above, while the tranquillity of Catteshall length at the other end of the waterway belies its proximity to Guildford and Godalming.
In summer, parakeets screech overhead as you walk along the first section of the waterway to be created, near Sutton Place, while narrowboats putter through Guildford waving to all they pass.
The noise of the past
It wasn’t always like this – in its commercial heyday, there was a sense of urgency to the waterway, with crews anxious not to miss London tides, going hell for leather to unload cargoes of grain, timber, coal, even gunpowder, whatever the weather threw at them. The Wey Navigation was a working waterway until the late 1960s, and despite the bucolic nature of old photographs of barges being drawn by horses with men walking alongside, every penny counted and time spent opening and closing locks and weirs was crucial. You can still see the rollers installed on sharp bends that helped the barges get round corners more quickly and easily.
Traditionally, on this waterway, each lock-keeper maintained the water levels belonging to his length. Over time, the role of lock-keeper has evolved into that of lengthsmen, since locks are no longer staffed. Our lengthsmen manage water levels and vegetation along their length. Three of them are girls.
Catteshall Lock is the first lock on the Godalming Navigation. From here you can see the ancient Lammas lands - historic common land on the floodplain, where ownership was marked by dole stones. Two of these remain - can you find them?
St Catherine's length
St Catherine's length runs from the once industrial hamlet of Broadford, past the disused railway line that never was, curving round the sharp bends under St Catherine's Hill, giving you a glimpse of the golden sands that gave Guildford its name to Millmead Lock in the centre of town.
Making the River Wey navigable all started here at Stoke. Sir Richard Weston first cut an artificial channel, in 1618, from where the Rowbarge Inn now stands, to the new lock at Stoke, and then three miles beyond across his land. The original lock controlled the water used to flood the meadows.
The most rural length along the Navigations, Roe deer scurry about in the fields on either side of the river, kestrels and parakeets above and a good variety of bats at night.
The waterway follows the boundary of Sutton Place, where Sir Richard Weston first plotted the course of his 'flowing ryvver' in 1635.
From Pyrford Lock with the Royal Horticultural Society Gardens at Wisley forming the backdrop to the natural river, the Navigation is a man made cut all the way to Send. Although it's one of the shortest lengths, it's also one of the prettiest, and there is lots of interesting history associated with Newark.
New Haw length
This once urban length is now suburban, or even rural in parts, apart from the noise of the M25 crossing overhead at Byfleet. It has its share of unusual buildings with Coxes Mill, the Grist Mill at Parvis Wharf and traditional rowing clubhouses backing onto the waterway. Don't miss Coxes millpond and its wildlife.