New project will improve the natural state of River Cray

A £45,000 project will put the River Cray back on the map as a thriving habitat for wildlife and a natural and recreational feature for the local community, who are encouraged to get involved with the project.

A stretch of the much-modified Cray River running through Foots Cray Meadows in Bexley is going to be improved for the benefit of the community and environment.

Changes to the river over the years, including straightening parts of it, installing concrete culverts, and widening, have reduced its potential as a habitat and a natural feature for people to enjoy. The project, which is expected to last until the summer of 2016 will seek to change this.

Funding is coming from The Veolia Environmental Trust who has awarded a grant of £31,000 through the Landfill Communities Fund, with additional support from The London Borough of Bexley, North Kent Countryside Partnership and the Daily Mail & General Trust.

Improvements to the river will include making a more varied flow by building pools and shallows modifying its depth and width, making it more natural and winding, improving its banks and planting them with species that attract certain insects and animals. The project is also designed to inform and inspire local residents to protect and enhance it once this scheme is complete.

Thames21 has worked on the Cray for many years and has developed good links with the local community and environmental and wildlife groups. This project has been drawn up in direct response to their comments and thoughts about the river. The scheme fits into several already ongoing schemes and plans concerning the river through the Cray Catchment Improvement Group and London waterways in general.

Senior Programmes Manager for Thames21, Chris Coode, said, “At the moment, the Cray is missing many natural features and could be so much better. This project will change this. By greening and softening it and enhancing both its habitats and how it looks, we will create a real asset for the wildlife and people of Sidcup and the surrounding area.  “As well as the environmental benefits, we envisage the increase in people visiting to enjoy the improved river will also result in benefits for Bexley’s Health and Wellbeing Strategy 2013-2015.”

The Executive Director of The Veolia Environmental Trust, Paul Taylor, adds, “This exciting project will have wide ranging benefits for both the environment and people of all ages.

“Rivers like the Cray are important parts of our landscape and we are pleased to be helping to return this one to a more natural and attractive condition. I look forward to seeing the project develop over the next couple of years.”

Everybody is encouraged to get involved and anyone who wants to find out more on how to get involved should contact Thames21’s River Cray Riverkeeper Michael Heath, 07968 805 751