Sunday 13 April 2014

River Wey, Godalming Navigations and Dapdune Wharf

It's not the shortest name in the world is it, the River Wey, Godalming Navigations and Dapdune Wharf? It's like one of those ad agencies that has been through loads of mergers but everyone's egos have to be appeased, so it ends up being called Barraclough, Upson, McDonald and Minchin until everyone loses the will to live and it becomes BUMM. 

Ironically, RWGNDW is one of the smallest National Trust properties that I've been to. You come across them every once in a while; these tiny little places with limited resources that turn out to be far, far better than you ever expected (Shalford Mill is another, as is Cherryburn near Newcastle).

The River Wey is famous for being one of the first rivers to be made navigable so that barges could use it as a working waterway for carrying cargo between Guildford and London. It first opened in 1653. Godalming Navigation opened in 1764 to extend the waterway further.

Dapdune Wharf, where we were today, was the main boat yard for the navigations, established in the 1890s by the Stevens family. 

The star of the show at RWGNDW is the restored barge, Reliance: 

River Wey Reliance Barge

I won't lie to you, I was expecting something a bit more ornamental - basically, to my ignorant mind a barge is a red and green painted thing like the ones I used to see at Foxton Locks near Market Harborough during my teenage years (while I'm being honest, I was more interested in the Woodpecker cider they were serving than the boats, but I did take enough notice to conclude that life on a narrowboat wasn't for me).  

Reliance and the other ten barges built at Dapdune Wharf were proper working craft that could carry up to 80 tonnes. They had no engines - they were usually towed by rope. Reliance was built in 1932 and worked between Guildford and London docks before she sank in 1968. She was found abandoned in 1989, when the National Trust restored her. They're raising funds now to restore Perseverance, who sits a bit forlornly nearby at the moment.

There's a lovely little museum explaining how the waterways changed Britain - and how eventually the railways caught up and replaced the waterways:

The River Wey scone
They warn you on the website that the tearoom at RWGNDW is tiny, and it was. However, it was also very lovely. Admittedly, the scone did come out of a packet but it didn't matter - they also had the most amazing-looking cakes so if a scone wasn't your thing you had plenty of choice.

River Wey Dapdune Wharf Scone

I'd recommend getting there early and booking on a boat tour - we were in a hurry and couldn't wait for the next available one but I will definitely go back. It's a beautiful little place, with helpful and friendly staff, and a real story to tell.

River Wey, Godalming Navigations and Dapdune Wharf: 4 out of 5
Scones: 3 out of 5
Reliance, the barge: 5 out of 5

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