Wandle cleanup: July 2016: Merton

The one with the dodo

Over the last couple of years, I’ve got quicker at packing the van and better at navigating the Wandle Valley and as a result I have started arriving to the cleanups earlier than usual. When I arrive, or not soon after, there have been people slowly arriving. However the morning of this cleanup, no one was there.

And no one was there at half 10…

And no one appeared until 10:50 – by which point I was experiencing a meltdown, checking I had sent the email, and that I wasn’t in the wrong place!

But in that 10 minutes, everyone appeared and we got started as usual. Phew!!

The event was funded through the Living Wandle Landscape Partnership, a HLF funded scheme all about reconnecting people with the River Wandle. This time, we were even joined by Louise, a team member from the Living Wandle crew!

After the Health & Safety briefing, we got stuck in.

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Firstly our wading team got into the river and headed downstream to Plough Lane Bridge. This small section is often missed on our usual cleanups as it has difficult access for bank support to heave the rubbish up and the waders have to go back on themselves to reach it.

However, it clearly needed some attention! The small stretch was full of rubbish, some of it buried in the silt and some new fresh items which might have been washed down in the recent high flows. Either way, trug after trug were filled with Theo and myself heaving them up the concrete side.

It didn’t take long until I was presented with my first gift from the cleanup – my Wandle slipper. It didn’t fit, which I suppose makes me the ugly sister, but I asked everyone to keep an eye out for Prince Charming just in case.

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One thing we were seeing a lot of were car carpets, we must have pulled out one in every trug load. On top of this, full carpets were being found, and duvets, all of which were extremely heavy having soaked up Wandle water and silt. A great work out for the arms, who needs a gym?

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 Just before lunch we even encountered a rare creature, believed to have been extinct for many years now – the dodo. This fella was discovered in the Wandle! Time to update those species records…

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It was soon lunchtime and we were all thankful for the break. As we drank our tea and ate our cake, we started discussing plans for the washing machine we had found earlier that morning. It was heavy and was at the difficult end of the site with a concrete bank between it and the rubbish pile. So we hatched a plan.

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Once lunch was over, Andy, Phil, Guy and Ed got back in the river and attached the grapple ropes to the washing machine. Everyone else, and I mean everyone else, gathered on the bank with the ropes and pulled like a well-oiled pulley machine.IMG_0417

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We got the washing machine to the top of the bank, but it became stuck under the concrete ledge. Luckily a final injection of muscle allowed us to lift it up and over and drag it to the rubbish pile.

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With that excitement over, everyone got back in the river and we started working upstream filling yet more trugs.

By the end of the day the rubbish pile was huge and everyone was very satisfied with their work for the day. Time to go home, catch the end of Murray’s game and prepare for the football.

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 So what did we find?  1 washing machine, 1 computer keyboard, 1 scooter, 1 crutch, 1 outer layer of a tent, 1 CD player, 1 record, 1 sun chair, 1 grill pan, 1 Cinderella shoe (no prince as of yet), 1 sleeping bag, 1 mattress wire, 1 telephone, 1 suitcase, 2 roller skates, 2 duvets, 2 licence plates, 2 bike frames, 3 toy guns, 3 coconuts, 3 tyres, 6 carpets, 20 car carpets

Huge thanks to the Living Wandle Landscape Partnership for funding the event as part of the River Guardians projects, everyone who helped unpack and pack up the van during the event, Rosie for supervising the Event Tent, Wally for helping supervise the cleanup, and the Waste Team at Merton Council for organising collection of all the rubbish the next day.

Thank you to all our volunteers for coming: Aaron, Andy, Charles, Chris, Dave, David, Ed, Ellie, Georgie, Guy, Jane, Joann, John N, John P, Josephine, Louise Co, Louise Cr, Mark, Maureen, Merel, Nick, Patrick, Per, Phil, Rose, Sally, Stet, Steve, Stuart, Theo, Tom and Wally

So what did I learn from this month’s cleanup?   That even if it is the men’s Wimbledon final, people still would rather come and clear up the Wandle!

 

 

Wandle cleanup: June 2016: Wandsworth

The one with all the rain

I have now been running cleanups for almost two years and I was getting pretty proud of my track record of providing sunshine for everyone. But I failed at this June cleanup. Really failed.

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The weather leading up to this cleanup had been very stormy, with thunder and lightning. The morning of the cleanup was drizzling rain – the deceptive sort of rain where you are unaware of just how wet you are getting. But thankfully, I wasn’t alone. A small group of volunteers showed up to power through the rain!

We were at Trewint Street for this cleanup, funded through the Living Wandle Landscape Partnership, a HLF funded scheme all about reconnecting people with the River Wandle. After the usual Health & Safety briefing we climbed down to the Wandle and started pulling out the rubbish which had collected from fly tipping, but also washed down from upstream in the recent heavy flows.

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Even though we were a small group, the rubbish was being dragged up the concrete banks with impressive speed. We found a bicycle, the old railings from the path (preventing access for motorbikes), a barrel and the drum of a washing machine.

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 And if that wasn’t challenge enough, we even found a mattress which took everyone to heave it up over the concrete banks and round to the ever growing rubbish pile.

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As the rain came down, I made use of the tent sides, which I was very thankful I’d decided to pack last minute – quite a squeeze for our little Zipvan.

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Instead of the usual litter picking, our other volunteers tackled a large stand of Himalayan balsam on the bank at Trewint Street. The stand was very dense and had grown very tall, but was yet to flower. Therefore by pulling it up now, we would be preventing it from seeding and making our job easier in the future when we make it down this far with our Invasive Species Officer.

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By lunchtime we were all pretty soaked, so we huddled under the tent to warm up with a cup of tea and some cake kindly made for us by Ann. Given the rain and our sodden coats, we decided to be democratic and take a vote on whether to keep cleaning, or to finish early and head home for warm showers.

I am sure you can guess which won…

So what did we find?  1 barrel, 1 bin, 1 bed headboard (dismantled), 1 washing machine drum, 1 plastic chair, 1 bike, 1 royal mail bag, 1 mattress, 1 country fair sign, 2 road signs, 3 bike barriers, 5 tennis balls, 20+ planks of wood and 35+ bags of other rubbish. Plus all that balsam!

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Huge thanks to the Living Wandle Landscape Partnership for funding the event as part of the River Guardians projects, everyone who helped unpack and pack up the van during the event, Rosie for supervising the Event Tent, Wally for helping supervise the cleanup, and the Waste Team at Wandsworth Council for organising collection of all the rubbish the next day.

Thank you to all our volunteers for coming:  Aaron, Andy, Ann, Charles, Chris, Claire, Dave, Derek, George, Guy, Joanna, John S, John N, Per, Phil, Rianna, Rose, Steve, Stewart, Wally and Will.

So what did I learn from this month’s cleanup?   That as much as I might think it, I cannot control the weather with the power of my mind. Time to work on the weather machine…

Wandle cleanup: May 2016: Sutton

The one with the traffic jam

For our May cleanup, we headed to Beddington Park. The event was funded by the Living Wandle Landscape Partnership, a HLF funded scheme all about reconnecting people with the River Wandle.

I arrived an hour and a half early for this event. Why you may ask? Well I was woken up early with a small nightmare about the cleanup. I dreamt that I arrived at the event, unpacked the van and got everything set up myself. At 11 o’clock no volunteers had arrived and instead I get a phone call saying I was in the wrong place, and all the volunteers were waiting the other side of the park!

Luckily on the day, this didn’t happen.

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For the day we had two aims: the first was our usual Wandle cleanup, and the second was to tackle invasive Himalayan balsam. In the past we’ve hunted balsam later in the year, when the plant stood high above the nettles with its bright pink flowers. Since we’re now getting closer to eradicating this species from Beddington Park and the upper Wandle, we decided to hit it even earlier in the year. But that did make spotting it slightly harder…

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After a welcome talk and Health & Safety briefing we divided into teams. We had a wading team which went off into the Wandle to start removing rubbish, we had a bank support team to ferry the rubbish to the pile, a litter picking team around the park and two balsam pulling teams headed up by Theo Pike and Alan Martin.

As our Invasive Species Officer, Alan had surveyed the whole park ahead of the event and mapped where the small balsam plants could be found. But as they were only small, our volunteers needed a keen eye.

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Meanwhile, our waders had already discovered a trolley!

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Keeping an eye on the waders involved some getting past some extensive greenery on the sides of the banks, something we don’t have a problem with in winter.

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By lunch time everyone was very hot and relieved to find a bit of shade from the hot sun. We sat around eating our lunches and drinking water, marvelling at the traffic chaos that was happening in the park. Car after car had turned up for a day in the sun only to result in a grid local down the narrow Church Road.

After lunch, the wading team heading further into the park and found another trolley, some traffic cones and a pot of paint.

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After this though, the river was very clear and for once we felt like what we were doing was making a difference.

The balsam bashing team continued to tackle the wetland areas within the park, making sure every last plant was discovered and pulled up.

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Finally after a long day in the sun, we packed up the van and all joined the traffic jam awaiting us trying to get down Church Road. What a palaver!

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So what did we find?  1 bucket, 1 cage front, 1 dismantled tent and wire, 1 saucepan (thought this might be a good addition to my new flat), 1 pot of paint, 2 trolleys, 2 road work signs, 3 disposable BBQs, 5 traffic cones, 6 panels of metal fencing, 15 planks of wood and 20 bags of other junk. Plus all the tiny, tiny balsam plants….

Huge thanks to the Living Wandle Landscape Partnership for funding the event as part of the River Guardians projects, everyone who helped unpack and pack up the van during the event, Rosie & Dave for supervising the Event Tent, Theo & Alan for helping supervise the balsam bashing, John, Chris and Wally for helping to supervise the waders and the Parks Team at Sutton Council for organising collection of all the rubbish the next day.

Thank you to all our volunteers for coming: Alex, Andrea, Andy, Anna, Ben, Charles, Chris, Dave, Derek, Ed, Geoff, Geoffrey, Gillian, Guy, Hanna, Helen, Henry, Hillevi, Ian, Isabelle, Jamie, Jane , Janet, JJ, Joe, John L, John N, John S, John W, Keith, Klara, Len, Mark M, Martina, Mia, Nick H, Nigel, Per, Rob, Rosie, Roy, Sally, Sofia, Sue, Thebias, Theo, Twyla, Victor, Wally and Will

So what did I learn from this month’s cleanup?   That Beddington Park is the beach of South London on a hot summer’s day.

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Award Winning Wandle Restoration

Our rehabilitation work on the Carshalton Arm of the River Wandle recently won the Urban Category of the 2016 UK River Prize – an incredible achievement for all of those involved.

To express our thanks to everyone who has helped us along the way over the last 10 years, we have created a short film. So make yourself a cup of tea and enjoy…

Wandle cleanup: April 2016: Wandsworth

The one with the local chef

For our April cleanup, it was time to venture to an unknown site for myself (but a well-known site for the regulars) – Ravensbury Terrace. This site is the next stop downstream from Trewint Street so we knew there would be plenty to find.

This was a slightly special cleanup as we were being filmed! Our work on the Carshalton Arm of the Wandle had recently won the Urban Category for the UK River Prize and for this we needed to produce a film about the project. One of the most important elements of our project was community engagement and our wonderful volunteers – and the cleanup was the perfect chance to catch them!

After a welcome talk from myself, we all got in the river to film a shot for our video – you’ll be able to watch the full film soon so keep your eyes peeled…

Once that was all wrapped up, the cleanup commenced. The first challenge was getting down to the bank via an upcycled staircase made of wooden pallets – the perfect addition to any fashionable London house. Once down there, we had a narrow path to ferry the rubbish back and forth.

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To make matters worse, there were several Giant Hogweed plants growing along the path. Giant Hogweed is a nasty invasive plant which can grow up to 5m tall – outshading native vegetation. The plant also produces a toxic sap which can cause chemical burns to the skin following exposure to sunlight. To help prevent anyone having to experience this, Theo Pike covered each plant with its very own traffic cone. We always there would be a use for all the traffic cones we found in the river!

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The rubbish quickly started appearing, as it always does. A metal drum, traffic cones, push chairs and more.

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As we worked up the river, we stumbled upon my favourite find of my (almost) two years of cleanups – a chef!

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As soon as he was safely out of the river, we made sure he was put to good use…

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Just before lunch, we got close to Trewint Street. On a previous cleanup there we had found a motorbike in the river, but we knew we’d be unable to haul it up the concrete flood walls above the bridge, so we pulled it out of the river and left it here it on the bank. But now it was time for collection.

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The bike was extremely heavy and the path was very narrow (even narrower with the hogweed plants). Our volunteer first broke the steering lock off the bike, allowing us to move it down the path easier. Two wrecking poles were then used to lift the bike.

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At the other end, our volunteers built a ramp up the pallet stairs and we all watched and hoped the ramp wouldn’t give way..

But it didn’t, one bike successfully removed. Time for lunch.

We were once again spoilt by the students from the American International University in London, who baked us a very impressive spread of cakes including salted caramel brownies and gooey chocolate cookies.

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During lunch, we even had time to interview some of our volunteers about the project and how the river in Carshalton has changed.

The cleanup resumed after lunch. A mattress was found and removed with some effort,  together with planks of wood and lots of piping as well.

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Cleanup 9Trug after trug were filled, emptied and ferried to the rubbish pile.

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So what did we find?  1 mattress, 1 chef statue, 1 jumper, 1 vase of flowers, 1 robot hand, 1 donkey toy from Shrek (great early birthday present, thank you), 1 motorbike, 1 pushchair, 2 chairs, 3 traffic cones, 6 tyres, lots of plastic piping, lots of planks of wood, bags and bags of bottles, cans and other junk.

Huge thanks to the Living Wandle Landscape Partnership for funding the event as part of the River Guardians projects, everyone who helped unpack and pack up the van during the event, Dean’s Blinds for hosting us, the students for catering for our volunteers, Rosie for supervising the Event Tent and the Waste Management Team at Wandsworth Council for organising collection of all the rubbish the next day.

Thank you to all our volunteers for coming:  Aaron, Alex, Andy ,Barbara, Bella, Brandon, Brian, Charles, Charly, Chris, Daniel, Dave, Denis, Derek, Ed, Eden, Emes, Guy, Ian, Jamie, Jess, Joe, John, Keith, Ken, Lisa, Mark, Matthew, Merel, Miriam, Nick, Olivia, Paul, Penny, Per, Phil, Piper, Rachelle, Rafael, Rob, Rose, Sally Ann, Sara, Steve, Theo, Victor, Victoria, Vittorio, Wally and Wayne.

So what did I learn from this month’s cleanup?   That you can make anything you need from what you find in the Wandle

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The Wandle’s a Winner!

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We’re delighted to announce that we are a category winner in the 2016 UK River Prize. The Carshalton arm of the Wandle has won the ‘Urban Project’ category and is one of four category winners who will now go forward as finalists for the overall river prize.

The overall UK River Prize will be announced at an awards dinner at the River Restoration Centre’s Annual Conference in Blackpool on the 26th April.

You can read the River Restoration Centre’s press release here (UK_River_Prize_Finalists) to see the other category winners and finalists who we’re up against. Each finalist will make a short video about their project which will be shown at the awards dinner.

Keep your fingers crossed!!

Shrimps in Schools: Release Day!

Tuesday was a big day for the students of All Saints Carshalton Primary School!

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After signing up to our new Creatures in the Classroom project, the Year 1 class were given a tank filled with rocks, stones, sand and aquatic plants to replicate the natural habitat of the freshwater shrimps which were delivered a couple of weeks later.

Over the last month, the students have been caring for the shrimps, learning about the River Wandle, and taking responsibility for the ongoing care and welfare of the shrimps.

After school on Tuesday, the class gathered at Butter Hill in Carshalton to say goodbye to their shrimps and release them back into the Wandle. Each student had a go at catching some shrimps in a small net, and passing them to David Gill, the Education Officer, to release them into the Wandle.

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Shrimp Release

Shrimp Release

Creatures in the Classroom is part of Project Kingfisher, a new education project from the Wandle Trust funded through the Living Wandle Landscape Partnership.

This year, 25 schools like All Saints Primary School have taken part in Creatures in the Classroom raising sticklebacks and tadpoles, creating tyre ponds and looking after shrimps.

This spring we will be launching Window on the Wandle all about bringing students to the River Wandle to learn about its history, wildlife and future. Education packs for this will soon be available so watch this space!

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Wandle cleanup: March 2016: Merton

The one with the extra 20p

For March this year we headed to North Road in Wimbledon, but we decided to start much further downstream than normal, at the Haydons Road railway bridge.

First, however, we all met at the usual spot for the Welcome Talk and Health & Safety Briefing. New volunteer, Alex Clements, introduced himself and the work he is doing for a MSc in Environmental Management. For this he has chosen the Wandle as a case study in how social learning and engagement leads to more effective management of rivers and their water catchments. If you can spare two minutes, please do complete his online survey!

After that, we all got stuck in to the main event. Lucky volunteer Joe spotted a friendly chub checking out how the cleanup was going. And an eel which quickly swam away. Quite the spot!

Under the railway bridge, our wading team quickly filled their trugs with all sorts, from tyres to cans to bottles to traffic cones to wallets. The 3 helpers on the banks were soon overwhelmed.

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Once the waders reached the footbridge beside Garfield Recreation Ground, we all re-grouped to shift the huge amount of rubbish already found back to the rubbish pile.

Further up the wading team found a tyre, but it was much, much bigger than our usual catch. Remembering some of our previous cleanups at Wandle Bank, we think it might have been an old bus tyre? It took all our volunteer muscle to lever it out of the silt, and then more to get it up on the banks and rolled back to base.

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Soon it was 1pm and time for our scheduled lunch break. We had a lovely cake made by Jackie and the sun came out briefly to warm us up.

After lunch we got back to it.

As we ventured into more familiar territory towards the North Road Bridge, our finds became smaller. A small team broke off to venture further ahead, finding a couple of trolleys.

The waders also discovered a safe. Unlike the usual safes we find with the backs blown out, this one was intact and rattling… potential Wandle treasure?

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Alas, after some clever hacking with a crow bar, we gained 20p… but every little helps?

All in all it was a great day, and yet another worryingly large haul from the Wandle!

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So what did we find?  1 radiator, 1 prisoner card, 1 headless teddy, 1 kitchen chair, 1 bus tyre, 1 bin, 1 traffic fence panel, 1 Christmas tree, 1 chest of drawers (in pieces), 1 barrel, 1 traffic cone, 1 safe and 20p, 2 folding chairs, 2 trolleys, 9 normal size tyres, lots of wooden boarding and bags of bags of other junk.

Huge thanks to Thames Water for funding the event, everyone who helped unpack and pack up the van during the event, Jackie for catering for our volunteers, Rosie for supervising the Event Tent and the Waste Management Team at Merton Council for organising collection of all the rubbish the next day.

Thank you to all our volunteers for coming: Aaron, Alex, Andy, Bruno, Charles, Claire, Dave, Derek, Ed, Geoffrey, Guy, Ian, Jackie, Joe, John, Keith, Michael, Nick, Nicola, Penny, Per, Phil, Rose, Ruth, Steve, Stewart, Susan, Theo, Victor, Wally and William.

Wandle cleanup: February 2016: Sutton

The one in the freezing cold

Our February cleanup fell on Valentine’s Day this weekend and so the theme was “Romancing on the River” although I am sorry to report a lack of romance. Perhaps a cold winter day in waders isn’t the best ice breaker?

For this event we headed to Poulter Park where last year we discovered 200 tyres in the river. Luckily, the story didn’t repeat itself!

After a quick welcome talk from myself in the cold wind, we all headed straight off to get to work and warm up. The wading team divided into two. The first team headed to the river down the path and started to tackle a pile of broken up fridges which had lodged on some leaning willows and brushwood islands.

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The other team headed towards Watermead Lane to tackle a similar pile of rubbish which had collected in the river. Fly-tipping had nowhere to hide…

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We soon found the traditional coconut – a Valentine’s gift from the Wandle?

Classic Coconut

Perhaps my personal highlight of the day was a surprise visit from Erica who used to run the Wandle cleanups for many years. She had managed to hop on the train from Norfolk that morning and catch a lift with Jo, our famous former cake baker, who had come all the way from China to see us again!

Given the special date, we were hoping that love would be in the air at some point, and we weren’t disappointed when lunch time arrived! A team of students from the American International University in London had baked a huge range of delicious Valentine’s Day themed cakes and cookies for us, as well as contributions from Jan, Ann, Sally and Jackie! Who needs flowers when you have pink heart cookies and a hot cup of tea?

Heart Cookies

After lunch we were all pretty cold, but headed back out to the river. Within half an hour, our two wading teams met in the middle and we quickly realised we had covered the whole river through Poulter Park! So given the weather and the blue tinge to people’s lips, we called it a day early and started to pack up.

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The rubbish pile was impressively large, particularly as we’d also created a second pile at the top of the park!

Rubbish Pile

So what did we find?  1 mattress wire, 1 golf trophy, 1 woven chair, 1 bicycle, 1 floor fan, 1 wooden pallet, 1 shelving unit, 1 trolley, 1 dustbin lid, 3 coconuts, 4 traffic cones, 5 concrete fencing stands, 5 fridge doors, 8 tyres, lots and lots of wiring and insulation from inside the fridges, bags and bags of other rubbish.

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Huge thanks to Thames Water for funding the event, everyone who helped unpack and pack up the van during the event, Mitcham & Carshalton Rugby Club for use of the facilities, Ann, Jackie, Sally and the students for catering for our volunteers, Wally & Chris for supervising with me, Rosie for supervising the Event Tent and the Waste Management Team at Sutton Council for organising collection of all the rubbish the next day.

Thank you to all our volunteers for coming: Aaron, Abi, Ahmed, Alassimo, Alex C, Amir, Andy, Ann, Aubrey, Barry, Behnaz, Blagovesta, Brian, Charin, Chris E, Chris S, Dan, Dave, David, Derek, Ed B, Eden, Emma, Gabrila, Gillian, Guy, Helen, Hiriah, Ian, Ida, J, Jan , Jane, Jason, Joe, Kaitlynn, Lisa, Manuel, Marina, Marta, Nikola, Per, Phil L, Phil R, Piper, Rachele, Rafael, Rob W, Robert M, Robert T, Rose, Rositsa, Rox, Sally, Samantha, Seamus, Thea, Theo, Tim, Vittorio, Wally, Wayne and Yoanna

So what did I learn from this month’s cleanup? That wading the Wandle isn’t the most popular Valentine’s Day date.

Fish Passage Restored!

Last year we were working on a fish passage project on the Wandle at Trewint Street, Earlsfield.

Although there are many weirs on the Wandle which impede the migration of fish Trewint Street is one of the largest, with two weirs either side of a large concrete channel. With funding from the Environment Agency, Thames Water and Defra’s Catchment Partnership Action Fund (CPAF), we have restored passage for fish and eels, allowing movement to upstream habitats.

So how did we achieve this?

A bespoke fish pass was designed by Fishtek and installed on the weir by local contractors Amenity Water Management (AWM).

At the top of the right hand weir, a series of recycled plastic baffles were fixed onto the weir. These deepen and slow the flow of water and as you can see from the picture below, the baffles are arranged with a diagonal gap up to the top. This is the path the fish use to swim up the weir.

Baffles

The baffles had to be fixed to the weir in dry conditions, and so sandbags were used to divert the water down the left hand weir, leaving the right hand side high and dry while our contractors worked. Watch the timelapse footage of AWM installing the baffles.

The second part of the fish pass were three large wooden pre-barrages at the bottom end of the island which were designed to slow the water down and reduce the drop in water level between the channel and the baffles.

Barrages going in

Each barrage was notched to create a path for migrating fish.

To makes sure the pass works in low flows a huge piece of wood (7m long!) was placed at the top of the left hand weir to divert water at low flow down the right hand side and the fish pass.  This ensures the pass works over a large range of flows.

Deflector and Eel Bristles

Bristles were fixed to each of the barrages to allow eel passage. Eel tiles were then fixed alongside the baffles on the concrete wall making the weir passable to both fish and European Eels.

A big thanks to our contractors AWM, landowner Mr Lammas and Thames Water, Defra and the Environment Agency for their funding.

Contractors