Tag Archives: Ravensbury Park

Wandle cleanup: September 2017: Merton

The one where we ran out of rubbish

While it is fun to have a monthly cleanup with a mammoth pile of rubbish at the end of it, it is also nice to know in some places we are making a real difference. Yesterday, at Ravensbury Park, we saw just that – our work had made a difference.

We gathered in the park at 11am with 80+ people (regular volunteers, new faces, Friends of Ravensbury Park, 13th Wimbledon Scouts and Richmond University) and hatched a plan of what we could tackle as a team.

Two wading teams departed, 1 to clear rubbish from the Wandle and the other to tackle the floating pennywort in Ravensbury Park Lake and adjoining back channel. The river team were accompanied by a strong bank team as it was a long way back to the rubbish pile (600 m) and everyone else grabbed a litter picker and went to spruce up the park. And with that, 80 people went to work!

The pennywort team focused on the lake and back channel. For the past 10 + years, Ravensbury Park Lake has been smothered by pennywort, and each September we have helped the friends of group clear it, for it only to grow again.

The lake in previous years

But the end is finally in sight. Our Wandle INNS Project has been working over the last year on the site to properly clear the lake and when we returned on Sunday, the lake was open water, with small patches of pennywort at the side. Perfect!

The lake on Sunday – with just a few small patches left for us to remove

We asked a team of 6 volunteers to wade into the lake and remove these small patches. Meanwhile, another team tackled the back channel downstream of the lake which was still smothered. Once a net was in place downstream, this pennywort was removed by hand and the channel was free once more. Success!

While this was going on, our river team were making quick progress in the main channel. It wasn’t like some of our events where trolleys and washing machines are flying out of the river, but that didn’t mean there was no rubbish at all. We found tyres, toilet seats and for sale signs..

As well as Christmas trees and toy cars

And lots of other junk and rubbish.

With lunch fast approaching, I started to gather the troops in from throughout the park. And that is when we found the mattress…

The mattress was in Ravensbury Park Lake – a site which hasn’t been checked for rubbish over the last 10 years as it has been full of pennywort. But with that under control, Andy discovered a very old mattress that was full of silt and extremely heavy.

It took a lot of people to pull it on to the bank, and then we had to divide it in to smaller chunks to transport all the way to the rubbish pile.

After that excitement, everyone was ready for a break and so we stopped for tea and coffee.

With the pennywort sorted, the river cleared and the park litter-picked, we had a slightly longer lunch break than usual and then called it a day well spent!

So what did we find?  1 silty, sodden mattress, 1 bike, 1 lawnmower cover, 1 toilet seat, 1 plastic chair, 1 Christmas tree, 1 ride-along car, 1 scooter, 1 laundry basket, 1 dustbin, 2 for sale signs, 3 plastic boxes, 4 sofa cushions, 7 tyres, a channel of floating pennywort and bags and bags of other rubbish.

Huge thanks everyone who helped unpack and pack up the van during the event, Rosie for supervising the Event Tent and for helping me back at the garage, Friends of Ravensbury Park for joining us for the joint event 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:   Aarti, Andy, Bonnie, Charles, Chris, Claire, Cohhot, Daniel, Dave , David , Derek, Freya, Geoff, Gideon, Gurnoor, Guy, Hannah, Henrik, Ian, Jackie, Jane, Joe, John B, John C, Jordyn, Juan, Julian, Lorenzo, Lukas, Lyn, Martina, Mickey, Miriah, Nick, Paola, Paul, Per, Phil, Piero, Priya, Rob, Rolanas, Rose, Saihal, Sam, Sarah, Scott, Sheila, Spencer, Steve, Stewart, Valerie, Wally, Wayne, Will D and Will W. Plus 30+ 13th Wimbledon Scouts!

So what did I learn from this month’s cleanup? We are slowly winning the battle against fly tipping!

Floating Pennywort on the Wandle

Alan Martin, our Invasive Non-Native Species Officer, has been very busy this last growing season. Working with our trained River Rangers to map all invasive plants on the Wandle, and with the newly trained Hit Squad to start controlling them, we are making great progress.

One species we’ve had some great success with is floating pennywort. This aquatic invasive plant can be found along the river from Carshalton to Wandworth. Alan has developed and implemented a combined manual and chemical approach to tackle this species from its source in Sutton, and work until it is out of the river in Wandsworth. While this is going swimmingly, he has also looked at two sites on the Wandle where pennywort has a stronghold: Watermeads and Ravensbury Park.

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At Watermeads, the floating pennywort had infested a large backwater, a potentially key habitat for river wildlife with added aesthetic, recreational and ecological benefits. Working with the National Trust, Alan set to develop a management regime for this habitat to maintain it as an open water and keep pennywort at bay.

So how did we do it?

Manual Removal

To reduce overall biomass, several hand pulling events were held with volunteers from the National Trust and Wandle Trust – you may recall the epic Battle of Watermeads? Rafts of pennywort were cut away and towed to the bank using long grapple lines. The pennywort was then wheelbarrowed to a site away from the river where it would be left undisturbed to rot away.

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Foliar spraying

After reducing the initial biomass, herbicide was then used on the regrowth. With Environment Agency permission, Alan and Richard (from the National Trust) applied the first spray of herbicide in February this year.

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With this combined approach, open water was achieved!

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Continued monitoring

The secret to this work is that the work actually never stops. As long as there is a source of pennyworth on the Wandle, there is a risk the backwater could become re-infested. The local angling club at Watermeads and the National Trust volunteers have taken ownership of this site and continue to check for signs of pennywort, pulling out new plants. By keeping on top of it this way, it should never reach the scale it was back in 2015.

So what’s next?

Working with Merton Council and the Friends of Ravensbury Park, we are starting a similar management plan on the lake in Ravensbury Park which has been full of pennywort for years. Watch this space!

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Help the Environment Agency with the midge issue

Midges are chironomids and spend the first part of their lives in the river itself. They then pupate and emerge as flying adults, surviving for only a few days to mate and lay eggs at the river’s surface. However, recently they have been emerging in huge numbers in Ravensbury Park and other sites along the Wandle, with some local residents unable to open their windows.

The Environment Agency are investigating the causes of these mass emergences and as part of this has commissioned a study to find out more about the type of midges causing the problem, and what can be done to alleviate it.

But they need your help…

The Environment Agency need you as their eyes on the river. If and when you experience a swarm of midges in your area, please call a report through to the EA hotline on 0800 80 70 60 as soon as possible, detailing the time of day and location of the swarm.

The Environment Agency will then be able to gain a better understanding of how widespread these occurrences are becoming and whether any specific locations are particularly badly affected. They’ll combine your reports with their own information to assist in establishing reasons for the high midge numbers and working towards appropriate recommendations to help alleviate the problem.

Wandle cleanup: September 2015: Ravensbury Park

The one with very muddy volunteers…

September saw our final Capital Cleanup event in Ravensbury Park kindly funded by the Mayor of London’s Capital Cleanup fund and the Living Wandle Landscape Partnership.

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As traditional for our September cleanup, we were joined by Friends of Ravensbury Park who had their eyes set on clearing the infamous floating pennywort from the lake. They really had a big task ahead of them!

Luckily we were also joined by a keen team from ZipCar (our van suppliers) who under the supervision of the Friends of Ravensbury Park, headed straight to the lake to battle the aquatic menace.

Zipcar

The rest of our cleanup team headed to the river to clear rubbish throughout the park. Quickly discovering plenty of rubbish lurking in the depths including this Frozen football – perhaps I’ll save it for a Christmas present for my little cousin, after cleaning it of course!

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Meanwhile, the ZipCar team were finally learning what we get up to when we book their van once a month. Muddy, muddy work. Without much persuasion, several members hopped in the lake and got stuck in, sawing and towing pennywort to the jetty while the others dragged the plant out and ferried it to the impressive dumping pile.

Floating pennywort

Pennywort Pulling

Lunch came around giving everyone a welcome break from the hard work of the morning. But with so much pennywort, the break couldn’t last forever….

More pennywort

The wading team were making great progress and headed down the back channel to check for rubbish.

Waders

In the afternoon, my favourite find was discovered – an inflatable microphone which got me in the singing mood. Luckily, no one was around to record my rendition of Taylor Swift.

X Factor

Thank you to all the volunteers who came along to our event!

So what did we find?  1 Frozen football, 1 Mickey Mouse ball, 1 other generic ball, 1 fire extinguisher, 1 rope wheel, 1 bike wheel, 1 set of trolley wheels, 1 dustbin lid, 1 net, 1 inflatable microphone, 1 giant iron bar, 2 car seats, 2 scooters, 3 buckets, 14 tyres, 30 bags of other junk along with barrows and barrows and barrows and barrows of floating pennywort. Seriously… there was a lot!

Pennywort Pile

Huge thanks to everyone who helped pack up van after the event and John for supervising the Event Tent; Wally, Theo & Dave for helping supervise everyone on the day, Friends of Ravensbury Park for leading the floating pennywort team, ZipCar for waiving the van’s fee for the day 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, Abi, Agnes, Alex, Alison, Andrew, Ann W, Barry, Ben, Camille, Charles, Charlotte, Chris S, Dave J, Dave W, Derek, Dimal, Flora, Fred, Fumbi, Gina, Ian, Ida, Isabelle, Jan, Joe, Johamm, John L, John N, Keith, Khin H, Khin T, Laura H, Louise, Marta, Michael R, Michael S, Naomi, Niki, Paul, Renah, Richard, Richard B, Rose, Sabiha, Sally, Sanya, Sarah A, Sheree, Sophie C, Sophie O, Stewart, Sue, Theo, Tim, Victor, Victoria, Wally, Wayne and Will.

So what did I learn from this month’s cleanup?   White uniforms will always become brown when handling floating pennywort.

Rubbish Pile

Ravensbury Back Channel: The final touches

Two weeks ago, we spent three days back at our Ravensbury Park Back Channel project to finish off the works.

Day 1

Day 1 was spent preparing a site for 2000 plants which were due to arrive the following day.  Our loyal volunteers arrived expecting an easy day of planting and instead we surprised them with spades, shovels and a huge pile of soil! We needed to create a gentler slope on the bank and to do that involved some serious work. But with visions of tea and cake we soon got stuck in and the bank started to take shape.

Luke working hard

Meanwhile, we also had a team putting up bird boxes in the area. These bird boxes have been designed with grey wagtails in mind, a bird which you can often see skipping along the back channel.

The Bird Boxes

The day ended with a pilot test of our bat boxes. We have brought five bat boxes to put up in the area. They are odd looking things with flat wood and small crevices between for the bats to roost in – almost like a bat multistory car park! With wire and a ladder, Luke and the volunteers tried to install the first one to perfect the technique ready for the next day.

A Bat Multi-Storey Car Park

Day 2

Day 2 soon came round with slightly improved weather and all 2000 plants had arrived! We ordered a variety of species – some were to be planted in the water, and others would be added to the banks such as lesser pond sedge and reed canary grass. All together these would make a great marginal community of native plants.

2000 Plants

We had 2 sites to plant up so we divided the trays into piles of different species – one pile for each site. Our 9 volunteers then headed off to site number 1 armed with dibbers, waders and gloves.

First site all planted up

By lunchtime, the site was finished and everyone was ready for tea, coffee and cake.

A planted plant

After lunch we moved onto site 2 and decided to focus on the plants that needed water so they were in before we had to leave for the day. So it was wader time again…

Day 3

On our third and final day we were joined by 5 volunteers to do the last bits of the project. First we all focused on the final 1000 plants – and even I had the chance to get involved!

Planters at work

Louise from the Living Wandle Landscape Partnership team couldn’t resist coming for a visit and doing some planting as well.

Louise planting away

The pile slowly got smaller and after a quick lunch break we had all 2000 plants happily installed in their new homes.

Yet more planting

The next job was raking and seeding the bare ground with wildflower and grass mix. It was a great 3 days out in the field and a big thank you to all the volunteers who came to help!

The finished work

A big thanks to Lawrence who helped run the event with Luke and myself.

Thank you to all our volunteers for coming: Barbara, Charles, Dave, Jason, John, Lawrence, Maureen, Mike, Neil, Nick, Rob, Tim and Wally.

Next week – Wimbledon Common and the Beverley Brook!

 

Going Round the Bend: Next Stop a Re-naturalised River

By Lawrence Hemmings, our River Restoration Volunteer

After a great deal of planning by Luke the habitat improvement works on the Ravensbury Park Back Channel have begun with the help of our contractors – Ru and Jack of AquaMaintain. The digger and dumper have arrived as have the hazel faggot bundles posts, not forgetting the loathsome pile driver (a 20 kg hammering tool essential for river habitat work). And without further ado splash!  Work could commence.

In order to create a more biodiverse, naturally functioning river, complete with runs, glides, pools and riffles, the Ravensbury Channel needs a little encouragement.  By securing the faggot bundles in an irregular zig-zag on both sides of the river, the variation in flow will scour out deeper pools, form riffles, and, with any luck, some gravels will appear – perfect spawning grounds for amorous fish!

The Back Channel

So Luke, Jack and I splashed into the river with our trusty pile driver at the ready. We pinioned hazel faggot bundles in place by hammering in stakes on both sides, and a new bank line quickly started to appear.

Meanwhile our adept digger driver Ru set about clearing the brush from the park-side bank of the river where we have removed the toeboarding, sheet piling and other bank reinforcements. In no time at all Ru had begun re-grading the steep-sided river banks, which will allow us to connect the river to its natural soil bank. The bank can then be planted with typical marginal plants, such as sedges and reeds, creating a continuum from aquatic to terrestrial habitat. We will also be digging a small back water, where the slack flows will allow fish fry to seek refuge away from the perils of the fast lane – the new turbulent Back Channel.

The Back Channel

Stay tuned for more updates!

A little light goes a long way…

Our restoration projects along the Wandle are all progressing well, and it is time to introduce the next site on our list: the Ravensbury Park Back Channel.

The Ravensbury Park Back Channel is a remnant of the industrial milling era along the Wandle. Back channels, or “by-pass channels” were used as a mechanism to control the water passing through a mill allowing us to increase or decrease the flow depending on how much power was required. Although no longer used for this purpose, the back channel at Ravensbury Park has become part of the park’s landscape and could offer a valuable refuge for wildlife in the Wandle; in particular fish which could use the channel to by-pass the weir.

So what’s the problem?

  1. Channelisation

Like so many urban and rural rivers, the Ravensbury Park back channel has been engineered and modified to contain the river within a predetermined channel. This removes habitat and creates a stream with little variation.

Wooden banks and channelised nature of the stream

Wooden banks and channelised nature of the stream

  1. Un-natural banks

To protect the surrounding landscape from flooding, the natural sloping banks of this stream have been replaced with concrete and wood. This creates a ‘hard-edged’ bank and prevents important natural communities of marginal and aquatic plants from establishing here. A more gradually sloping vegetated bank provides habitat for many different species of riverine wildlife. Without this habitat there is a significant loss of biodiversity.

Concrete banks

A high concrete bank removes all interaction with the stream ecosystem.

  1. Little light

The Ravensbury Park back channel suffers from low light levels due to a dense tree canopy. This canopy limits the growth of aquatic plants both around the stream as well as within the stream.

A dense vegetative canopy prevents aquatic plant growth

A dense vegetative canopy prevents aquatic plant growth

Each of these issues on their own have negative consequences, but combined they significantly impact on the ecological structure and function of this little stream.

What can we do?

Over the next few months, the Wandle Trust will be taking steps to restore the Ravensbury Park back channel. This work is being funded by Defra’s Catchment Restoration Fund, and is also part of the Heritage Lottery Funded Living Wandle Landscape Partnership.

The main aim of the restoration works will be to create new habitats both in the stream and along the margins that will support fish, invertebrates and birds. More importantly, our works will provide a favourable environment for both aquatic and marginal plants which are a fundamental source of food and shelter for some organisms; vital for a thriving ecosystem.

We will be working further on our plans for this stream so keep your eyes peeled for new updates.