The last week of June was London Rivers Week; a celebration of the capital’s 600 km of wonderful waterways.
This year’s focus was “Valuing Water” – highlighting the essential benefits that rivers provide us with, the pressures they face and the efforts to restore them. Organisations from across the city were involved in reconnecting people with their local river through lots of fun and informative activities. The week was a huge success with more than 1090 people attending 24 activities and events put on by eight organisers.
We had a busy week loving our local rivers; the Hogsmill, Beverley Brook and Wandle.
On Monday we were joined by 300 excited children in Wandle Park (Croydon) for a celebration of their local stretch of river. Pupils from 3 different schools took part in river dipping to discover what critters have made their homes in this recently restored section of the Wandle. They also had adventures throughout the park learning all about the natural environment and wildlife right on their doorstep. For a full report of this fantastic day please see our previous blog.
The sun shone brightly for our Hogsmill Cleanup on Tuesday. Volunteers came to Kingston to clear an area which had been badly fly-tipped, and also helped to pull Himalayan balsam; an invasive non-native species which was growing thickly along the bank. The team worked hard, as always, and after just 3 hours had completely transformed the site! We removed a motorbike, furniture, a shopping trolley, bicycles and many sacks of smaller items of rubbish. We also managed to pull hundreds of Himalayan balsam plants, stopping them from spreading their seeds and becoming an even bigger problem next year. Well done everyone!
On Tuesday evening we led a guided walk along the Beverley Brook in Richmond Park. In the past, many of our urban rivers have been artificially widened and straightened in the name of flood defence and for development, and the Beverley Brook is no exception. We now know that allowing natural river processes to take place is much more effective at reducing flood risk downstream and also provides higher quality habitats for wildlife. In 2016, SERT completed a restoration project along 600 m of the Brook, and our guided walk allowed people to see and learn about this restoration story first hand. To read the story for yourself please take a look at our previous blog.
Plastic is a huge problem in our waterways. Did you know that 80% of the plastic in the ocean has come from land, blown there by the wind or transported downstream by rivers? We spent Thursday with a dedicated bunch of volunteers removing mainly plastic items from the upper reaches of the Wandle. As well as the plastic bottles, bags and packaging the team also found an old water pump, a kid’s bicycle and some old furniture.
Worried about the impacts plastics are having on the environment? There’s some easy things we can all do to help! Using reusable water bottles, coffee cups and carrier bags can make a huge difference.
Our final London Rivers Week event involved removing floating pennywort from a backwater that runs through Wandle Park in Colliers Wood. Floating pennywort is an extremely fast growing invasive non-native species that causes huge problems for rivers. It can form dense floating mats across the entire surface of the river, blocking out sunlight so that nothing can grow below and oxygen levels become reduced.
The most effective way to get rid of this problematic plant is by manual removal and so we assembled a team of volunteers to tackle the problem. Together we removed around 6 tonnes of plant material from a 60 m stretch of the backwater. The positive effect was immediate and we could see the water starting to flow slowly along the cleared stretch.
Backwaters are an extremely important refuge for wildlife where fish and other animals can take shelter from pollution or high flows. It is therefore vital they function well. This first hit on the floating pennywort here will be the start of our plan to reduce its presence to a manageable level, freeing the backwater from its negative effects.
We couldn’t have done any of this without all the volunteers who gave their time during London Rivers Week! So a massive thank you everyone involved for helping to improve our amazing urban rivers.
We’d also like to thank the London Rivers Restoration Group, organisers of London Rivers Week 2018, and the generous sponsor – Thames Water.