On and off the River Wey – and up the Wey Navigation

We begin at Newark where this little wooden bridge can be seen. It crosses the main feeder which takes water from the River Wey to the Ockham Mil stream. Another source of the mill stream can be seen in the meadows adjacent to Papercourt lock. The mill at Newark was once one of the largest in the area.

Ockham Mill

Ockham Mill is near Ripley in Surrey. Its a stupendous brick built structure, in a beautiful setting. Its waters are quite related to the River Wey, whose valley it runs through. A wooden fotbridge to the east of Papercourt Lock crosses the beginnings of the Ockham Mill stream. At this point it is almost still water and quite stilted up. At Newark, the Ockham Mill Stream is more lively, taking a supply from the Wey itself. The stream contnues its own separate course, running briefly alomg side the Wey Navigation’s towpath, before passing under the main road in a culvert.

The stream can be seen near Ripley Green and can be followed to Ockham Mill. It heads northwards through Dunsborough Park and enters the Wey near Ripley

View of the Mill Stream at Ockham

The Wey itself can be seen at several locations as it winds northwards. One of these is at Wisley bridge, not far from the renowed Royal Hotricultrual Society’s gardens. The waters are wide and deep, temptingly enough for boats, but alas this is not the Wey Navigation.

The Wey at Wisley

Wisley Bridge – built 1994

Whilst at Wisley, the attractive church is a must!

The Wey flows past Brooklands where the famous race track used to be. The track is still there but its not a race track anymore. Some say the Wey is navigable for a distance towards brooklands from the junction with the Navigation at Town Lock (source – article in Waterways World May 1990 P71-73. It is certainly navigable for a short distance, and there are boats moored at the bottom of the gardens that run aong here A sand bar about a third of a mile along the ‘Brooklands backwater’ a this stretch is known, put paid to any further exploration done by boat. Incidentaly the Wey suffers from a plethora of sandbars and there was indeed one in the middle of the junction where boats needed to turn sharp right for the Town lock on the visit in early 2007. It was removed later that summer however. Observations also showed that whilst the centre arch of the Old Iron bridge was clear and was used to navigate into the Brooklands backwater, a few months later a sandbank existed underneath thay very arch, which would have stopped any boat’s progress

The Brooklands Backwater

The junction of the Wey and Wey Navigation. The navigation turns sharp right from the river itself underneath the brick arch on the extreme right. The splendid arched bridge over the river itself is known as the Iron, or Old Wey, bridge, and it is through this that one can attain the Brooklands Backwater. Mind you, the headroom is very limited under the Iron bridge (probabbly at the most 5′ 4″ in the middle of the arch) and not easy with the currents.The easternmost arch should be used. White markers/rope in the channel on the left at the confluence indicate the sand bar that was causing some problems for boats during the first half of 2007

A plaque on the bridge tells us it was built in 1865

There are some unusual buildings in Weybridge adjacent to the River Wey

Thames lock is unusual in being a sort of staircase lock, but not quite like the staircase locks we know. Some would say it was more like a flash lock, though I wouldnt agree as then it would have to allow a flow of water through the opening. The extra gate (seen here) is a water gate which simply serves to regulate the amount of water available over the cil of the main lock chamber.

Thames lock lower chamber. It is shaped like a banana. The only other curved lock chamber I know of existed on the Arbury Canals in Warwickshire

Thames Lock keeper opening the gates with his trusty pole!

We now return to Weybridge Town Lock, which is the first of the manual locks. Not only that, it is the start of the lengthy canal section to Walsham gates. In a short distance is Coxes Mill, which has the fairly unusual distinction of being sited on a canal rather than a river. The Wey navigation’s last working boats operated to Coxes Mill until 1969 (with a short resume in the 1980’s.) It must be said that the remainder of the navigation southwards probably survived because the boatyard that was used to maintain the renowed Wey barges was situated at Guildford, whilst lock gates were built at Send.

Weybridge Town lock with Tagaruga descending in pouring rain – this was during the three days’ torrential rain at end of May 2007

The imposing Coxes Mill towers over the surrounding countryside

Attractive New Haw’s lock house (but the illusion is shattered when one finds its next to a busy road!) The bottom lock gates are operated by ropes 🙂

Near the junction with the Basingstoke Canal at Byfleet! This view actually shows the ugly side of Byfleet Junction as opposed to the pretty one of a boat sailing onto the canal itself on this website’s Basingstoke feature. The Basingstoke takes off to the right just before the bridgehole seen in the distance (this bridgehole carries the LSWR Waterloo main line to Woking, yes and to Basingstoke, Worting Junction, Southampton, Weymouth, Salisbury, Exeter, and the now excinct ‘withered arm’ to Plymouth, Ilfracombe, Padstow and whereever else the Old Southern Railway was able to take one

The entrance to the Basingstoke Canal at Byfleet June 2007. The canal had been closed due to vandalism prior to this, and after this picture was taken, it was closed again because one of the locks in the Woodham flight was found to be unsafe. The fallen tree branch doesnt inspire much hope for boaters wanting to venture up the Basingstoke

Next: Byfleet Junction to Papercourt