Category Archives: Our Voice

Latest London Natural History Society newsletter

The London Natural History Society’s latest newsletter included the following reports:

Butterflies of the London Atlas project – a request for volunteers to record and/or photograph butterflies especially single-brooded species that fly only a few weeks a year.

London fungi: yearly review 2016 – a report on the species recorded in the capital in 2016 including the Great Haringey Fungus Foray on 30 October where about 20 people spotted 108 species.

There was a report of outings on 18 February entitled Early Spring at Wimbledon Common. On 25 February 2017 there was the New Cross Gate and Nunhead report.On 8 April the Lesnes Abbey Woods report t identified and record local flora.

Wimbledon Common for lichens re-visited commented on the findings of a meeting on 4 March, exploring a new area of the site seen on a previous visit on 1 October 2016.

The publication had two ornithology reports: Greenwich Peninsular and Ecology Park which saw all five species of gull and a confrontation between a peregrine and a red kite overhead. Crossness was a report on a walk which recorded seven species of butterfly as well water fowl and other birds.

For more information see the LNHS website www.lnhs.org.uk

 

 

Review – London Bird Report 2015

 

The London Report 2015, produced by the London Natural History Society, has everything you might want to know about a year of bird life in London. The book is well produced, illustrated by good, full colour photographs of birds.

Nick Rutter, the editor of the London Naturalist, reviews 2015, listing verified sightings of rare and less common birds, and commenting on migrants, residents and breeding activity. For example there were two verified breeding pairs of Red Kites. The report also contains highlights for each month.

A substantial section of the volume is devoted to a report of the species spotted within 20 miles of St Paul’s Cathedral. Approaching 2,000 people contributed to this systematic list.  It includes reports from the 2015 RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch.

It contains nine papers about birds in London from a variety of contributors.  The topics covered range from a Ringing Report to ‘The rise and fall of the Ruddy Duck in the London Area’, and ‘Can Common Terns and Black-Headed gulls co-exist on rafts?’

Extracts from some of these can be found in the publications section of the Society’s website.

This is the 80th annual report and so comparisons can be made about which species are flourishing and which are declining over time.  For example, the Peregrine Falcon is a ‘scarce but increasingly regular breeding resident and winter visitor’.  There were four pairs present in 2004 rising to 25 in 2015, of which 16 were successful with 47 juveniles fledged.

This forms an important record of one facet of the wildlife inhabiting our capital city.

Published May 2017 by the London Natural History Society – £8.00. Free to members of the Society.

www.lnhs.org.uk

Catherine Quinn.

New Thames Museum Wants To Change How We View History

The Thames Museum is in its early stage of conceptualisation but its founders want to create an iconic museum/visitors centre dedicated entirely to the archaeology of the River Thames, telling the story of life on the river through the ages. The range of artifacts within the museum collections will cover the entire life span of the River Thames – including fossils from prehistory, London’s early human inhabitants, the Roman occupation and the following two thousand years up until  the present day.

 

The visionaries behind the project, Steve Brooker and Nick Stevens, have their own vast collections of artifacts recovered from the River Thames over 25 years which they plan to donate. The museum will also be able to use finds recovered over the last 50 years from fellow mudlarks. 

Steve Brooker and Nick Stevens

 

Visitors will be offered an accessible, friendly and memorable experience based not only on the collections but also on the interior design and layout.  The museum’s displays will be set amongst re-creations of timber wharfs, sections of river wall, 17th century warehouses and other examples of London’s historical waterside.

 

Collections will constantly change and new exhibits will be added regularly as new finds are made on an almost daily basis.  Information on new finds will become a key part of the museum’s social media strategy to spread the word. This should result in a museum that is forever changing and one that will be different every time it is visited. One visit will not be enough.

 

During the 18th and 19th centuries many of London’s poor would search the riverbanks for anything of value. These original “mudlarks” were often children, mostly boys, who could earn a few pennies selling the coal, nails, rope and bones that they found in the mud at low tide. As London was a busy port, things were often dropped in the water and cargo sometimes fell off passing boats. Unfortunately a mudlark’s income was generally meagre.

 

In contrast today’s mudlarks have a passionate interest in London’s rich archaeology.  They have changed history many, many times and work very closely with the Museum Of London and P.A.S (the Portable Antiquities Scheme) where their finds are recorded and often displayed.

 

As well as creating a fantastic and original new museum for London we want to share our passion for history in order to inspire, enthuse and inform a younger generation” say the founders.

 

The museum plans to offer educational trips to the foreshore to schools and other educational bodies.

 

For more information please visit www.thamesmuseum.org

Link found between microplastic pollution & fish larvae ingestion

According to the website Environmental Pollution (June 2017), a study took place between April and June 2016 in the western English Channel which was designed to assess the occurrence of microplastic ingestion in wild fish larvae.

The study provided baseline ecological data showing a correlation between waterborne microplastics and the incidence of ingestion in fish larvae.

This is an important finding because of the links between microplastics and other organic pollutants that can enter the food chain.

Microplastics have been documented in marine environments worldwide where they pose a potential risk to living organisms.

 

Coastal shelf seas are rich in productivity but also experience high levels of microplastic pollution. In these habitats fish have an important ecological and economic role but their larvae are vulnerable to pollution, environmental stress and predation.

The study took fish larvae and water samples across three sites – at 10, 19 and 35 km from the shore – in the western English Channel from April to June 2016.

Key findings were:

2.9% of fish larvae had ingested microplastics, of which 66% were blue fibres; ingested microfibers closely resembled those identified within water samples.

Further away from the coast larval fish density increased significantly while waterborne microplastic concentrations and incidence of ingestion decreased.

Click here to see more

ZSL guidance for fish conservation in the tidal Thames

The Zoological Society London (ZSL) has published Conservation of Tidal Thames Fish Through the Planning Process, a guide to help improve fish conservation for planners, developers and stakeholders in  the tidal Thames,. The area encompasses all Local Authority areas adjoining the river Thames between Teddington Lock (where the Thames ceases to be tidal), and Gravesend.

ZSL presented to developers at a Thames Estuary Partnership event in May 2017: “The Evolution of the Estuary: an update on Key Projects”. ZSL presented four major projects at planning stage at Farrells’s offices in London at that time:

  •       The Castle Green regeneration project at Barking, a Chinese-backed scheme by an Australian listed investment company ASF Group, with a plan for a 90 hectare re-routing the A13 trunk road in a 1.3km. cut-and-cover tunnel, improving north-south access to Barking riverside;
  •        The Royal Albert Dock development by Chinese developer ABP as a new business district providing a trading base for Chinese commerce, with a vision of an end-to-end rail service between London and China.
  •       The London Paramount Entertainment Resort development at the Swanscombe peninsula, supported by the Kuwaiti Sovereign Wealth Fund, and connecting to the international rail service at Ebbsfleet.
  •        A new port at Tilbury being developed by Forth Ports with a plan to provide a centre for the distribution of construction materials by river and sea.

The ZSL guidance provides links to sources of information, regulations, strategies and local plans. One such source is the Tidal Thames Habitat Action Plan, developed by the Thames Estuary Partnership Biodiversity Action Group as input to the London Biodiversity Action Plan.

The Tidal Thames is of ecological importance as a route for migratory fish to move between freshwater and salt water and vice versa.

  • It is a rich foraging ground for fish, including certain species that live exclusively in the Thames;
  • It is a territory for fish to spawn and young fish to grow.

All development operations and decommissioning along the Thames could disturb fish in the Thames, including light and water pollution, sound/vibration, change of water temperature or sediment deposit or suspension and local changes to water flow.

The area between Teddington and Gravesend is:

  • A route for migratory fish to move between freshwater and salt water and vice versa. It is a rich foraging ground for fish.
  • A territory for fish to spawn and young fish to grow.
  • And it harbours 124 fish species caught in the tidal Thames since 1964, 15% of which are protected by regulations.

All development. operations and decommissioning along the Thames could upset fish life in the Thames. For example it could affect light and water pollution, sound/vibration, change of water temperature or sediment deposit or suspension and local changes to water flow.

The guidance’s main message is that the nature and the duration of the work required relies on the sensitivity of the design of the development, and scheduling of the process.

The report emphasised that the effect of the works on fish had to be considered in the planning and development process. The report commented that “permanent loss of inter-tidal and/or sub-tidal habitats should be avoided.”

The report said that specific steps were needed:

  • A baseline survey.
  • Scheduling works to avoid “ecological events” for fish (e.g. migration)
  • Create additional or replacement foreshore habitat, modify surfaces in contact with the river (walls, piers, piles).
  • Design sustainable drainage systems.
  • Reduce  environmental impact during works (control of sedimentation change, vibration, run-off).

Zoological Society of London (ZSL) 2017: guidance document – Conservation of Tidal Thames Fish through the Planning Process.

Available online:https://www.zsl.org/sites/default/files/media/2017-01/Tidal%20Thames%20Fish%20Guidance%20Document%202017.pdf

 

Frank Water Stops Selling Single Use PET Bottles and Launches ‘Pledge to Refill’ Campaign

 

FRANK Water has stopped selling spring water in single use plastic bottles. Frank claims they are the first UK bottled water company to end sales of single-use plastic bottles and switch to 100% environmentally sustainable solutions.

To mark the milestone, they have launched the #PledgeToRefill campaign, calling on consumers to carry a refillable water bottle with them to stay hydrated without the need to purchase water (or other drinks) in single-use plastic bottles.

There are several ways you can get involved including making the pledge! Visit frankwater.com/refill and #PledgeToRefill. They will receive bonus funding (£1 per pledge) from their partners for the first 500 pledges!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Volunteers Needed to Collect For Seafarers’ Day on 29 June

Every day we expect fishermen to risk their lives to catch our seafood, the Royal Navy to defend our shores and Merchant Seamen to battle storms to deliver 95% of our imported goods. 

As part of the Annual Seafarers Awareness Week (24-30 June) Seafarers UK is organising a national fundraising and awareness-raising day and needs volunteers to get involved.

Seafarers UK is a charity that gives grants to organisations and projects that make a real difference to people’s lives, across the Merchant Navy, Fishing Fleets, Royal Navy and Royal Marines. Last year it gave grants totalling £2.5million to 69 maritime welfare charities.

Seafarers will build on the success of their fundraising efforts in 2016 to conduct bucket collections in train stations, shopping centres, ferry ports and anywhere else their supporters are allowed to collect.  This is a great opportunity to get out and about in local communities to remind everyone of how much our island nation depends on our seafarers. 

Find out more about how you can help raise awareness and funds on 29 June.

Proposal for a Series of Thames Towns to Help Tackle Housing Crisis

A proposal by Create Streets for the creation of ‘Thames Towns’ – a populist programme for a series of low rise, high density traditional towns along the banks of the Thames Estuary.

Think of the Thames Estuary and you think of Dickens’ description of it “dark, flat, wilderness… intersected with dykes and mounds and gates, with scattered cattle feeding on it.” But change is afoot. It is to be developed. Dickens’ Pip spoke of the ‘immensity of London,’ but it is set to get more immense yet.

London has a housing crisis, with far more houses needing to be built than it has shown the capability of building any time recently. The Thames Estuary, with all its space, seems in many ways to be a good place to build. 87,000 homes are already planned for the north Kent riverside alone.

 

So, you might be forgiven for thinking that this should be a cause for rejoicing. Yet, as so often is the case with new development, it’s not. Or at least not for everyone.

In Tilbury there are gripes that the gentrification process, once reserved for trendy inner-city London, is impacting the town negatively: development being done to people rather than by or with them. Being beyond the M25 does not seem to leave such places immune to urbanity.

 

And on the whole nor should they – there’s lots of very good things about living in cities. But likewise there are lots of good things about living in suburbia. There is a ‘sweet spot’ where you can get the advantages of the town (walkability, better access to work and schools) and of suburbia (more personal space, more greenery).

In many ways, the Thames Estuary is already somewhere in between the two. Whilst it is correct that places like Tilbury, or Gravesend to the south of the river, aren’t quite London, to walk around them is to realise that they are very much within the orbit of the capital.

The swathes of industry that dot the landscape are not there by chance. A great many of them are specifically located to bring goods into London, the necessary physical link between the capital and international capital, one that can’t be metal-and-steeled away in the computer screens and offices of the City of London.

Elsewhere, Lakeside and Bluewater are vast sprawling shopping centres, places for those who make their money in and around London to spend it.

 

And there are places to live even now. It’s neither correct to think of the Estuary as the preserve of industry, nor as an untouched wilderness (although Rainham Bird Sanctuary is a lovely place to see some real nature inside the M25).

The need for more homes in London is a city-wide issue that affects us all. But despite this urgency it is still fair to say that the people who live in the Thames Estuary already are the most important people to consider when we think about what new development should be like there. After all, they’ll be the neighbours of these new residents. They will deal with the changes from the very start.

 

I’ve alluded to some of the Dickensian heritage already. There’s plenty more: Bram Stoker set Dracula around here: If you go to Purfleet you can still see his old house, they say.

But there are also examples of attractive and popular new housing. Chafford Hundred, built by Lakeside, was once deemed  ’the most coveted address in Britain’ by The Evening Standard. Stroll around its streets and you could forget that you are wedged in between Lakeside to the east and the roar of the A13 to the north. It might be not quite dense enough for the housing needs of 2017. But density doesn’t need to be high-rise, and density doesn’t need to be unpopular.

 

What will work here then? Across the country, similar types of housing tends to be popular. It doesn’t have to look like a certain era, but it shouldn’t be totally oblivious to local history either.

Look at London, and ask where is densest? And where is the most expensive? It tends to be similar places: Kensington, parts of Islington. Buildings here are often narrow but taller (but not high-rise). This enables fantastically large amounts of housing to fit into relatively small areas, without going above 5 or 6 storeys.

 

NIMBYism is often used pejoratively, but there are often very understandable reasons why people oppose new housing. In many parts of London, new development is simply a by-word for bad development.

Development that doesn’t adhere to fairly simple but time-honoured principles. The kind of principles that you can find in housing all over the world. Interestingly, these sorts of qualities tend to be popular both when you look at who pays the most for them, and also when you poll people on what they like or will support.

Human scale. Lots of doors onto the street for feelings of security and neighbourliness, whilst preserving some privacy and autonomy. Broken up facades that bring a sense of horizontal as well as vertical scale.

Too often, some of these basics, which are provably good for wellbeing, are value-engineered away somewhere along the process. Unattractive, unhealthy and sometimes even defective homes are built. In the short term the developer might do well by flogging them off and disappearing, but beyond that many more suffer. It needn’t be like that.

 

So here’s the proposal: a series of ‘Thames Towns’. Some of London’s world-renowned character lies in the fact that it is made up of various town centres that have gradually been subsumed organically into London. As such, these areas have their own distinctiveness. Whilst they might be suburban, or full of commuters, they also have their own centres and their own specific qualities. They are not just dormitory towns.

We want Thames Towns to be like this too – and we want the people who will be living there to have a genuine hand in designing them. We’re proposing a populist programme for a series of low rise, high density traditional towns along the banks of the Thames Estuary. We’re not looking for towers, but nor are we looking for a sprawling car-dependent suburbia.

The amount of development set to happen in the Thames Estuary is huge. But we know what works, and we know that if people genuinely get to influence new development they will support it, often actively. We see Thames Towns as the right way to answer the difficult questions London is facing in the coming years. Thames Towns, if you’ll excuse the mangling of Dickens, could bring us the best of times, and avoid the worst, for the Estuary and for London.

Kieran Toms

Create Streets

Thames association buoys up traditional rowing and sculling

The Thames Traditional Rowing Association (TTRA) exists to support and promote traditional fixed-seat rowing and sculling on the Thames. TTRA use two types of rowing boats – the Thames Waterman’s Cutter and the Skerry. The Skerry is a new design by well known boat builder Mark Edwards MBE, who built the famous Gloriana for the Queens’s jubilee celebrations.

 

Thames Waterman’s Cutter

The design of the Waterman’s Cutter is based on drawings of boats used by the Waterman of London in the 1700s. In the 1980s the organisers of the Great River Race (from Millwall to Ham, Richmond on 9 September 2017), developed the modern boat and produced the first of the fleet of 24, many of which now compete annually in this marathon.

 

Cutter in full regalia

The Cutters are 34 feet long with a beam of 4ft 6 inches and can be rigged for up to six oarsmen either rowing or sculling.

In keeping with their traditional origins they can carry a cox and passengers under a canopy, resembling the decorated craft commonly depicted in 17th and 18th century prints and pictures of the River Thames. Nowadays, with the canopies and armorial flags flying they perform the role of ceremonial livery barges on special occasions.

The Watermen’s Cutters compete  ever year in the Port of London Challenge, the Port Admirals’ Challenge and the Great River Race. There are also Cutter races in regattas in towns outside London.

 

The Skerry

Mark Edwards designed the Skerry and chose the name as it combines elements of the traditional Thames boats, the skiff and the wherry.

After many years of building what were essentially copies of existing rowing boats, Mark realised there was a need for a boat which could:
• accommodate up to eight rowers, plus a cox to steer
• have enough space for up to three passengers, including a coach.
• be safe in a wide a range of conditions
• be fast, responsive and easy to row and steer
• be  in part be built by amateurs and is robust and easy to maintain
• help continue the ancient tradition of wooden clinker built boats.

The Skerry is what Mark Edwards created to meet his requirements. It is not to big, only 9 metres long, and can be hauled by a two-wheeled truck and taken long distances very easily.

For more information, including the wide range of TTRA events this year see: http://www.traditionalrowing.com

 

 

Making London A National Park City

What it means for London

Making London a National Park City draws from the values of the UK’s rural national parks – better conservation, better enjoyment and better economy – and extends this into the city. 

The aim is for residents, communities and businesses to work together to:

  1. Make London greener – improving London’s air and water quality and the variety of plant and animal life in London’s habitats.
  2. Make more of London’s outdoor heritage – improving health, connecting all London’s children to nature and ensuring all Londoners have free and easy access to high quality green space.
  3. Make a new National Park City identity for London – inspiring new business activities and promoting London as a Green World City.

 

 

Making it Happen

An recent, independent poll of over 1,000 Londoners found that 85% support London becoming a National Park City.

With the right support, London could be declared a National Park City as soon as spring 2018.

So far the Mayor of London, the London Assembly and 228 ward teams have given their support, however, to make London a National Park City another 100 ward teams are required. To register your support as an individual, or as a company, or for your ward go to http://www.nationalparkcity.london/declare_your_support.

 

 

Funding

Funding is not being sought from London’s councils or central government but will be through a mixture of private giving, corporate giving and corporate services.  

It is envisaged that this initiative may cost around £4 million a year to run, which is about the cost of running a rural National Park or a medium-sized secondary school.

 

Find out more

explore this website to learn more about what it would mean for London to be a National Park City.

Find out more about the aims of the London National Park City campaign on this website.

There are some useful FAQs here.