The River Quaggy
One of London's greatest assets is its parks and green spaces. One of the saddest, and perhaps most surprising, things about the rivers in those parks is the way that so many of them have been lost to the public - channelised, culverted or fenced off.
QWAG think that channelised rivers in parks are ugly, dead and dangerous. Furthermore, by rushing water downstream they often contribute to flooding in built-up areas. Vertical sides and a concrete bottom make it easier for children to fall in and hurt themselves, and the vertical sides can then make a quick rescue more difficult. Because of these dangers, concrete channels are often fenced off in public parks. Space is lost from the park, and additional costs are incurred maintaining the fences.
QWAG believes that rivers in public spaces should be attractive assets that everyone can enjoy, and we are campaigning for the restoration of the River Quaggy in all the public parks it flows through, so that it becomes an attractive, natural living feature and an educational resource.
The Quaggy in parks
Chinbrook Meadows (north), before 2002
Looking south, before river restoration in 2002. The Green Chain Walk runs along the left side of the left-hand hedge!
The oversized straight concrete channel is dangerous and therefore fenced off. It is ugly and therefore covered with a hedge which costs money to maintain. The result is lost space, lost amenity and loss in maintenance costs.
Chinbrook Meadows (north), June 2003
The same view looking south, after river restoration in 2002!
The river is now a part of the park and has become a new reason for both children and adults to visit Chinbrook Meadows. This restoration was the first of QWAG's "Operation Kingfisher" projects to restore the Quaggy back to life.
Here the river is open, and free to meander naturally across the park. It has been integrated into the park as an attractive feature which people of all ages can enjoy. It has added immeasurably to the value of the park. An outdoor classroom with boardwalk over the river has made it into an educational resource. Benches and riverside paths have made the river and its wildlife something that adults of all ages can enjoy. And open, safe access has made the Quaggy a place of excitement, adventure and play for children.
The railings follow the line of the river. The Quaggy is not visible because it has been fenced off from the public. This can be more dangerous because children who do get to the river cannot be seen. Manor Park is a very small park, of which one third is "lost" behind these railings. It is likely to be closed to the public in 2005 while contractors working on the flood alleviation scheme store material here. QWAG has campaigned for and is hopeful that the river will be restored and integrated into the park, as part of that scheme.
Sutcliffe Park before 2004
One solution to the dangers, lost space and maintenance cost of a channelised river is to bury it completely! Now no-one need know it is there. QWAG has persuaded the National Rivers Authority (now the Environment Agency) to restore the Quaggy in this park as part of their flood alleviation scheme. A survey of local people found 78% supported QWAG's ideas for restoring the river and creating nature study and wetland features in this park.
Sutcliffe Park in 2004
This park has recently (2003/4) been transformed by the Environment Agency, in line with suggestions originally put forward by QWAG. The transformation was part of a flood alleviation scheme for the area. The river, released from an underground concrete culvert, now winds its way across the park; at the same time, the level of the ground has been lowered for storing water at times of heavy rain. Flooding should be a rare event. At all other times the park will function as an attractive, interesting and varied recreational amenity with walkways, play and picnic areas and a range of wildlife habitats.
Manor House Gardens
The Quaggy in Manor House Gardens is more natural than it is in many of the parks it flows through, but it is still not integrated into the park. (Ironically a large artificial pond is maintained at some cost to give people access to a water feature.) A dense line of trees reduces the amount of light that can get to the river which is fenced off and inaccessible. QWAG hopes to work with the Park User Group to find a way to make the river a part of the park - removing some of the trees to give more light for maginal plants and regrading some of the banks to make the river more accessible.