Funny jobs for frosty days

You might not think that cold mornings in November are the best for painting outdoors but that’s not always the case. Our main season for painting lock gates and bridges is, more sensibly, spring and early summer but with winter closing in I like to get an additional protective coat of bitumen on the poor lock beams. They take the brunt of the weather and use and have already survived up to 15 winters with hopefully a good few more to come. 

With rain on the cards on and off for the next few days, cold and frosty might not be ideal, but it’s the best I can hope for. The fact that the Maintnance Team are replacing the lock gates upstream at Triggs was also working in my favour. While they carry out the physical and technical challenge of getting the new gates snugly in place we have to shut a section of the river, which means very little traffic and less boaters at risk of painty accidents. I knew that they were due to finish ahead of schedule so time was running out. That, and the fact that I had the luxury of a keen volunteer happy to lend a hand, meant it was now or never. You could almost hear the timber saying thank you while it bubbled and drunk in the paint.

Volunteer Robin hard at work

I could hear my horticulture lecturer disapproving slightly ( one of the many voices that pop into my head from time to time ) for cutting cold, soggy grass when another frost was due but I’m afraid needs must. Besides, the grass is so happy and vigourous at Newark Lock  I can’t imagine anything short of a flame-thrower causing it enough stress to be a problem. I’m also resigned to the fact that the moles and the tufty old grass mean I’m never going to make it into a bowling green and as it’s a rural location too tidy would look out of place.

Tomorrow it’s due to be mild and damp….. perfect strimming weather!


Family tree

Today seemed like a good day to remember one of our river family, albeit almost 100 years since he died. Alfred Wye grew up in Papercourt Lock Cottage, the son, grandson and nephew of a lock keeper. While I don’t underestimate the culture shock to all teenagers like Alfred ( and grown men for that matter ) arriving in the trenches of France, I can’t help but look at the idyllic place he grew up and try to imagine if somewhere could have been more alien if he’d landed on another planet. Papercourt Lock is quite remote even now, mains electricity only arrived in 2000, and it is likely he’d never strayed very far. Instead of returning to the river to possibly carry on the family tradition, he died and his last resting place is a military cemetery in northern France. He was 19 years old.

We planted a red oak tree in his memory today, opposite his old family home with the help of members of the Wye family of the 2 and 4 legged variety. We like to think that everyone who works, or worked, on the river are members of a family too, so that makes Alfred one of us. While it is lovely that he is remembered on the village war memorial in Send, it is important that he is remembered by us too and his tree will hopefully bring happiness to generations of people and in time a home to generations of wonderful creatures.