Things you never thought you’d be able to say…

I spent Saturday evening on a boat with a steel band, covered in Christmas lights cruising through central Guildford in the dark.

I think I am one of only a very few people who are able to say that. Maybe I should explain. Last weekend saw an illuminated boat pageant rounding off the Wey River Festival at Dapdune Wharf and the Croydon Steel Orchestra were the stars of the show. If you ever have a chance to catch one of their performances I highly recommend it, they are fabulous. They had been performing to the earlier crowds on one of our workboats that had been expertly converted to a floating bandstand by our talented Maintenance Team just for the occasion. As the evening wore on, we headed to Millmead Lock in the heart of Guildford in order to turn round and set the boats in order for the illuminated procession back to  Dapdune Wharf. The unsuspecting final shoppers and early drinkers were treated to a floating concert while we waited for it to get dark so we could twinkle our way back through the town. 


Another unusual statement…

You haven’t lived ’til you’ve heard Bonnie Tyler and Michael Jackson played on the steel drums.

When the light level was low enough for our procession to gain maximum impact, Steve and the other skippers slowly chugged back under bridges full of people and a towpath full of spectators and followers. The bridges provided even better acoustics than the trees and buildings and we even had some happy bats following us along.

It was a fantastic end to a festival of boats, stalls, activities, food and thankfully sunshine for another year. Another highlight I’m told was the human fruit machine (I’m afraid I missed it as the Rugby was calling). My husband spent the day dressed as a monk. He and 2 other ‘willing volunteers’ provided much amusement and raised a good deal of money for charity with their antics.

Hopefully next year will be bigger and better.

Last night I was adjusting the weirs in my pyjamas and wellies… but that is another story.


Catching hornets

 It might not exactly have been the plan on what should have been my ‘Meet a Moth’ morning, but it wasn’t exactly unexpected either.

The last couple of moth traps I’ve set have seen more hornets than moths finding their way in. For that reason I’d decided that having members of the public join me to open the box and see what I’d caught before releasing them might not be the best idea. And it’s just as well. This morning this spectacular specimen was just one of over 30 hornets that had spent the night in my trap getting very grumpy. Whilst the particular types of light bulb used in moth traps are great for attracting many species of moth,  wasps, hornets and all sorts of little biting insects also find them irresistible.  


I’d checked the box a couple of hours after dark to see if it was worth leaving the light on and there was hardly a moth is sight, but plenty of hornets. I decided at that point that in fairness to the moths, I should turn it off so they weren’t all drawn to the trap and the hoard of hungry hornets. Otherwise they would not so much be visiting moths to be studied and recorded as an all-you-can-eat buffet, and that just seems impolite. Last week lots of moths made it ’til morning but there was also quite a large pile of wings, the leftovers of what had clearly been a midnight snack.

If you love bugs as I do you, you have to appreciate and love all of them however sting-y or bite-y they might be. Don’t get me wrong I’m a big fan of hornets (even if I’ve been stung a couple of times recently) but I had hoped to provide a little more data to the national moth survey this weekend. Never mind. 

It’s beginning to feel a lot like Autumn ….

There was definitely a bit of a nip in the air this morning that makes you remember those back to school morning walks. This morning though instead of a backpack full of books and marmite and cheese sandwiches, it was a bin bag, litter picker and secateurs.

As you can probably imagine, litter picking is not always the most glamorous element of the Lengthsman life. (Although to be honest, glamour is lacking in pretty much all aspects of the job, thankfully!) I shan’t  spoil your lunch by detailing the nature of the finds, but needless to say a large portion is always dog-related but that is a people issue not a dog issue.

Litter picking is however always a great oportunity to chat to people and dogs that you just can’t get when you are attached to a strimmer or on the other end of a chainsaw. Today I got to meet a lovely bouncy boxer named Gertie, a newly rescued beautiful Staffy cross ( I might be a bit biased, I have one of those of my own at home ), a spaniel, 2 collies, 2 Labradors and their respective 2 legged families. Chatting to other people who love the river is always a joy and the dogs were clearly loving it too.


I certainly wouldn’t have spotted this Speckled Wood butterfly having breakfast if I was strimming.

 I might not have taken a minute to notice the beautiful view. I choose not to see the heavens above Newark Priory about to open but a pretty and dramatic sky that isn’t raining on me….. yet! In litter picking, as in life, you have to look for the positives….