Restoring the Roding

IMG_0013-1536x1152Thames21 project partners walking along the Roding in Wanstead Park

The Thames21 project is making improvements to the River Roding adjacent to Wanstead Park. In the first of a series of articles, Catchment Partnership Development Officer Will Oliver explains the background

The River Roding is London’s third longest tributary of the Thames. It rises in Essex before flowing 50km south, through east London, meeting the Thames at Barking.

Like many of England’s rivers, the Roding is suffering. Historically, the river has been straightened and widened, losing much of the natural connectivity to its floodplain that would otherwise support a range of biodiverse wetland habitats. Combined sewer overflows (CSOs), road run-off and agricultural inputs have caused a decline in water quality and barriers – such as the Redbridge gauging weir – block the movement of migratory fish species.

On its journey through London, the River Roding forms the eastern boundary of Wanstead Park. In its natural state, the river here should appear ‘untidy’. The channel should meander across the land and provide deep, slow pools interspaced with fast, shallow riffles and glides. Aquatic plants should be found throughout and there should be areas of clean, loose gravel for fish to spawn in. Take a look at the river next time you walk along its banks here and you’ll see that, instead of this complex mosaic of habitats and flows, the channel resembles a canal. It follows an unnaturally straight course characterised by a uniform shallow, lazy glide and lack of aquatic plants. This means the river only has limited value to fish, birds and insects.

Fallen trees would have once been common within a river. As water worked its way around them, deep scoured pools, fast runs, shallow riffles and areas of slack, sheltered water would form. In this way, fallen trees act as the engineers of a healthy river and provide vital habitats for fish and aquatic life. Historically, fallen trees have been removed from rivers to ease the passage of water downstream.

Thames21 is an environmental charity and member organisation of the Rivers Trust. Our goal is to put healthy rivers at the heart of community life. Working in partnership with the City of London (Epping Forest), Vision RCL and the local Friends of Wanstead Parklands and Wren Wildlife groups, Thames21 is developing a project to improve the habitat within the Roding adjacent to Wanstead Park.

This project will add strategically placed fallen trees to this stretch of the river. These trees will help to restart natural processes and encourage more diverse and improved habitats to form. They will be secured in place to ensure they do not pose a flood risk, with all works reviewed and approved by the Environment Agency. The project will enlist the help of local volunteers and is scheduled for completion in early 2022. Many thanks go to Essex and Suffolk Water and Britvic for funding these improvements.

For more information and to get involved with the Thames21 project in Wanstead Park, email will.oliver@thames21.org.uk