I’ll admit it. I’m having withdrawals from Europe. We just ran out of time under the 90 day EU rule. With a month still to go before our trip ends, I’m feeling a little robbed that we’re unable to spend that time in France.
It’s not helping that we’re in a holding pattern, waiting for tomorrow’s appointment, keeping us to an area that’s a challenge for the motorhome. A lack of parking and tiny roads in poor condition take their toll on us both. Not to mention the lack of boulangeries. And croissant for breakfast. It seems that yes, dear reader, it is possible to be away for too long. Unless one is France of course, then all bets are off.
We turn to the National Trust, always a great source of things to see and do. Our first choice, Oakhurst Cottage, defeats us. There’s no parking nearby and access is up a tiny lane.
We have more luck at our second choice, Dapdune Wharf on the River Wey Navigations. It’s an interesting point in transportation history – the river Wey was one of the first to become fully navigable, opening the waterway to the Thames, and in turn, London, in 1653.
By the end of the 16th century, Guildford had a thriving wool cloth trade, but poor roads with which to transport it. In the face of this challenge, Sir Richard Weston petitioned Parliament for the necessary Act to be passed, enabling the Wey Navigation to be created. It took 200 men, 2 years to dig out 15 miles of new waterways and build locks, opening channels of barge trade. By hand. This was not a time of heavy earthmoving equipment. Human ingenuity and perseverance never ceases to amaze me. Sir Weston paid for the bulk of the project cost himself, some £15,000, but sadly did not survive to see the project completed.
His gamble paid off for Guilford. Now effectively linked to London via the new “Wey Navigation”, its fortunes rose. Barges could be pulled down river by horse or hand, dramatically increasing the volume of freight that could be shifted at one time. In addition to wool cloth, coal, chalk, bark chips (for tanneries) and rags (for paper production) were all transported in this method. As was gunpowder! Apparently a much safer method than road, with only one accident occuring in the history of this barge route.
Dapdune Wharf showcases barge building, repair and maintenance and life on the waterways.
We see a series of workshops, learn about the building process, including the steam work used to bend wood into the required shapes,
and the all important caulking process, making the barges watertight.
There’s a barge to tour, of course, complete with tiny kitchen up front. Not a great deal of headroom inside, as Himself demonstrates below.
Whilst man and horse driven barges have long disappeared from the transport network, this National Trust site stands as reminder of man’s ingenuity and achievements through sheer hard work.
These days the Navigation also serves as a wildlife reserve, supporting waterbirds, voles and otters. Otters!!
It’s still used by canal boats too – we see one set off as we leave.
Our visit completed, after a quick stop for afternoon tea we set
off to Woking, in preparation for our appointment tomorrow. The workshop is set in woodland, part of a once grand estate. And while a workshop doesn’t sound like the nicest of settings, this one’s a delight. Surrounded by forest, fields and bracken, it’s full of bunnies and squirrels darting about. I spend a happy couple of hours with the binoculars out, in bunny heaven, spying on them at supper time. I do love them so. 🐇🐾♥️