South East Rivers Trust

Water quality improvements are on par at Richmond Park


Shortly I will post another blog updating you on how the river improvement works in Richmond Park are settling in one year after they were completed. Although the river habitat works have been completed (for now!) work has by no means ended. In addition to improving the habitat, our attention is also focused on addressing the poor water quality entering into the Brook.

Upstream of the Richmond Park golf course, rain water pours off the surrounding urban catchment and notably down the incredibly busy and often choked A3 at Roehampton Hill. It then flows down the gulley pots, into a surface water drain before this opens out into a ditch which flows across Richmond Park Golf Course before discharging into the Beverley Brook. Such road runoff is known to cause detrimental effects to the aquatic environment, not only from the significant quantities of sediment carried in it, but additionally from the contaminants bound to it. These include Poly Aromatic Hydrocarbons (PAHs), hydrocarbons and heavy metals. Our aim was to therefore capture the sediment and the contaminants before they reach the Brook. This was achieved with a two pronged attack.

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Oil from the A3 covering the surface of the pond in the golf course. Thick black sediment covers the bed

First of all, mid-fairway at the upstream end of the golf course we opened the ditch out to create an on-line pond, known to us as a silt trap but to golfers as a feature water hazard. With help from Rob McInnes, the pond’s size was calculated so that all coarse sediment down to 0.1mm would drop out as a consequence of lowering the velocity of the flow. A shallow marginal ledge was incorporated along the length of the pond, which has been planted with a mix of wetland plant species to promote deposition, whilst providing species and habitat diversity. By emptying the pond regularly, the silt is removed from the system and the effectiveness of the trap is maintained.

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Starting to open the ditch out
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A few months after completion, the pond is trapping plenty of silt (and plenty of golf balls)

The second measure took place a few hundred metres further down the ditch where an existing online pond, in the shape of a ring doughnut, provided an excellent opportunity to be modified to create a wetland. The plan was to re-jig it so that the doughnut became a U-shape. This prevents short-circuiting, therefore increasing retention times, reducing velocities and again promoting a depositional environment.

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The pond before works start

The pond was too deep to plant straight into, so we needed to find spoil to fill it in. What better way to produce the spoil than dig a second wetland immediately upstream of the first, which will increase the treatment capacity further.

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Re configuring and filling in of the pond

Six thousand plants consisting of over 20 species were planted in the wetlands. The dense structure created by the plants results in even finer sediments being captured than in the silt trap upstream.

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The wetlands newly planted with 6000 plugs and fenced off
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August and the plants have established

Furthermore, this has now created a fantastic wetland habitat full of dragonflies, damselflies and frogs to name a few. Both the silt trap and wetlands have been fenced off and have bird twine strung over them to prevent the large population of geese from nobbling the plants before they had the chance to establish. The total area of both is approximately 800 metres square.

A simple water level control structure was created at the outlet of each wetland. As sediment accumulates and reduces the depth of water over time, another drop board can be put in, allowing the water depth to be increased, therefore reducing maintenance requirements and prolonging the life of the wetland.

The effectiveness of the installed measures is currently being monitored, however a coincidental site visit during a pollution event helped to anecdotally demonstrate the effectiveness. Run-off from a presumed building site was bringing significant quantities of sand rich water into the ditch. After the silt trap, the turbidity of water flowing out was visually improved. Walking further down the ditch network, after flowing through both wetlands, we were incredibly impressed to see that the water flowing out and into the river was clear to the eye. Although this was always the theory behind why we created these features, to see it work first hand to such a great effect was brilliant and hugely satisfying. With contaminants generally being bound to sediment, this clearly demonstrates not only a reduction of sediment input to the river but indirectly of contaminants too.

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Thick sandy water flowing into the sediment trap
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Water in the ditch downstream of the sediment trap and both wetlands
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Significantly improved water clarity entering into the Beverley Brook

Job done!! (for now anyway). I am now working up the next phase of water quality improvements. Updates will follow shortly.

As always, the success of this project is down to the valuable contribution of many people and organisations.

Big thanks to the ongoing project partners; the Environment Agency, Defra, The Royal Parks and Friends of Richmond Park. Thanks to Jon Dummett and Gary Stewart at Glendale Golf Course for surprisingly being so willing in allowing us to dig up their course and for their continued support since. Thanks to Rob McInnes at RM Wetlands & Environment Ltd for guiding the designs, Ben and the guys at Aquamaintain for braving the cold February days delivering the work and again for planting it up. Thanks to Thames Water for providing the flow meter which was installed in the ditch network to inform the design and finally, to Layla at Queen Mary University for monitoring the work.

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