Puffing A Wey is an annual event held at Dapdune Wharf in Guildford. It is a joint event between the National Trust and the Steam Boat Association (SBA) to showcase their boats.
Puffing A Wey was on last weekend – and Saturday 12th July was the day to get involved. Put it in the diary for next year, as if it ends up a gloriously sunny day it’s the perfect day to get a free ride in a steam boat up the River Wey.
I was surprised it wasn’t busier – Dapdune Wharf is really close to the centre of Guildford, though once you’re there you wouldn’t think so. It’s a pity that Shalford Mill which is also on the River Wey isn’t open for the day, as we’d have gone along there as well – though realistically we probably didn’t have time.
Dapdune Wharf is an area of great historical significance to Guildford and Surrey in general. The Wey was one of the first British rivers to be made navigable, opening to barge traffic in 1653. It links Guildford to Weybridge, where it meets the Thames, moving onwards to London. Also, it’s over 350 years old – enough to blow a small person’s mind when you tell them.
Dapdune also has a surviving barge ‘Reliance’ which Shaun and H spent time exploring (it’s quite low and I didn’t want to risk it with my back!), plus you can also see where the huge Wey barges were built.
Puffing A Wey brings steam boats from around the UK to Guildford – and while the National Trust has a boat which does 40 minute rides down the River Wey (charge £3 per person), the steam boats offered rides for free. We were lucky to get a ride on the handmade boat, the St Aurelia and experienced a fabulous 30 minute ride towards Guildford, then to the other side of the railway bridge at Dapdune Wharf. Not all boats offer rides, it is entirely the boat owner’s discretion. We didn’t have to wait for long either. It felt so peaceful gently chugging along the river (and you’re close to the water, for my deep water phobia I managed quite well!).
It was a really enjoyable day – H loved going on the boat, and we had a good safety chat beforehand in case anything went wrong (it didn’t, but you need to be prepared). Be aware there are no lifejackets, so you are doing it entirely at your own risk. Having said that, we were safe, the rivers weren’t busy, though boats sometimes had to wait for other boats to clear the mooring areas when dropping off passengers.
There were kids activities which kept H entertained – and they were suitable for all ages. Add a nice National Trust cafe with good value food, and decent facilities (and a good sized picnic area), and it was a pretty good day out – what started as a day we thought might be interesting ended being a day which was absolutely marvellous! I’m definitely keeping an eye out for next year’s event anyway.
My highlight of the day apart from the boat ride, was a model of a lock – H has been reading about towpaths in a story at school and I’d tried to explain them, but badly. Having a lock with water in which explains everything clearly made it fascinating for H. I think a trip to Teddington may be on the cards one day soon.
The River Wey and Godalming Navigations and Dapdune Wharf can be found here. I’m going to predict next years event will be July 2015, and would highly recommend. The Steam Boat Association can be found here.