Looking in the bright side….

The flip side of getting up umpteen times in the night to look after the water levels and weirs is that sometimes you get views like this to yourself.

You might even be lucky and get a sniff from a beautiful Irish Wolfhound who is passing while your own dog is pretending she can’t see you because it’s definitely too cold outside for Staffies.

Silly woolly Christmas hat weather

Yesterday I started my day at first light inspecting my trees for storm damage following our brush with Storm Bella. it was mild and still by then but she still saved 3mm of rain for me while I was out. It was rain hat weather.

Today is definitely woolly hat weather. It might be one of my last outings of the year for my Christmas pudding hat, more’s the pity. Having said that, the fashion police aren’t out on weirs in the middle of Surrey at 2 in the morning, so maybe I shouldn’t worry.

The chilly start today had it’s advantages, apart from the cheerful hat. The views this morning were beautiful.

Living the Lengthsman Life at Christmas

There are lots of things I do in this job that I wouldn’t have done in my previous life. Today a couple of opportunities of festive examples to share arose.

We all like a bit of recycling and repurposing here. Today a new pair of steel toe capped wellies to replace my split, leaky old ones became an opportunity for a couple of new planters. Obviously, in my mind the timing necessitated a bit of festive ‘zhuzhing’.

Also, it might not be remotely work related but definitely a first, I made my celery and walnut stuffing at about 5a.m. I’ve been making it every year since before I was in double figures but being up all night with weir keeping duties meant today was the first time I’ve done it in the dark. When you have had a good few nights of broken sleep and just been out in the cold to close in the weirs at 04.00, your brain convinces you you might as well do something useful as you’re not going to be getting any more sleep anyway. Today I figured I may as well get started on Christmas dinner. By the looks of it, tonight isn’t going to be much more settled, so with luck I’ll have my orangey duchesse potatoes in the freezer before dawn!

Proof that I was cooking in the dark and am accidentally a little more ready for Christmas

Beating the Bah Humbug

Those of you who know Walsham from your visits or blog consumption will know I have a habit of decorating the cottage and footbridge at this time of year. Even if I’m not always feeling Christmassy myself with the sleep deprivation and mud coverage that goes with working here, I like to make an effort for everyone else. This year I am particularly aware cheer is in short supply. I got out the trusty solar bunting lights and donated a few old baubles to the bridge. I expect to loose the odd one either through my inability to tie knots with cold, wet hands or occasional accidental loss.

This year one side didn’t even last the day. The rest we deposited on my doorstep a couple of days later, stabbed and damaged. I think the anti-Christmas cheer mafia may be active in the area!

I am pleased to see the robust replacements I made survived the night and I made spares.I’m hoping it was a moment or 2 of mean spiritedness by someone but I suspect just boredom. Either way I am determined to keep the festive vibes going for everyone else, and for me.

I was going for colourful yet tasteful, not convinced I nailed both but hey ho

Surprises in the pennywort

Pennywort pulling is usually just lots of weed (obviously), mud and canal water. Yesterday my volunteer Ken and I made a couple of discoveries that we weren’t expected. One a bit depressing and one distinctly more cheerful.

This face mask is one of many that have been turning over the last few months. They find up in the strangest places but this is the first one I’ve come across that’s actually made it into the Navigation.

This beautiful little Bullhead was also hiding amongst the leaves. He kindly posed for this shot before we popped him back. Given that they like gravel beds and the Navigation is decidedly silty, they might well have been washed from the backwaters by the recent flooding. No wonder he is looking a little confused. I hope he gets on with his new neighbours.

Painting a wagtail perch

I’ve been doing all sorts of jobs this week, as usual, but the Groundhog Day job I have been doing has been sanding and painting the bridge at Walsham. It turns out the human visitors aren’t the only ones to leave their mark. I expect footprints on the lower rails from those leaning over or wiping the soil from their boots. Wet paint signs don’t concern everyone.

I came out this morning to do the third coat and it seems I wasn’t the first visitor. A grey wagtail had left its muddy footprints in the paint. I don’t mind that, they were just looking for a vantage point to hunt to feed their family. I knew they perched on the handrails to launch their attack in the local damselfly population, I find the uneaten wings on the ground all the time. It didn’t occur to me they would leave their mark. It made me smile.

Sunday morning commute

This is just an excuse really to post a sunny watery picture. Yesterday morning I’d planned to boat up to Newark to remove a sign that was having wobbly leg issues. On the way was a fallen tree needing attention but luckily I had packed a saw. It was not all the way across so it just needed the top taking off to make a clear path for boat traffic. The landowner will be clearing up the rest. It was an unexpected encounter as it had been still and dry the evening before when it apparently fell. When trees are in full leaf and it’s been dry we still get the odd one go over. It’s usually on the weekends when it’s the busiest on the water so this one was right on time.

Thankfully it didn’t take too long and I could get back to a lovely punt ride on a beautiful morning to get on with what I had actually planned.

Happy accidents

This fantastic Forest Bug evolved to feed on the sap of deciduous trees. Over the millennia it has developed the perfect camouflage to be almost invisible to its potential predators looking for a mini-meal. I found this one taking a breather on my weir winding gear. It turns out they are pretty tricky to spot on historic metallic structures too. This one got to save it’s flying energy by taking a stroll across the bridge without being spotted. Well, it was spotted by a lengthsman with a camera phone but I’m pretty sure it made it safely to the trees on the other side of the Navigation.

Bug highway

Egg logs and hitch hikers

As you know there are some fun jobs here and some necessary jobs. They aren’t always so much fun but are still vital in keeping the place at is best for our visitors and resident wildlife. Today I started my day with one of each.

While I’ve had periods of the day I can’t safely socially distance on the towpath I’ve been indulging in (slightly) artistic pursuits, all in the name of helping wildlife. I’ve made some dragonflies to decorate logs to sink into the Navigation. To be fair the dragonflies won’t appreciate the decoration but they will appreciate the rotting wood to lay their eggs in. Hopefully the human visitors will appreciate the decoration.

After sinking the logs it was off with a litter picker for a tidy up. As I say, not the most fun job but it is definitely a vital one. The good weather and high visitor numbers make it more necessary than normal. To be fair it wasn’t actually too bad. In the 3/4 of a mile or so I walked I only collected about 3/4 of a black bag full. It turns out for the last bit of my journey I had a lovely guest. Little things like that make my day whatever I’ve been doing.