- Hits: 1963
The River Wey in Surrey, Hampshire and West Sussex is a tributary of the River Thames with two separate branches which join at Tilford.
The source of the north branch is at Alton, Hampshire and of the south branch at both Blackdown south of Haslemere, and also close to Gibbet Hill, near Hindhead (the south branch splits into two smaller rivers). The Wey has a total catchment area of 904 square kilometres (350 sq mi), draining parts of Surrey, Hampshire and West Sussex.
It is partly navigable from Godalming, forming the natural part of the Wey & Godalming Navigation. It joins the River THames near Weybridge, which is named after the river, just downstream of Shepperton Lock. The river is also a popular subject to study, as its features allow for easy access to data.
The Wey North branch rises in Alton in Hampshire and runs eastwards through Upper Froyle and Bentley, turning southwards at Farnham to Tilford. The catchment of this branch was originally the upper catchment of the Blackwater, which then ran northwards through what is now Farnham. The Wey captured the Blackwater near Tilford; the capture extended downstream to Farnham, thus reversing the flow to southwards between Farnham and Tilford. The Blackwater remains as a much shorter river to the north of Farnham, with a wind gap (empty valley) between it and the Wey.
The Wey South branch commences in two shorter rivers leading from separate sources. One is at Black Down near Haslemere and runs through Liphook, Bramshott, Bordon, Lindford and Frensham to Tilford. The other rises at Inval, near Gibbet Hill, Hindhead. This joins the Blackdown-source south branch near Haslemere. Other smaller tributaries of the south branch are Cooper's Stream and the River Slea.
From Tilford the river runs by Elstead, Eashing, Godalming, Peasmarsh, Shalford, Guildford, Old Woking, Pyrford, Byfleet, Addlestone and Weybridge. From Godalming the river is intertwined with the Wey and Godalming Navigations.
The River Ock joins at Godalming, Cranleigh Waters and the River Tillingbourne at Shalford and the Hoe Stream at Woking.
The 19½ mile towpath of the navigable section is open to walkers.
During the seventeenth century the river was made navigable to Guildford and extended in the eighteenth century to Godalming. The Basingstoke Canal and Wey & Arun Junction Canal were later connected to the river. The navigable sections are now owned by the National Trust.
The river has long been used as a source of power for mills, and many are recorded in the Domesday Book. At one point there were 22 mills on the river, and more on its tributaries. At various times they have been used for grinding grains, fulling wool, rolling oats, crushing cattle cake, leather dressing, paper production and gunpowder manufacture. Willey Mill was still in use in 1953.
There has been a mill on the site of Guildford Town Mill since at least 1649. From 1770, an additional water wheel was being used to pump water to the town reservoir on Pewley Down. This was replaced by two water turbines in 1896, then a single turbine in 1930, in use until 1952 when itself replaced by electric pumps nearby.
In 2003, Guildford Borough Council arranged for the refurbishment and installation of an identical turbine as an example of renewable energy. Rather than pumping water, this turbine drives a generator to supply up to 260,000 kWH of electricity into the National Grid, annually. The turbine came on-line in 2006. (The 1930 turbine has since been preserved, and may be viewed at Dapdune Wharf).
Much of the upper reaches of the river is within the Surrey Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. The river passes through a variety of habitats including heathland, woodland and watermeadow, resulting in a broad diversity of wildlife. There are numerous Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) and Nature Reserves along the river.
There are many angling clubs along the river, and healthy stocks of many species of fish including Chub, Barbel, Roach, Pike, Bream, Carp, Perch and Eels.