The River Quaggy
Lewisham town centre
The end of the Quaggy
The River Quaggy comes to its end in the centre of Lewisham. Here it joins the River Ravensbourne. And here it gives up its battle to live.
How did the Quaggy die?
When Lewisham was first settled, its rivers were things of beauty which attracted people here. But living in a river valley brings with it the risk of being flooded, and the rivers of Lewisham were placed in their concrete coffins in an attempt to reduce that risk of flooding.
Resurrecting the River Quaggy
QWAG believes that - with modern methods of flood control, some imagination and the will to change - we can make major improvements to the Quaggy, restoring it to a thing of natural beauty which once again attracts people living, working and shopping in the area.
The greatest battle is not with the Quaggy but with the minds and hearts of planners and politicians. Before QWAG came into existence, opportunities to improve the river were missed. When concrete sections were replaced and refurbished near Lewisham station, they could have had a low-flow meandering channel and planting pockets designed into them. And "Quaggy Gardens" could have included a pond connected to the river and planted with marginal plants. As a member of the Urban Renaissance in Lewisham board, QWAG is currently fighting to ensure that a new opportunity is not lost - the opportunity to create a beautiful, natural looking section of river where people can relax, right in the centre of Lewisham.
Making the most of Lewisham’s rivers
The key to improving the centre of Lewisham
QWAG believes that the key to improving the centre of Lewisham lies in its natural resources - the rivers Ravensbourne and Quaggy.
QWAG is proposing that the confluence of the two rivers (in front of Lewisham railway and Docklands Light Railway stations) is restored and the area around it re-landscaped.
Creating a new landscape at the confluence of these rivers will improve the journey for pedestrians going from Lewisham station to the shopping centre. But QWAG wants to go further. We propose that the River Quaggy is restored as far as possible from the confluence to the front of the new police headquarters, creating an attractive riverside walk from Lewisham station nearly all the way into the town centre. No one would forget their first visit to Lewisham and everyone would want to return!
One of the exciting things about these projects is that they are proposed for the most visible and high-profile sites in Lewisham. By having a location that is visited by large numbers of people every day, we hope to maximise the human benefit of this environmental project and at the same time destroy the notion that urban rivers have to lie dead at the bottom of a concrete drain.
QWAG's proposals for Lewisham town centre
The confluence of the rivers Ravensbourne and Quaggy as it is now
The Quaggy enters the Ravensbourne from the left. Both channels have been heavily engineered and are much bigger than they need to be. As such they are exceedingly dangerous. In December 1995 a man was rushed to hospital after falling four metres into the Ravensbourne's concrete channel. The oversized flat bottom means that the water moves slowly and is too shallow for most fish. There is no place where marginal or aquatic plants can get established. This part of the Quaggy is of very little ecological value and is visually boring as well as exceedingly dangerous. The chance to change all this was missed in 1992. The reworking of both channels in 1992 lacked imagination and continued to treat the river as an open drain rather than something that could integrate the excitement and beauty of a natural feature into the man-made landscape of Lewisham's centre.
The confluence of the rivers Ravensbourne and Quaggy as it might be
This picture gives an indication of what could be done with the area in front of Lewisham station and the area currently used to park buses. The Quaggy cannot be seen here but enters from the right.
The vertical wall on the left has been replaced with a terraced wall of loose blockstone providing gaps for marginal plants to colonise. The right-hand wall has been removed altogether and the pub garden landscaped down to the river. Decking allows people to get as close as possible to the water, and a protected area has been created where reeds can grow. The sterile, flat concrete bottom has been replaced with a gravel bed, and the river has cut its own low-flow deeper channel down the centre. Better for wildlife and much better for civilised life!
Clarendon Rise Bridge, Central Lewisham
An eyesore! An unattractive river is an uncared-for river.
Because the Quaggy is constrained between buildings here, it must remain in an artificial channel. Even so, its appearance and ecological value could be improved by creating a meandering low-flow channel within the main channel and introducing graded gravels into the river bed. It may even be possible to establish some marginal plants along the edges of the channel by creating protected, slow-flow areas using carefully positioned blocks of stone.
Looking upstream through "Quaggy Gardens"
The river here is really rather boring with slow-moving water spread over a flat concrete bottom. There is much scope for improvement. A radical reworking of the artificial bed and banks could create an attractive, meandering low-flow channel with water moving more quickly through pools and riffles. In such a low-flow channel, gravel beaches and margins would be deposited, enabling marginal plants to become established. The river itself would be more interesting and of much greater wildlife value. Combined with the establishment of river plants along its banks, the Quaggy would become a very beautiful, attractive and memorable feature for everyone walking between shops and transport.
Private garden only 300 metres from Lewisham Clock Tower
The very last natural section of the Quaggy before it enters concrete for the final part of its journey through the centre of Lewisham. This picture indicates that the Quaggy could be more interesting in the centre of Lewisham. The river here has a gravel bed and a natural river bank on the right-hand side. Flag iris can be seen emerging from the river on the left side. This part of the river supports a healthy population of sticklebacks, and kingfishers are seen fishing here every year.