Highlights From Tidal Thames Environment and Heritage Conference 2018

Progress towards the goals of the Port of London Authority’s Thames Vision was reviewed at their Tidal Thames Environment & Heritage Conference in January.


The theme this year was ‘Into the future through education, behavioural change and citizen science’. Katherine Riggs, Tanya Ferry and Alistair Gale of PLA set the scene.  Over 30% of the total length of riverfront between Teddington and the Mouth of the Thames Estuary (measured as 366km following the mean high water line) is now designated for nature and built heritage conservation. 
As part of PLA’s outreach programme, over 10,000 children a year now participate in the Riverside Code game.  Through social media and web presence, PLA is informing schools and general public about what happens on the River Thames, and the careers available. Feedback is actively sought on what more it could be doing. 


Following on, Trewin Restorick of the agency Hubbub discussed their “Changing Behaviour” work designing “playful campaigns that make it easier for people to lead healthier, greener lifestyle choices”. One such creative engagement is a litter awareness programme called “Plastic Fishing” which collected 8,000 plastic bottles to fabricate a boat comprised 99% of recycled plastic. This generated 45 media articles with 121 million “opportunities to see”.


Kevin East of British Canoeing works with DEFRA amongst others to control litter and to prevent the spread of aquatic invasive species. He does this through workshops for coaches and volunteers to promote sustainable environmental practices in paddlesports and participation in local environmental projects including “litter picks” and clearance of invasive non-native species.  


Simon Clarke explained the mission of the Thames Explorer Trust to “help ensure a better future for the river through education and engagement”.  Their steps to engagement are: Connection; Perception; Ownership and pride; Raising expectations. 

Jane Sidell of Historic England lamented that the story of our national coastal and maritime heritage of “commerce, conflict and leisure” is “poorly understood yet under considerable threat”. This is particularly true of the tidal Thames. 

Creekside Educational Trust at Deptford is one of the partner organisations that is addressing that deficiency. Jill Goddard of CET told of 153 school visits and engagement with 4116 children and 805 adults in the financial year (April 2016 – March 2017) citing one particularly ringing endorsement: “Wow, this is like many lessons in one! In the Creek we did geography, history, science and maths! And now we are even doing art with the field sketch”. 


Emma Smailes of Museum of London Docklands noted that their Archaeology of Crossrail has been their most popular exhibition to date with nearly 97,000 visitors during its six month run. 


AJ McConville of Thames 21, focused on “Solving the issue of plastic pollution in the tidal Thames” gave some startling statistics: products account for only 25% of litter – the rest being packaging; food wrappers account for 20% of all litter. Thames 21 promotes public engagement through volunteers (cleanups and surveys); schools (surveys); councils (linkages); and local businesses (contributions in kind). 


Fiona White of Kent Wildlife Trust explained how the Guardians of the Deep partnership programme with local authorities and nature conservancy bodies (www.guardiansofthedeep.org) supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund is involving the public in protecting marine areas as “coastal guardians” and “shore searchers”. 


Finally, Joanne Hill of the City of London Corporation spoke about the London Port Health Authority for the tidal Thames whose statutory duty is “to protect and improve public, environmental and animal health”.  Through the “The City of London Thames Fishery Research Experiment” which runs an annual angling competition at Denton, Gravesend, they aim to track the environmental condition of the River Thames through recording the “number of and size of fish species caught” which provides a 46 year long dataset. Eels and undersized fish caught are recorded and returned to the river. 


External Sources

Tidal Thames Environment and Heritage Conference 2018: presentations