Reg. Charity No. 1091000

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Five kingfishers on Monday

We just wanted to quickly say thank you to Ed, a Wandle Wanderer, for this beautiful picture of a kingfisher enjoying our restoration work – he managed to see five along the Wandle on Monday!

One of five Kingfishers spotted on the Wandle


September 15, 2014   No Comments

Welcome to Polly, Luke and Olly! (and sorry to Norfolk’s rivers!)

In the past few weeks we have had three new members of staff join the Wandle Trust & SERT team.

Polly Bryant joins us from Norfolk County Council and will be running our volunteer events; Luke Mitchell, who has been undertaking research on the River Stiffkey in Norfolk, will be working on river restoration projects – you may well bump into him in Ravensbury Park; and Olly van Biervliet, previously at Norfolk Rivers Trust, will be picking up our water quality projects from Claire.

(Whilst we’re very sorry to see Erica move on – at least she’s moving to Norfolk!)

Within half an hour of arriving at the Trust, Polly, Luke and Olly were already getting stuck into our river restoration work at Hackbridge!

Luke, Polly and Olly get stuck in!

Luke, Polly and Olly get stuck in!

September 10, 2014   No Comments

Hackbridge river restoration – the work progresses.

The river has continued to change quickly as our skilled contractors from Cain Bioengineering bring to fruition our plans. Nick, Jimmy, Alex, Will and James (with the occasional visit from Pete) have been working hard to continue the bank formation, backwater creation and island regrading with diggers, faggot bundles, stone, gravel and a lot of hard work.


The Cain Bioengineering crew hard at work:

This has resulted in a narrowing of the low flow channel and increased flows instream.  The narrowing and meandering river channel brings a lovely diversity of flow to the river which is important to give different habitats for different species of fish, plant and invertebrate life.


Increased flow diversity brings increased habitats:

As the work progressed the rivers natural gravels were revealed by the increased energy of the water and the working of the bed.  the gravels vary in size from very small to ‘cow skull’ size pieces of flint.  It is amazing to think that many of these gravels have probably not seen the light of day for hundreds of years!


Natural Wandle gravels:

A causeway has been  built which creates a separation of the river from the backwater pond area.  A bed of stone was laid onto which coir geotextile (appropriate considering how many coconuts we find in the river!) was laid. Gravel was used to weight the coir down and then silt and sediment from the pond area was laid over this and the coir folded and sown shut to create, in essence,  a large sausage like growbag!


The making of a causeway:

More silt and sediment was then overlaid ready for planting up with marginal plants.

The electricity cables were eventually spiked and cut to prove that they were indeed abandoned and this then allowed work to commence on the removal of the 3rd weir below the footbridge.


Proving the electricity cables are dead so we can excavate the bed:

The breaker soon made short work of the concrete and brick structure and the river was free of its last obstruction (around Culvers Island that is!). Soil from the island and sediment removed from the backwater pond area was placed onto the new banks ready for our planting events on 6,7 and 8th September.  There is still space to attend if you would like to. Contact Erica Evans at to sign up.


The third weir bites the dust:

Many passersby have commented on how clean the river now looks as the silt has been shifted and the clean gravels are seen. The increased water flow and movement is important in increasing oxygen levels in the water too. The Heron loves the work and has been seen at all times of day feasting on the thousands of tiny fish in the area.


The heron enjoys it’s rich feeding grounds:

The Contractor’s work will soon be finished – watch this space for a final update!

Then it is onto the planting and hopefully good growing conditions this autumns!

September 4, 2014   No Comments

Hackbridge river restoration project underway!

After months of planning and preparation the weir removal and river restoration project at Hackbridge is finally underway!

Those of you who have crossed the road bridge over the river or walked along the Wandle Trail in the past few weeks will have seen big changes with heavy machinery in the river, the sound of breaking concrete and the sight of a river re-emerging.

Our skilled contractors Cain Bioengineering with site manager Nick and his team of Alex and Jimmy have been working hard to bring to reality our vision for the river.

pic 1 compound

Gravel, stakes and hazel faggot bundles at the ready in the compound:

The work started with the removal of the heavily creosoted toeboarding from around the edge of the island.

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Toeboarding removed from the island and an old speaker found in the river!:

pic 3 skip toeboarding

The toeboarding still smelt strongly of creosote after many years in the riverbank:

A new island bank line was then created with hazel faggot bundles secured with chestnut stakes and backed with coir netting in order to extend the island and narrow the river.  Sediment from the channel (of which there was a lot!) was then placed behind the new bank line.  This sediment is a result of the weirs slowing the water flow and causing sediment particles to settle out and smother the natural gravel bed.

pic 5 scraping silt

Scraping sediment to place behind the new bank line:

After the creation of a new bank line parts of the island were regraded to create a gradually sloped bank that will be planted up at a later date with plants suitable for the different habitat zones created. The dead trees were retained as they are an important habitat for all sorts of creatures including bats, woodpeckers and invertebrates.

pic 4 regraded island

Regrading the island with the excavator:

With the bed nearest the weir cleared of much of the sediment the weirs were breached and the process of breaking up the old weir structures begun.  The weir was found to be made up of cast iron plates, concrete, brick and lumps of chalk.  The cast iron was recycled and the proceeds will be converted into a pair of waders for our volunteer events!

pic 6 weir removal

Smashing up the old weir:

Once the weirs were breached the water levels dropped upstream and the process of narrowing the channel was started with a combination of more posts and faggot bundles or stone.

pic 7 narrowing

Forming a new bank line to narrow the river:

A sinuous meandering channel is starting to take shape and will allow for a variety of depths and flows with deeper faster flowing outside bends and shallower slower flowing inside bends providing varied habitats.

pic 8 taking shape]

Starting to take shape:

There have been many practical challenges along the way with sewer pipes, water mains and electricity cables criss crossing the river to be identified and avoided.  The joys of urban river restoration projects!

9 pipe location

Locating an electricity cable:

Look out for more updates as the work takes shape over the next week!

We will be holding a number of planting events to plant the island with native plant species in early September so please get in touch if you are interested in getting involved.

August 22, 2014   3 Comments

Wandle cleanup: August 2014: Sutton

The one with the remnants of Hurricane Bertha

After weeks of beautiful sunshine, we had everything crossed that the torrential rain forecast for the day of our cleanup would somehow miraculously steer clear of Beddington Park.   To begin with it seemed fine…

…. and then the heavens opened and it lashed down for 45 minutes.

Waiting to see whether any volunteers would turn up at all, we were astonished, but delighted, to see 10 people appear through the swish of the van’s windscreen wipers.

In addition, Amanda, a presenter/producer from Living Surrey – a television programme, which as its name suggests, features county interviews, news and more – had emailed to say that she would like to come and film us at work on the same day.

During a lull in the downpour, our hardy volunteers all decided that, as they had turned up and were already quite wet, that they would like to do something rather than go home.  Hurray!

So, in a rather pared down version of our usual cleanup, we got kitted up in waders and gloves, took builders bags, bin bags and litter pickers in 3 wheelbarrows, stored all our personal belongings in the van, and trekked off into the soggy parkland to pull up the remaining stands of Himalayan balsam, spotted the Saturday before.

We pulled up a good few stands in the little wetland under the trees

and having wheeled these to the car park just off London Road, where Sutton Council had asked us to put it, we started on the bank just by the stone and flint bridge.

We were making excellent progress when we received a telephone call from Amanda to say she and David, the cameraman, had arrived.

So this seemed a good time to take a break.  Even though we’d brought all the bits and pieces for  refreshments, we decided that it was easier to take our chocolate muffins to the Pavilion cafe and buy all the volunteers teas and coffees instead of firing up the gas boiler.

Amanda and David joined us at the picnic benches outside the cafe and began interviewing our volunteers, asking them what it was that motivated them to turn out on such a wet day!  Tune into the programme on Sky 192 from 15th August at 7pm (or go to their website – Episode 6) to find out what they said!

With a camera and sound boom in tow, we went back to our HB bashing and everyone was filmed pulling up the few remaining stands

loading them into the builders’ bags or wheeling them all away.

Finally, when we all agreed that it was a ‘wrap’,  we went our separate ways home for hot baths and dry clothes

but not before AJ tipped out one last bag of HB on to the pile in the car park before we set off for the garage.

Huge thanks to AJ who helped load up, drive and unload the van, to Bill Wyatt and Ian Hudson who organised the removal of the balsam, and to our small team of valiant if rather sodden volunteers:

AJ, Ali, Bert, Charles, Chris, David, Per, Rose, Sid and Tony

August 17, 2014   No Comments


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July’s picnic was our chance to say thank you and farewell (in due course) to Erica who has organised and run the monthly cleanups since November 2008. She has only missed one – a friend of hers was celebrating a 50th birthday with an elegant lunch at a hotel in Sussex – an invitation she couldn’t refuse – but Erica still came and loaded up the van on that morning, leaving Andy and me to drive to the location and supervise the volunteers!


Erica has decided to join her family in East Anglia and even we have to agree that this location is a little too far to just ‘pop down’ to the Wandle and see which bits need cleaning up. So, whilst we were all relaxing on the grass with our delicious picnic, we made a few speeches, presented her with a card signed by everyone, containing something for her to spend in John Lewis, as well as giving her a Jane Porter original ‘Wandle’ picture (note the eels in the car tyre!)



and, of course, a coconut! Our regular volunteers know that when we decided to keep a record of the amount and type of rubbish removed from the Wandle, there would inevitably be a coconut. Curious as to why this was, Erica researched the reasons and wrote a piece for our newsletter (it’s to do with the Hindu festival of Ganesh). Since then, it’s been an ongoing symbol of our efforts to protect the river.

She wanted me to let you know that she was absolutely thrilled with her presents and sends a huge thank you to everyone. She was so touched by all your good wishes and hopes to catch up with you all as she’ll continue to organise the cleanups until a successor has been appointed, and will help handover to the new person too.


Erica says she will definitely be back to pick up a litter picker and bin bag and be part of the happy band of volunteers that make Wandle cleanups the success they are.

I’m sure those of you who know her would like thank her for her commitment and for the hard work she has put in since she became involved with the trust around 15 years ago, and wish her all the very best for the future.


August 2, 2014   No Comments

Wandle cleanup: July 2014: Sutton

The one with less Himalayan balsam but more rubbish  

So far this summer has been good – we’ve had some lovely, long, hot days – and the Sunday of our July cleanup should have been the same bearing mind that last year we nearly expired in the heat!

A few showers threatened, but that didn’t prevent 41 volunteers turning up to bash Himalayan balsam and pick up rubbish from the Wandle in Beddington Park.

Having written an extremely good book on invasive species it was wholly appropriate for Theo to tell everyone about HB, where it came from, how to remove it and to show those who were new to balsam bashing, what the plant looked like.

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After the mini tutorial, our volunteers, who were already clad in waders, took wheelbarrows and other bits of equipment and trekked across the meadow to the red brick bridge

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ready to get into the river and get started.


Just to make sure that we had deployed our volunteers to the right location, Theo and I went to Richmond Green, where we started balsam bashing in 2009, to see if there were any ‘stands’ there.

To our enormous delight, there were none – at all!  There were none either on the way down to Guy Road, none in the culvert that runs under Beddington Lane, and none in the first part of the park.  There were a few in the small ‘wetland’ which Theo got rid of, but the remainder were located on the right angled stretch where we’d sent our volunteers.

As well pulling up all the HB, there was rubbish to collect too, but not before the skeleton of some curious creature was spotted under the surface of the water!


There was a quick but heavy shower fairly early on and Tim, AJ, Helen and others huddled under some overhanging branches to take shelter.


After the shower blew over, our hardy volunteers resumed their balsam removal.

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For such a short stretch of river, there were an astonishing 8 shopping trolleys found – all branded ASDA as Roger pointed out to Jason:


and brought back to the dumpsite located in the corner of the car park.  Nick wheeled this one in a barrow accompanied by Jonathan, Jez and Bella.


We decided work was over for the day by 1.30 as Sally and Jana called us to say that they were ready to serve up the picnic.  We have one annually as a way of saying thank you to our wonderful volunteers who turn out in all weathers and who work so hard to rid the Wandle of both rubbish and HB.

Jana had made some delicious plaited loaves:

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Sally produced rice and pasta salads as well as the usual green leaf varieties, and we rounded everything off with cake and strawberries and cream.  Wow!  Huge thanks to them both for all the delicious food


which we enjoyed whilst sitting on the grass in the sunshine.


Our thanks to David of Sutton’s Waste Management Team for organising collection of all the rubbish and the HB.

Huge thanks to Gideon and AJ who loaded up and unloaded the van, even though they got stuck in horrendous traffic in Colliers Wood on the way back to the garage.

Thank you to all our volunteers: Abi, AJ, Alexandra,  Bella, Charles, Denis, Eliot, Gearoid, Gideon, Graham,  Helen, Ian, Jan, Jana, Jane, Jason, Jez, Joe, John L, John N, Jonathan, Keith R, Keith S, Leonie, Marion, Mark, Michael, Mike, Nicola,  Nick, Paul, Per, Roger, Rose, Sally, Sally Ann, Sid, Theo, Tim, Toby and Wally.

Who removed:  1 moss rake, 1 piece of chipboard, 1 ‘To Let’ sign, 1 flowerpot, 1 SuperMario, 1 set of bedsprings, 1 toy bunny, 1 folding chair, 1 garden chair, 2 crutches, 2 wheels, 2 tyres, 2 oil containers, 5 gas cylinders and 8 shopping trolleys.

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1 pile of Himalayan balsam.

All photographs Sally Ann Symis


July 27, 2014   No Comments

Two New Project Officer Positions with the Wandle Trust

The Trust is advertising two new Project Officer roles:

  • The first will deliver water quality enhancements including our volunteer pollution monitoring project
  • The second will support volunteers and empower them to help deliver river restoration works (this post is part-funded and supported by the National Lottery through the Heritage Lottery Fund as part of the Living Wandle programme).

Further details can be found in the links below and the deadline for applications is 5 pm on 14th July and 11 am on 15th July, respectively. Interviews will take place in the week commencing 21st July.



HighImpact logo CMYK

June 24, 2014   No Comments

Wandle cleanup: June 2014: Sutton

The one with the iron, the ditch and the sward-phobe!

On a lovely, warm summer’s day, 36 volunteers assembled at Culvers Avenue to cleanup round the island, and to work their way up to Hackbridge Road, picking up rubbish and removing Himalayan balsam stands, if they could find any.  Tim is overseeing some river restoration at this site over the coming months, so a pre-works cleanup was just what was needed.

We divided ourselves into two groups to tackle both the left and right hand arms of the river.

Up first, Gideon rescued a Care Bear by the leg:

Culvers Avenue 08

whilst Roger, with a paint tray in one hand, wondered what it was he had just picked up in the other!

Culvers Avenue 10

The small party of volunteers who tackled the right hand arm of the Wandle, wheeled back barrow after barrow of light litter, particularly cans of Red Stripe.

Culvers Avenue 18

As volunteers waded upstream in the cool shallows of the Wandle searching for rubbish, it was easy to imagine ourselves in the Surrey countryside of bygone days.

Culvers Avenue 06

Just before we stopped for a refreshment break, Gideon found a little purple pipe:

Culvers Avenue 17


Meanwhile Abi and Jo joined Roger at the growing rubbish pile to unload their trugs.

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We trooped back to the gazebo to enjoy tea, coffee, squash and delicious cakes brought by Ann, Jana and Sally.  There were bananas in one and raspberries in another so we decided we would count a slice of each towards our 5 (or is it 7) a day!

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Gideon, however, brought his own lunch, a much more healthy option, and settled down for a prandial natter with Tim who decided not to sit on the grass, but relaxed in the Kiwi-painted wheelbarrow that Jo had donated some months earlier.

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With one eye on the future we always like to encourage younger volunteers to help out, and this young man wanted to prove that he was old enough to join in by putting on a pair of gloves:

Culvers Avenue 25

After lunch, when we were refreshed and had topped up our sunscreen, we continued up towards Hackbridge Road.

Picking up rubbish can be hard work and sometimes when it’s hot, you just have to sit down where it’s coolest:

Culvers Avenue 21

All too soon it was time to down tools, have a final count up of the types and quantity of rubbish removed from the river, load up the van and head on home.

Culvers Avenue 32

Grateful thanks to David of Sutton’s Waste Management Team for organising collection of all the rubbish.

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Huge thanks to Gideon and AJ who loaded up the van, and to Gideon again who helped unload the van back at the garage.

Thanks to all our volunteers:  Abi, Adam, AJ, Ann, Bella, Bill, Charles, David, Diana, Eliot, Gearóid, Gideon, Graham, Helen H, Helen O, Jamie, Jana, Jane, John, Jo H, Jo S, Ken, Marianne, Nick B, Nick H, Paul, Roger, Rose, Russell, Sally, Sally Ann, Sid,  Theo, Tim, Vera and Will.

Who collected:  1 flowerpot, 1 stirrup pump, 1 garden chair, 1 mini snooker table, 1 child’s slide, 1 wheelbarrow, 1 tea light holder, 1 fire extinguisher, 1 carpet sweeper, 1 buggy, 1 radio-controlled boat, 1 suitcase, 1 hanging basket, 1 Jaguar steering wheel, 1 umbrella, 1 window frame, 1 road barrier, 1 child’s bicycle, 1 CD player, 1 car tyre, 1 office chair, 1 ornamental snail, 1 golf ball, 1 iron, 1 laptop, 2 bicycle tyres, 3 children’s scooters, 50 bin bags of light litter, and, of course, there’s always a coconut!

Culvers Avenue 31

All photographs Sally Ann Symis

June 18, 2014   No Comments

New book: The Pocket Guide to Balsam Bashing

Pocket Guide to Balsam Bashing

We are very excited to announce the recent publication of a new book by our Chairman of Trustees, Theo Pike, entitled ‘The Pocket Guide to Balsam Bashing – and how to tackle other Invasive Non-Native Species’.

This ground-breaking 96-page handbook includes more than 40 invasive non-native species (INNS) such as Himalayan balsam, giant hogweed, Chinese mitten crabs, signal crayfish and mink, with practical advice on how individuals and community groups like ours can take action against them or stop them spreading further.

Even reporting a sighting of oak processionary moths or Asian longhorn beetles can make a big difference to protecting our natural biodiversity, and there is also a section on biosecurity measures like Defra’s Check-Clean-Dry advice.

Best of all, since this book was partly inspired by the work of the Wandle Trust and our wonderful volunteers, you may even recognise yourself in one of the photos.

Copies of the ‘Pocket Guide to Balsam Bashing’ are available direct from the publishers, Merlin Unwin Books, or you can buy a signed copy from Theo at one of our community balsam bashing and river cleanup events!

May 20, 2014   No Comments