London Rivers Week showcases the benefits of rewilding rivers

More than 150 people took part in the launch of London Rivers Week in Thamesmead on Saturday 25 May and hundreds got involved in 45 events across London’s rivers during the Week.

The launch took place beside the rewilded Birchmere Lake in Thamesmead, the location for many TV series and films. The lake and several of Thamesmead’s canals are pioneering cutting-edge rewilding technology – floating reedbeds, which Thames21 has already installed along much of the Lea Navigation.

Corporate London Event Photographer Josh Caius

There were free arts, crafts and walks for all ages, as well as angling demonstrations and citizen science workshops.

GLA Environment Committee chair Caroline Russell attended, along with ‘wet wipe art activist’ Kath Lovett, showcasing an embroidered patchwork made entirely from wet wipes.

Earlier that morning Thames21 CEO Debbie Leach spoke to John Humphrys about the benefits of rewilding on the Radio 4 Today programme  (starts at 1:25:12).

Floating reedbeds help ‘green the grey’ across London, bringing in biodiversity amongst the concrete, and can also help the capital cope with climate change impacts.

London Rivers Week is organised by the Catchment Partnerships in London Group to support and highlight the work being carried out by the 12 Catchment Partnerships across London. The so-called ‘catchment-based approach’ views rivers as whole systems: what happens upstream will affect the river downstream.

Corporate London Event Photographer Josh Caius

Highlights of London Rivers Week included three Secret Rivers Walks to help people trace the path of three buried rivers (the Fleet, the Walbrook and the Effra); Kings College London workshops showcasing natural flood management and river rewilding schemes and a Museum of London Docklands secret rivers exhibition. A new Fish Migration Map has also been launched, so that Londoners can help map the river barriers many fish face as they attempt to migrate through London.

Where London’s rivers have been restored and rewilded, they help us in lots of ways: provide homes for wildlife, soak up flood water, filter pollution and give us a space to unwind from the stress of city life. More than 30km of river has been rewilded, but there’s potential for 100km especially if developers and regeneration programmes get behind it.

London Rivers Week is an annual free festival celebrating the 600+km of waterway running through the capital, the same distance between Brighton and Edinburgh. This year it attracted media interest from London Live, the Financial Times and the Londonist amongst others.