Category Archives: Our Voice

The Living Thames Boat Trip

Jane McChrystal

I was lucky enough to join a party of around ninety people last Saturday and climb aboard the City Cruise boat, M.V. Westminster at its mooring by Tower Pier. It was a perfect day for cruising, bright and sunny with gentle breezes, so we all headed for the deck in search of the best place to enjoy our views of London from the River Thames as we sailed along.

 

We were there at the invitation of TEP to raise funding for the post production costs of making Dorothy Leiper’s film, The Living Thames.

 

The film is presented by TEP’s president, environmentalist Chris Baines, and it shows the work of the many people and organisations who ensure that the Thames continues to sustain all those who live, work and play by the river, through the careful management of its waters, beds and banksides.

 

The film reveals the diverse aquatic life which teems beneath the muddy-looking surface of the tidal Thames on its course from Teddington to the estuary, where it joins the North Sea. The aim is to reconnect people with their capital’s river so that they can get to know it in the same way as earlier generations of Londoners, many of whom depended on it for their livelihood and transport through the city.

 

Everyone on board had a keen interest in the ecology and conservation of the tidal Thames and we were all excited about making a journey which took in iconic views such as Tower Bridge, the Tower of London, Wren’s magnificent Old Royal Naval College at Greenwich and the Thames barrier.  Some of us were also familiar with the converted warehouses which line the banks at Wapping, Rotherhithe and Limehouse, as they shelter some of London’s most historical pubs: The Captain Kidd, The Prospect of Whitby, The Mayflower and The Grapes.

 

 

We were joined by a panel of enthusiastic speakers who shared their extensive knowledge of the marine ecology and archaeology of the Thames without baffling us with any technical language associated with their area of expertise.

 

Archaeologist, Dr. Fiona Haughey, brought along a box of intriguing artefacts found along the foreshore of the river which included a Mesolithic stone hand axe, the jaw-bone of an unidentified fish, a Roman weight used for trapping fish and a small, contemporary figure of the Hindu God, Ganesh, with his elephant head.

 

 

She emphasized the importance of connecting with the past to enhance our understanding of the modern city. Many of our London ancestors projected their hopes onto coins and sacred items which they launched into the Thames in the expectation of harnessing its powers to fulfil their wishes, just as Hindus today drop votive offerings into it.

 

Steve Colclough, Independent Aquatic consultant and a rare specialist in estuarine ecology, explained that the murky water of the Thames with its surging tides, makes the ideal environment for juvenile fish, or fry, to mature as they make their way upriver and then back down to the sea. The river is essential to the life-cycle of the dover sole, sea bass and smelt in our seas.

 

Sixty years after the tidal Thames was declared biologically dead it has become home to 125 forms of aquatic life and receives regular visits from seals, dolphins and harbour porpoises. This transformation has been brought about by the rapid de-industrialisation of the Thames, improved treatment of sewage, tighter regulation of the use of fertilisers and the tireless efforts of organisations such as TEP.

 

Steve and Chris Baines described the essential role TEP has played in revitalising the Thames, by working with developers to ensure that their projects don’t harm wild life and, in some cases improve their conditions, for example by creating salt-marsh environments by the river.

 

Amy Pryor, marine scientist and TEP’s Project Manager, told us that the presence of plastics in the Thames remains a significant threat to the welfare of river life. In 2016 TEP launched a campaign, #oneless, as part of a coalition of organisations working to reduce single use plastic water bottles in London, many of which end up in the river, and it is already showing signs of becoming a great success.

 

Our river cruise took us past the construction site of the Super Sewer at the King Edward Memorial Park, Wapping. When ready, it will reduce the annual discharges of untreated waste into the river from thirty one to four. The Super Sewer, or the Thames Tideway Tunnel, is being built at a further twenty three sites along the river, stretching from Richmond to Deptford.

 

 

Once completed in 2023, the tunnel will play a major part in guaranteeing a future for tidal Thames wild life which looks much better now than it has for hundreds of years.

 

Dorothy Leiper’s Living Thames will be screened at film festivals and shown in community centres. Free copies of the film will be distributed to London schools.

The Tudor Pull

On 23 April the Queen’s row barge ‘Gloriana’ rowed by members of the Company of Watermen and Lightermen and escorted by craft from the City Livery Companies carried the Stela from Hampton Court Palace to the Tower of London for safekeeping.

The Tudor Pull, as this ceremonial event is called, is organised each year by the Thames Traditional Rowing Association.   

At Hampton Court Palace the Stela was given in to the custody of the Queen’s Barge Master and was transported to the Tower of London, via Teddington lock, Richmond and through central London to the Tower where it was presented to the Governor.

The cutters were rigged with full ceremonial canopies and flags and rowed with four oars by fully-liveried crews. In keeping with the traditions of the Watermen’s cutters, there were passengers. 

What Can You Do To Reduce Marine Plastic Pollution?

  1. Help raise awareness – just talking about plastic pollution with your friends, relatives and colleagues will help your community understand the issues.
  2. Don’t buy bottled water, drink tap water and carry your own reusable bottle – join the #OneLess campaign! Take a filter bottle when travelling in places where tap water may be contaminated e.g. www.WaterToGo.eu.
  3. Take your own reusable coffee cup to the store and ask for a discount xx from the vendor. Coffee cups and lids are rarely recycled because of the plastic or wax components and inadequate industrial facilities. Check out stylish alternatives like KeepCup or Ecoffee Cup. Check on line for cafes which provide a discount like Hammond’s at Kew Bridge which gives a 33% discount on their coffee if you bring your own reusable coffee cup.
  4. Choose products that aren’t wrapped in plastic e.g. loose pieces of fruit and vegetables. Your local farmers’ market and fruit and veg stall often provide paper bags rather than plastic and you will enjoy seasonal, home grown, fresh produce.
  5. Take your own reusable bag shopping, avoid single use plastic bags and the 5p charge. In small shops where the charge doesn’t apply, let them know you don’t need plastic bags.
  6. Skip the straw! Refuse plastic drinking straws in your drinks or take your own. You can find reusable straws at places like eco-straws or Etsy.
  7. Recycle the plastic that you do use and find out what you can and cannot recycle from your local council here. TerraCycle is also an innovative company that reuses, upcycles and recycles typically hard-to recycle waste, like cigarette butts, offering alternatives to landfill and incineration.
  8. Avoid buying cosmetics and toothpastes that contain microbeads. Find out more at www.Beat the Microbead.org.
  9. Use matches or refillable lighters rather than ‘disposable’ lighters. If you smoke put your cigarette butts in a bin, not on the ground – or even better, send cigarette butts to TerraCycle.
  10. Choose cotton, wool and other non-synthetic fabrics to reduce releasing polyester micro-fibres into the environment from your washing machine. If you have synthetic clothes use a shorter wash, which sheds fewer fibres.
  11. Report overflowing bins and litter in areas near to rivers and canals to your local council with the Keep Britain Tidy App and write directly to the leader of your council with a simple, respectful message and photo requesting that they prioritise keeping these areas clean and tidy to ensure the pollution doesn’t reach the waterways.
  12. Help us clean up the Thames – join a shoreline clean-up with Thames21 or paddle and pick with Active360 stand up paddle boarding and Watertrek. (See a video below taken by a TEP volunteer at Paddle & Pick)
  13. Keep informed and sign petitions to governments and manufacturers that promote a more sustainable future for plastics – check the Plastic Ocean news page for emerging petitions.
  14. Donate to Plastic Oceans Foundation or Watertrek. Every drop counts and your donation allows us to build our current and future projects, increasing impacts and reach through protecting marine environments and producing creative environmental education. Please consider giving back to the environment through Watertrek or Plastic Oceans Foundation.

Keep up to date via www.plasticoceanfestival.com

 

TEP Project Shortlisted For Tesco Bags of Help Initiative

 

TEP is bidding to bag a massive cash boost from the Tesco Bags of Help initiative.

Tesco teamed up with Groundwork to launch its community funding scheme, which sees grants of £4,000, £2,000 and £1,000 – all raised from the 5p bag levy – being awarded to local community projects.

Three groups in every Tesco region have been shortlisted to receive the cash award and shoppers are being invited to head along to Tesco stores to vote for who they think should take away the top grant.

TEP is one of the groups on the shortlist with its project The Living Thames. The project involves taking young people on an eye-opening boat trip on the Thames to experience its wonders, encourage them to fall in love with it, and therefore take better care of it. This idea was successfully piloted with the young people and their families who live along the Thames in the East of London.

Voting for projects is open in stores throughout May and June. Customers will cast their vote using a token given to them at the check-out in store each time they shop.

Tesco’s Bags of Help project has already delivered over £28.5 million to more than 4,000 projects up and down the UK. Tesco customers get the chance to vote for three different groups every time they shop. Every other month, when votes are collected, three groups in each of Tesco’s regions will be awarded funding.

 

Lindsey Crompton, Head of Community at Tesco, said:

 “We are absolutely delighted to open the voting for May and June. There are some fantastic projects on the shortlists and we can’t wait to see them come to life in hundreds of communities.”

 

Groundwork’s National Chief Executive, Graham Duxbury, said:

 “We’ve been thrilled to see the diversity of projects that have applied for funding, ranging from outdoor classrooms, sports facilities, community gardens, play areas and everything in between.

We’re looking forward to learning the results of the customer vote and then supporting each group to bring their project to life.”

 

Funding is available to community groups and charities looking to fund local projects that bring benefits to communities. Anyone can nominate a project and organisations can apply online. To find out more visit www.tesco.com/bagsofhelp.

New Government Litter Strategy for England

 

In a press release the government announced that litter louts could be hit with £150 fines as part of ambitious new plans to tackle rubbish in England.

Under the new measures, the most serious litterers could be hit with the £150 fines, while vehicle owners could receive penalty notices when it can be proved litter was thrown from their car – even if it was discarded by somebody else.

The new motoring rules, which are already in force in London, make owners liable even if they didn’t throw the litter themselves.

 

Environment Secretary Andrea Leadsom said:

“Litter is something that affects us all – blighting our countryside, harming our wildlife, polluting our seas, spoiling our towns, and giving visitors a poor impression of our country.

Our litter strategy will tackle this antisocial behaviour by building an anti-litter culture; making it easier for people to dispose of rubbish; and hitting litter louts in the pocket.

We want to be the first generation to leave our environment in a better state than we found it, and tackling litter is an important part of our drive to make the country a better place to live and visit.”

 

Further new measures drawn up by environment, transport and communities departments include:

  • Issuing new guidance for councils to be able to update the nation’s ‘binfrastructure’ through creative new designs and better distribution of public litter bins, making it easier for people to discard rubbish.
  • Stopping councils from charging householders for disposal of DIY household waste at civic amenity sites (rubbish dumps) – legally, household waste is supposed to be free to dispose of at such sites.
  • Recommending that offenders on community sentences, including people caught fly-tipping, help councils clear up litter and fly-tipped waste.
  • Working with Highways England to target the 25 worst litter hotspots across our road network to deliver long-lasting improvements to cleanliness.
  • Creating a ‘green generation’ by educating children to lead the fight against litter through an increased number of Eco-Schools and boosting participation in national clean-up days.
  • Creating a new expert group to look at further ways of cutting the worst kinds of litter, including plastic bottles and drinks containers, cigarette ends and fast food packaging.

 

Communities Minister Marcus Jones said:

“It’s time we consigned litter louts and fly-tippers to the scrap heap of history. Through our first ever National Litter Strategy we plan to do exactly that.

Our plans include targeting the worst litter hotspots, cracking down on litter louts with increased fines and getting people to bin their rubbish properly.

For too long a selfish minority have got away with spoiling our streets. It’s time we sent them a clear message – clean up or face having to cough up.”

 

Transport Minister John Hayes said:

“Litter on our roads is a major and costly problem to deal with. It makes our roads look messy, can threaten wildlife and even increase the risk of flooding by blocking drains.

To combat this needless blight on our landscape, I am working with Highways England to target the worst 25 litter hotspots on our road network, on which hundreds of thousands of sacks are collected every year with the clean-up bill running into millions of pounds.

By increasing fines and working with local authorities, the Government is taking decisive action to clean up our environment.”

 

The strategy also outlines measures to protect seas, oceans and marine life from pollution. It builds on the success of the 5p plastic bag charge, which has led to a 40% decrease in bags found on the beach.

Funding will also be made available to support innovative community-led projects to tackle litter that could turn local success stories into national initiatives.

The Government will follow the strategy with a new national anti-littering campaign in 2018, working with industry and the voluntary sector to drive behaviour change.

The consultation on the new enforcement measures officially opens today. Guidance will then be issued to councils to accompany any new enforcement powers, to make sure they are targeted at cutting litter, while preventing over-zealous enforcement or fines being used to raise revenue.

Community Resilience Handbook

Catherine Quinn 

 

Southwell, a town in Nottinghamshire, suffered a major flood in July 2013.  Local people joined together to create the Southwell Flood Forum and with support of local government bodies and other agencies have developed a Community Resilience Handbook to enable the community to deal more effectively with a future disaster.

Church Street, Southwell 2013

Community Resilience is defined as a way of future-proofing Southwell for incidents that have the potential to disrupt day to day life.  Equipping the residents to know what to do and when to do it is key to this resilience. It encourages residents to make their own emergency plan and provides some things to think about and links to other services for further information.

 

The Handbook is clearly set out and attractive to read. It covers a diverse range of topics including:

 

  • The progress from flood to resilience
  • The meaning of community residence for an individual or household including the importance of pre-planning
  • Understanding weather
  • The Emergency Plan including an Emergency Communications Hub, a road closure scheme with map and the role of trained wardens
  • Looking after drains and watercourses
  • The roles of the emergency services and other agencies
  • Flood mitigation and management, and concludes with
  • a Quick Emergency Guide

 

The Handbook is an example of how a community has worked together with other agencies to create a framework for better residence to flooding and other emergencies.

 

The Southwell Flood Forum has used various methods of engaging with the community to raise awareness including co-operating with a PhD student from the University of Nottingham in involving the community in flood modelling.

 

The National Flood Forum supports communities to set up their own local flood forums and there is helpful information about this on their website.

A Potential Boating Skills Academy

 

A group of four students from a university in the United States are conducting a feasibility study concerning the regeneration of the island Lot’s Ait, located at the junction of the Grand Union Canal and the River Thames in Brentford.

 

The abandoned building on the island would be regenerated to be used for both a boating skills academy and for watersports skills training. The skills academy would teach basic boating repair and maintenance skills and may be sponsored by the boating repair business on the island, John’s Boat Works.

 

Lot’s Ait
Abandoned Building

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In addition, a pontoon located at the St. George Kew Bridge Development would be relocated to Lot’s Ait for the watersports to launch from. Currently there are multiple parties in negotiation with St. George Property Developers, the owner of the pontoon, to move or relocate the pontoon from its current location but little progress has been made thus far. The feasibility of the project is reliant on the ability to move the pontoon.

 

The project team have created a survey to determine the level of boating skills of residents in and around London, and to gage the interest in an academy. We would greatly appreciate it if you take a few minutes to complete this survey in order to help them regenerate the island. The survey link is as follows: http://bit.ly/2nUWXdM

Panorama of the Thames riverside

The Panorama of the Thames conservation project, the brain child of John Inglis and Jill Sanders, is creating a unique and enduring historical record of the banks of the river through the capital, London.

Inglis and Sanders’s work on the Thames riverside is based on a rare, hand coloured tourist guide published in 1829 by London bookseller Samuel Leigh. The work shows in pictorial form both banks of the river between Westminster and Richmond: 15 miles.

The pair have digitally restored this guide and created a delightful book from it.

Both the original 1829 and the 2014 panoramas of the riverside, between Kew Bridge and Tower Bridge, are complete and Inglis and Sanders add more information to those buildings and landmarks as they become available.

Thames panoramas
Thames Panoramas

The panorama contains spectacular images and videos, with an extensive database to cover every feature along 52 miles of riverbank.

The website provides public access to some of the material from this, big, ongoing project.

Funded by individual contributions and community groups, the project shows the built and the natural environment along the river, as seen in the early 19th century. It includes a fully restored version of the orginal publication which depicts the Thames riverside in 1829.

John Inglis and Jill Sanders, in their recent Panorama newsletter (www.panoramaofthethames.com),  comment that a new tab comparisons is now on the main website menu. This shows a new page which compares specific landmarks in two time periods.

Inglish and Sanders say: We will be adding more comparisons as we progress. The big advantage of presenting the comparisons in this way is that each of the images is live and can be scrolled to find other comparisons.

If you manage to find interesting new comparisons, please let us know and we can add them to the page. We welcome from the public any corrections and text contributions.

Since we started the project (in 1999) we have been giving presentations of our progress to local societies and groups along the river. We must have done about 30 presentations now in as many venues.

We have just completed a presentation for the Kew Society at the National Archives where the facilities are absolutely excellent – superb quality projection and sound, and facilities that include seating for about 120.

A new theatre seating about 300 is due for completion at Kew later this year.  This was by far the best venue we have used since we started our presentations and we highly recommend it.

We spoke to the Operations Director at the National Archives who is keen to provide the facilities to other local groups and societies.  We can forward contact details if you are interested.

The Kew Society’s  talks are free to members but they charge for non members which helps pay for any expenses and provides income.

We do not charge local groups for giving our presentations as we sell our books afterwards.  The Kew presentation was pretty much to a full house.

We have new presentations coming later this year including: a talk about how the 1829 panorama was made and how we went about restoring it, another talk about the life of Samuel Leigh (the original publisher of the 1829 panorama; and how to use our website. This last requires a fast and reliable wi-fi connection, as we had at the National Archives, and at the RCA Dyson Building in Battersea.

Our book Panorama of the Thames, A Riverside View of Georgian London (Thames & Hudson) is nearing the end of its first print run and we don’t know if it will go into a second run – it may not. You can buy the book for £30+shipping for a signed first edition. Send an email to info@panoramaofthethames.com

Already A Riverside View of Georgian London by John R Inglis & Jill Saunders is fetching high prices with antiquarian dealers and book collectors both in the UK and internationally.

https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/offer-listing/B01FGL5UJI/ref=sr_1_1_olp?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1489932428&sr=1-1&keywords=B01FGL5UJI

https://www.amazon.com/gp/offer-listing/B01FGL5UJI/ref=sr_1_1_olp?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1489932428&sr=1-1&keywords=B01FGL5UJI

Go to the News page on the website up to date on the time and location of our next presentation.
http://www.panoramaofthethames.com/news.html

Audrey Snee, publisher to those living in Leigh and Southend

Audrey Snee, her journalist husband and two children, are citizens of Leigh-on-Sea, an historic fishing community of the estuary found just west of Southend.

Audrey is an example of the good things incomers bring to an area. A former financial journalist, she and her husband decided to move to Leigh about 15 years ago for the fresh air and affordable housing, while being in touch with London.

Audrey found a reporting job at the Southend Echo: “I enjoyed working there. It put me in touch with the area, the history of the town, its traditions, connecting with people”.

It was a good spot for her to bring up the children because Southend has lots of interest and history with many a tale to tell. She says, “We have fishermen here who can chart their family fishing businesses back over six generations, also we have the cocklers community,

She got to know Leigh man Paul Gilson. He was looking to publish a book of his memories of over 40 years of fishing in the estuary, of his family’s 300-year tradition in the trade. Nothing daunted, she set up in 2011 Estuary Publishing on her kitchen table and published her first title, Sole Searching by Paul Gilson that year.

Her next project was a children’s fantasy novel Festival of the Gargoyles set along the estuary marshes, by local writer Robert Hallmman and illustrated by local artist David Hurrell.

Audrey has more books on local themes in the pipeline. “It’s a shoe string affair with funds from one publication helping to finance the next, but it is interesting and it’s a way to get in touch with a wider public,”  she explains.

The most well received title from Estuary Publishing is EKCO Sounds by Chris Poole and Peter C Browne. It’s the story of Southend’s fascinating EKCO Bakelite radio factory, set up by Eric Kirkham Cole (EKCO) in 1924.

EKCO did top secret radar work in World War II, and went on to produce home-ware plastics, becoming a global brand in the 1960s and ‘70s.

“Eric Cole was the Steve Jobs of his era, creating gadgets when new technology came along, such as the car radio,” says Audrey.

Eric Cole, died in mysterious circumstances shortly after his wife’s death in 1966. His son Derek Cole helped the authors put together the story.

Southend is showing signs of being proud of its EKCO heritage. Bellway Homes has named a 230-house estate EKCO Park.

Audrey and other enthusiasts are campaigning to erect a statue of Eric Cole, possibly near the site of the EKCO factory, opposite Southend’s Priory Park.

Audrey is pivotal in Southend’s Active Art Group, where writers and artists put on shows and events, supported by the council. She runs the Southend Writers and Artists Network, an online forum of 160 members. It reaches out to all things creative in the estuary and take part in the thriving annual Essex Book Festival.

So what about being a small business person, like Audrey, in and round Southend and the estuary? She answers, “My business seeks out local writers, artists, book designers, editors, photographers, and importantly for Southenders, brings a bit of fame to the area.”

She warns she doesn’t make much money, but it’s a fulfilling way of life which she can fit in around her family.

Audrey makes a plea: “There’s so much potential here. I wish that what we do in the arts would receive more support. There is never, ever any funding – even though we help put Southend on the map.”

Anyone wishing to back the EKCO statue project please contact: audrey@estuarypublishing.co.uk

See a video about EKCO: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JhF2UepHCBw.

Natural England’s vision of a new enabling culture

Stephen Bradley

 

“Conservation 21: Natural England’s conservation strategy for the 21st Century” published in October 2016 is based on three key principles:

  • creating resilient landscapes and seas
  • putting people at the heart of the environment
  • growing natural capital

Natural England (NE) recognises in this document that restrictive and protective conservation has sometimes alienated the people they need to engage and that there is a need for a new approach to enhance and inspire people’s engagement with nature, in a context of reduced government funding and “post EU Referendum opportunities” .

 

Their emphasis is that conservation is not about “holding things back” but about restoring ecosystems, and integrating conservation with land use planning as “conveners and enablers rather than enforcers”, to make “a healthy natural environment a central part of health, wealth and prosperity…”. They aspire to position the concept of natural capital at the centre of policy-making and decision-making with the potential to incentivise investment that enhances natural capital to the benefit of communities as well as ensuring compensation for damage to natural capital.

 

In taking forward this strategy to 2020, NE proposes to explore opportunities for constructive change and increasing long-term resilience and better outcomes for places and communities, as well as focusing on “big opportunities” at a “landscape scale” rather than “small risks” using “regulatory levers more strategically”. In detail, they expect to “provide expertise and evidence..rather than focus on enforcement”.

 

View the full document here