Volunteer Voice is when we hand over our project updates to one of our volunteers. Here is Michael’s account of what’s been happening on the River Pool.
For the last 5 years and primarily under the management of Vic Richardson Thames21 has been steadily improving the River Pool, part of the Waterlink Way just South of Catford, Lewisham. Over those years he has supervised and managed numerous Corporate Groups on river walks, clean ups and landscape management work on the River Pool and by virtue of his holding regular Wednesday work sessions has established a team of (mostly retired men) who often seemingly delight in the mud, cold and wet of working in a river (especially when it’s not them who just fell in or discovered their waders had a leak).
This dedicated team relish tackling foreign invasive species such as Japanese Knotweed, Himalayan Balsam and the dreaded Giant Hogweed, and in the course of giving vent to their destructive streak have made expeditions upstream and even to the river Brent in pursuit of their enemy.
In the river itself and using cut branches to make flow deflectors and berms; moving unmeasured wheelbarrow loads of soil the volunteers have introduced variety and interest in the current and flow of the river and its margins to improve the biodiversity of the river between Catford and Bellingham Green
Risking heat exhaustion and cracked ribs they have brought down mighty willows to allow light to reach the river, carved out steps and made riverside paths, constructed dead hedges and dead fences and collected litter all to improve the river, its landscaping and associated vegetation
In addition to the above two years ago Thames21 hired a digger to recover an overgrown pond, some 20 m from the river in a long neglected and forgotten wetland nature reserve. This proved to be the starting basis for the creation of a Friends of River Pool group, getting a grant from the Mayor’s Clean up fund for, amongst other things, the building of a dipping platform from old tow boarding for the pond,and restoring some 200 sq metres of Wetlands; at a stroke creating a SUDS (sustainable drainage system) and preventing a nearby allotment site being flooded
The number of the individuals who regularly attend are now too numerous to individually list but mention should be made of Richard, master of the leaky waders and the heavey iron spike used to break up the wooden tow boards that formed the sides and to release the formerly canallised river; Jonothan, a specialist in using bramble to create natural defences against human anti social activity and Chris, keeper of the team’s pesticide injector guns and a keen and experienced seeker- out -of and destroyer of Japanese Knotweed and Giant Hogweed.