I was excited at the thought of looking for one of London’s lost rivers. It sounded like an adventure. I had read a really interesting blog about lost urban rivers by Alan Broadhead a PhD student from Sheffield and I became intrigued. Alan kindly sent me some information about London’s lost rivers. The London Rivers action plan was published in 2009 and details plans to restore and improve London’s rivers in ways that improve flood risk management. In the 20th Century many of the Thames’ tributaries were channeled or covered up to facilitate urban development but this constrains their flow.
I found out that part of the River Quaggy had been buried in a huge pipe under Sutcliffe Park in Eltham. It had been buried for over 50 years so most people living in the area didn’t know it existed. It would have been erased from the collective community memory hence lost rivers. In 2003 the river was daylighted which is the term used to describe the restoration of rivers that have been covered up with concrete. Sutcliffe Park is in Eltham in the Royal Borough of Greenwich and I had never visited before so wasn’t sure what to expect.
I should have been better prepared and wore wellington boots. The footpath that runs along the course of the river was flooded and the surrounding area very muddy. Wetlands in the middle of the city. It was a refreshing sight. The sound of the birds was unexpected. As I walked around the lake I was astounded by how close you could get to the geese and moorhens. There are viewing platforms and raised boardwalks that give you access to the river and the lake. This development has certainly enhanced the urban park experience. The park borders the new Kidbrooke Village development and I was surprised to see that many of the apartments have now got a river view.
The information boards are good. I found out that the river will flood at least once a year and had been designed to store excess flood water. In doing so it protects 600 homes from flooding. From the park the river flows downstream through Lee and Lewisham and on to Deptford. You can see the river in a channel at the back of the north side of Lee High Road. When it reaches Lewisham it meets the Ravensbourne. Close to Lewisham rail station is the confluence of both rivers but I just wonder how many people pass this and don’t realise that they are so close to two rivers.