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Saturday, July 20, 2013

Newark to Guildford-the River Wey

"In June as many as a dozen species may burst their buds on a single day.  No man can heed all of these anniversaries; no man can ignore all of them."  ~Aldo Leopold

  After a few days stay to soak in the delights of Newark and salve our weary selves from the recent ordeal of the Lee and Stort followed on by ten days waiting at Kensal Green for the rain to end and the endurance of a frigid cold, rainy spring season which seemed it would never let up, we got underway again on gorgeous sunny morning, heading to Guildford.

Himalayan Rhododendrons and billowing bamboo wave on the breath of spring.
The back side of this factory in the village of Send has a little courtyard for its employees...
...and all the air conditioning units sit outside on the ground! In the States they are mounted on brackets in the windows of each office.
A public path with a directional sign. This path goes from Send to Guildford.
The Wey is a quiet, peaceful, clean and contemplative trip through nature.
This riverside set of townhouse apartments had a unit for sale on the very far end. You could live here for a mere £650,000.00. We noticed on our trip back down the Wey that this unit had sold.
A partially sunken old wooden boat hull lies in dappled shade and river water.
Entering Worsfold flood gates. These lock gates are left open unless the river floods--then they are closed to stem the flow.
Along the meandering river we cruise, past lush pastures edged with a crochet of spring flowers.
Another public footpath right of way traveling up between two farm fields. This one lead to the village of Send.
   We moored near here on our way back down the navigation and walked this path into town. I managed to restrain myself from taking 300 pictures of every twist and turn but I will say it was an interesting walk. At the top of this hill one reaches a narrow pathway between homes which comes out on a side street. Across the street the foot path continues for about a quarter of a mile between the backs of house with tall fences and overgrown council land edged by the largest oak trees I've ever seen! They stood like sentinels, with huge old branches reaching across the pathway making dense green shade and providing an awning of leaves which kept the rain from our heads. 
   In England the weather literally can and does change continually--it is akin to a kaleidoscope of conditions. One can start out on a walk with a blue cloudless sky and full sun, only to have clouds roll in suddenly form nowhere and rain pelt, pour, or spit down. I've seen it rain while sunny and not a cloud in the sky! I've also seen snow flakes sprinkle the ground--from a blue, cold sky lit with sunshine. There is no accounting for the weather here in Britain--just dress in layers and be prepared to put them on and take them off and put them on and take them off, etc., etc., etc.
   At one point on our walk into Send the rain poured so hard it soaked the ground in less than two minutes. Les and I stood in an alleyway under a gnarled oak and passed the time smooching. As soon as the vertical water eased off we walked out to the street, turned left and sauntered down the lane to a ball park. We cut across its diagonal field of green grass and tiny white English daisies, to find ourselves on the far end of Send Road. It was a Saturday and we had come into town for a Daily Mail newspaper with the TV guide inside, but as it was threatening to pour again, we spotted a small diner and ducked inside to look at the menu. 
   If you are ever in the village of Send or moored on the Wey nearby, we highly recommend you stop in for breakfast at Astalet Cafe. The food was delicious and the portions were generous. The lattes were gorgeous--just the right mix of hot espresso and frothed milk. The prices were easy on the wallet too. We ate our breakfast in leisure while waiting for the rain to pass. We walked back to the boat through a world washed clean, rain drops dripping from the edges of leaves and glinting like miniature glass balls from blades of grass.
This is the footbridge before Trigg's Lock. The river Wey passes underneath, joining up with the Wey navigation. Ahead to the right is the tiny village of Send Grove with its old church.
The locals come to the waterhole for a lunchtime drink.
The view from behind is every bit as gorgeous as the view in front. I fell like I am traveling inside one of those chalk pictures painted by Burt the chimney sweep in J. L. Travers' book Mary Poppins!
I spy, I spy with my little eye--an unusual geometric form in the distance: a large round circle in the top  of a tree on the far left.
That is mistletoe--a parasitic plant which relies on birds who eat the white berries, and poo them out while sitting on a tree branch. The seed sprouts, put out roots to attach to the tree, and takes nourishment from its host.
Looking back across the open meadow, is the village church of Send Grove. A lovely public footpath across the fields of Sendcourt Farm will lead you to its door.
On the other side of the Wey Navigation is Sutton Place--and the railings mark the road into the estate.
   Sutton Place has a fascinating history. It was mentioned in the Domesday Book of 1068 as Sudtone, with assets of three hides (a hide was enough land to support one family although one has no real idea how much land that might be exactly), one mill worth 5 shillings, three ploughs, twenty acres of meadow, and woodland worth twenty five hogs. It rendered an income of £5.
   The current manor house was built in 1525 by Richard Weston, a brewer for Henry VIII who granted Weston the land after his help negotiating with the French, at the Field of the Cloth of Gold campaign. (One wonders how a brewer assisted in these political negotiations. Perhaps he provided the liquid sustenance to get the whole assembly good and drunk!) With both interior and exterior elements of Italianate art history, the mansion is prized by art lovers and the seclusion of the estate with its large grounds has lead to some interesting owners over the centuries. 
   The first Richard Weston died in 1541. In Sutton Place he built the first great house in England without any defensive fortifications.  It is said that the mansion houses the bloodstained ruff of Sir Thomas More (the Archbishop of Canterbury who was beheaded for opposing King Henry's divorce from Catharine of Aragon) and a crystal pomegranate--the device of Queen Catharine--a treasure which once belonged to her.
   Anne Boleyn was a frequent guest at Sutton Place--it is suggested that Henry first met Anne there--but this association brought tragedy to Sutton Place and the Weston family. Sir Richard's son Frances was much favored by Henry VIII and brought to court at the tender age of fifteen. He married at age nineteen and by twenty one his future was looking bright as he was made a Gentleman of the Privy Chamber. During his tenure waiting upon Henry and Anne he grew to know the second of Henry's queens quite well. Sadly Frances was considered by Henry to be expendable. The king used Frances' friendship with the queen as an instrument in her removal. Sir Frances Weston was accused of adultery and beheaded two days before Anne Boleyn. It is said their ghosts roam the halls of Sutton Place.
   Richard Junior inherited the estate and introduced innovative agricultural practices on the property which were to give birth to the canalized river Wey. The Weston family maintained title to the estate until 1919. In 1959 the world's richest private citizen at the time--J. Paul Getty--purchased Sutton Place and spent the final seventeen years of his life in glorious seclusion there.
   Upon his death in 1976 it was sold for £8 million, and purchased by privately wealthy American Stanley J. Seeger--unknown generally except for his endowment of a chair of Hellenic studies at Princeton University.  Although it is said Seeger spent one million pounds annually on its upkeep, he seldom ever lived at Sutton Place.
   After a decade Seeger sold the mansion and land to wealthy American Frederick R. Koch who set up the Sutton Place Foundation and used the premises to display his vast art collection. Having never spent a single night under its roof, Koch sold Sutton Place for £32 million in 1999. In January 2003 it was offered for sale for £25 million--the estate then encompassed 18 properties including an 18 bedroom farmhouse. 
   Since 2011 the property has been owned by Russian millionaire businessman Alisher Usmanov. Some of the properties along with some estate land have now been sold. 
   Apparently there are public right of way footpaths across the estate--so we may well look for those when next we visit the Wey. 
The Wey Navigation bends in a dogleg and travels through the estate of Sutton Place. Broad Oak Bridge allows the current Lord of the Manor to access a farm on the estate land.
A beautiful blue dragonfly on the wing! I am so chuffed to have caught it on my camera.
Les standing above Bower's Lock looking out at the VERY sharp 90 degree left turn into the lock. The river Wey flows right past just beyond the open lock gates.
Bowers Lock.
This is Bowers Mill house at the top of the lock.
     The tight bend just below the lock pushes the River Wey Navigation back on to the River Wey proper at this point. Opened in 1653, this lock is nestled amongst mature oaks with Bowers Mill house nearby. The original mill is long gone but was built originally by the Duke of Sutherland (one of Weston's relatives) as a laundry for nearby Sutton Place. Later the mill made paper, flour and linseed before closing for good in 1910 and being demolished in 1947.
Horses grazing in a field of yellow buttercups.
Wey Navigation depth gauge--for flood purposes.
It looks like this narrow boat is sitting in a field doesn't it? Actually it is behind us and we are on a bend looking across a field to the river on the other side of the bend.
We felt like we had somehow escaped 2013 and were floating down a timeless river with dappled shade, sun playing peekaboo through the leaves of trees, the quiet of the countryside coddling us along.
As we progressed toward Guildford we came into a suburb and...look at the size of this Gunnera! That was in early June--no telling how big it is now with the two weeks of total sun and hot weather we've had.
A wisteria draped bower with a waiting chiminea for evenings at the river's edge...
This picture is a great example of the typical long, narrow "back gardens" as Brits call their back yards.
Shall we put up the umbrella and mix up a pitcher of Pimms?
A couple of blokes paddle boarding down the river!
I've left the pictures of Guildford itself for Les' post. We came up through the town and its lock, and decided to moor here--Guildford water meadows. The breeze ruffled the dangling willow branches and the afternoon sun made us drowsy. This is a perfect place to moor up for a few days. A five minute walk into Guildford will allow us to sample its delights!
Once moored up, this was the view across the Shalford Water meadows.
   The water meadows were Richard Weston Junior's idea of moving the water. Ditches were dug across the meadows to the river Wey. Gates called Penstocks were installed to allow water from the river to flood the flat wide meadows consisting of 140 acres. This protected the town from flooding. Now days the meadows are kept clear of trees except for willows at the river's edge. This allows a meadow habitat to flourish and Guildford county council leases the land for the grazing of rare breed Gloucester cattle. In past centuries when the weather was colder in winter, the meadow was flooded and used as a public skating rink!


Ian and Irene Jameison said...

Hello Jaq,

So sorry to hear the news that Les has been unwell. This is definitely one of the downsides to cruising. Trying to get to a doctor or hospital quickly is a bit of a nightmare. I'm keeping fingers crossed that he makes a speedy recovery.
What a shame you have had to delay your plans but after all ones health is more important and must be looked after. I'm sure that we will meet one day because after all there is only 3000 miles of waterway to find each other in. :)

We will be thinking of you,


Anonymous said...

That was absolutely georgous! And I was surprised to see all of the open land - meadows, etc. I think of England as totally taken over by cities and towns. So Jaq is so "chuffed?" That was interesting and .....different. Do we have such a term in American English?

Also, interesting history of the Sutton Place.


Jaqueline Biggs said...

Thank you Irene. We'll keep a lookout via blog and binoculars!

Jaqueline Biggs said...

Hi Bonnie,
Chuffed in Brit English means pleased down to your socks! It really is lovely in places over here. Miss you! Love to you and Steve,

Maffi said...

Sorry to be a pedant, but your dragonfly was a damselfly

Damselflies (suborder Zygoptera) are insects in the order Odonata. Damselflies are similar to dragonflies, but the adults can be distinguished by the fact that the wings of most damselflies are held along, and parallel to, the body when at rest. The Dragonfly holds his wings out at near right angles, never folded closed. Furthermore, the hindwing of the damselfly is essentially similar to the forewing, while the hindwing of the dragonfly broadens near the base. Damselflies are also usually smaller than dragonflies and weaker fliers in comparison, and their eyes are separated.

NB Valerie & Steam Train by Les Biggs

NB Valerie & Steam Train by Les Biggs