Annual Report 2015

Chair’s 2014-15 report to the QWAG AGM, 18 March 2015

Events and promotion

QWAG lives and breathes by its active events. This year’s events arranged by members and others were:

  • Lost Rivers – the award-winning documentary featuring the Quaggy and other urban rivers around the world is screened at the UK Green Film Festival (7 June)
  • QWAG attends the 2nd Manor House Gardens Festival and trials the ‘Hook a Quaggy Duck’ game (21 June)
  • As part of the 3 Rivers Clean Up QWAG leads two river clean ups (21 June-12 July)
  • In a special 3RCU event QWAG explores the upper Quaggy from Locksbottom to Petts Wood (6 July)
  • At the 30th Lewisham People’s Day, the ‘Hook a Quaggy Duck’ game is a hit with the children (12 July)

QWAGs involvement in the 2014 3RCU was planned and led by Lawrence Beale Collins. Thanks to Mike Keogh’s enthusiastic sales drive, QWAG had to reprint Ken White’s booklet on the Quaggy. And Pamela Zollicoffer’s foresight and persistence means that QWAG has its own set of illustrated cards using original paintings of stretches of the Quaggy by the artist, Stephen Chaplin. QWAG also helped members of the 14th Lewisham Scouts attain their Community Challenge badges with river related activities, including the removal of litter and Himalayan Balsam from the river in Manor Park on 13 September. QWAG also provided information for the Horniman Museum’s River retrospective of artist Kurt Jackson. The year ends with QWAG on the verge of launching its updated website and with QWAG’s social media Twitter following at 911 (as at 10/5/15), up from 739 at the last AGM. The website and use of Twitter extend QWAG’s ability to pick up useful information, to be responsive to events, to publicise our work and to link with other locally and beyond.

Governance

The Committee meets each other month (April, June, August and so on) to plan events, review finances and ensure we are complying with the law. Business usually takes an hour after which the Committee holds a creative ideas session. Meetings are open to all.

Meetings and membership

Membership is at about the same level as in 2013-14. The FLOW bulletin was produced to alert members to event and issues. Pamela Zollicoffer ensured us another fascinating sequence of speakers at QWAG Members’ Meetings:

  • 21 May: MUSE, the developers of Lewisham town centre, visited again to discuss their plans
  • 16 July: Michael Kendra told us about the work of the Friends of The River Pool
  • 17 Sept: Mike Van Der Vord, told us about the Wandle River and Trout in The Classroom project.
  • 19 Nov: Chris Rose, revealed the wealth of wildlife by the River Cray at the Thames Road Wetland

Future plans and priorities:

River restoration

QWAG continued liaison with the three boroughs, the Environment Agency and Thames21 on the development of the Ravensbourne Catchment Improvement Plan – the master plan for the how the whole river catchment will be treated for example when development takes place and opportunities arise to improve and restore the rivers and water bodies across the three boroughs. Hopefully this will result in funding for practical work to revive our rivers. It is disappointing that for much of the year (May 2014 to March 2015) QWAG has struggled to obtain professional cooperation from MUSE, the developers of the Lewisham town centre, and its community liaison consultants, Local Dialogue. QWAG has been given the run around in a thoroughly unprofessional manner when seeking straight forward answers to basic questions about how the scheme will affect / improve the rivers in central Lewisham.

Chair’s thanks

To fellow trustees and Committee colleagues who make QWAG flow: Anne Scott, Pamela Zollicoffer, Mike Keogh, Maria de Jesus, David Larkin and Lawrence Beale Collins. To Lewisham Methodist Church Hall for venue hire, to our colleagues at Thames21 and the Ravensbourne Catchment Improvement Group for collaboration, to Voluntary Action Lewisham for accountancy advice and to Halfords Media for generous funds towards the revamp of the QWAG website and social media presence.

Annual Report 2014

Chair’s report 2013-14
Events and promotion
QWAG lives and breathes by its active events – from big events with others organisations such as the 3 Rivers Clean Up (3RCU) to the Capital Clean Up and local river walks we arrange through our own efforts.

In 2013 Lawrence Beale Collins planned and led QWAGs involvement in the Capital Clean Up and also led with Julia Grollman QWAG’s role in the now established 3RCU. QWAG also attended local community fairs at a hot and sunny Grove Park and a wet and windy Sutcliffe Park which, either way, bring us into contact with other community interest leading to new ideas and contacts. Mike Keogh continued to lead our sale of Ken White booklet on the Quaggy resulting in QWAG running out of stocks a month or so before this AGM. Dave Larkin continued to lead the group’s bat-based events.

QWAG has 739 followers on twitter, a social networking medium that allows us to pick up useful information and form links with organisations and interest locally and beyond. QWAG also gained a small amount of national media coverage with The Observer’s 13 October article ‘Britain’s lost rivers resurrected and freed to go with the flow’: http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2013/oct/13/britain-lost-rivers

Governance
The Committee met each other month (April, June, August and so on) with contact and communications taking place in between including by email. Meetings are open to the membership and are the main place to review how the trustees are meeting their duties to ensure QWAG meets charity law including its use of financial and other resources. During the year Lawrence Beale Collins stepped down as a trustee.

Meetings and membership
Members’ meetings have continued to revolve around external speakers, with some exceptions when we use meetings to review the group’s activities for example, in July 2013, the meeting was used to review and focus QWAG’s work following the May 2013 meeting which was used as a review workshop run by Jonathan Withey of The Conservation Volunteers run to assess QWAG’s ‘resilience’ as a group. This year our guest speakers have been:

Anne Slater, chair of the Friends of Chinbrook Meadows
Paul Lowndes, chair of the Friends of Manor House Gardens
Adam Broadhead, Sheffield University on the de-culverting and ‘daylighting’ of urban rivers

Membership is slightly lower than in previous year and this is a matter which the Committee is keen to address by running more events and reaching communities who live close to the river.

Future plans
Priorities for 2014-15 are likely to be to:

  • Raising membership through a membership drive and events to support this
  • Putting the various ideas for events into practice
  • Supporting work with others to finalise the agreed locations for the next restorations of the catchment working with and through the partners on the Ravensbourne Catchment Improvement Group

Thanks
Fellow Committee members have made QWAG work this year with Anne Scott, Pamela Zollicoffer, Lawrence Beale Collins, Mike Keogh, Maria de Jesus and David Larkin taking on particular activities and task and supporting me with their diligence, knowledgeable and enthusiasm for a positive vision for the Quaggy and its catchment.

Particular thanks go to Lewisham Methodist Church Hall, Voluntary Action Lewisham particularly for help and advice on the finances and the accountancy and our colleagues at Thames21, with whom we continue to work on the wider vision for the catchment, and local friends and park user groups.

We remember Ron Cooper, QWAG member and local community activist, who died soon after the last AGM.

Paul de Zylva
Chair, 19 March 2014

Annual Report 2012-2013

Annual report 2012-13
Thinking big
2012-13 saw the revived Quaggy Waterways Action Group (QWAG) preparing for the next big restoration of the River Quaggy through a series of activities. The Committee planned and ran activities and members’ meetings with these longer term ambitions in mind.

The year started with the completion of four ‘filmed walks’ which are now available online to tell the story and remaining potential of the Quaggy. These events were QWAG founder Matthew Blumler’s last activities with QWAG before leaving QWAG to pursue other interests.

QWAG remains focussed on the potential of our re-naturalised local urban rivers as part and parcel of everyday life in London. QWAG’s role is to champion this, influence how decisions are made and help people engage with and learn from the river environment and its role in the fields of physical and economic regeneration and flood risk, in health, education and recreation policies or in environmental improvement and ‘place making’.

QWAG’s aims for 2012-13 we have focussed particularly starting to:
Help the Quaggy achieve good ecological status – because it is currently in ‘poor’ ecological condition and needs a lot of work to raise the quality of its water if it is to start meeting the requirements of the Water Framework Directive by 2015; and,

Plan the next big restoration – the Quaggy is already a beacon of urban river improvement helping place SE London on the map for reasons other than the kind of stories that hit the news headlines; it’s looked to by other communities in London, the UK and beyond as an example of what can be done.

But there is much to do to complete the links – the Quaggy Links as we call them – in between excellent yet isolated restorations such as at Chinbrook Meadows and Sutcliffe Park where the river and its entire environment has sprung to life for people as for nature. But for much of its length, the river remains encased in sterile concrete between occasional oases and downtown central Lewisham.

The year in which QWAG saw its founder move on has seen QWAG consolidate its work and plans as described above and in this review. We remain a small grassroots community group of volunteers able to think and act big and to continue inspiring and encouraging others to do right by rivers. This is our annual report for the 2012-13 period.

Governance
Members elected the following officers and trustees for the year 2012-13:

Chair: Paul de Zylva Vice Chair: Mike Keogh
Treasurer: Anne Scott Secretary: Pamela Zollicoffer
Trustee: Maria de Jesus Trustee: Lawrence Beale Collins
Committee member: Julie Johnson

The role of the Trustees is to run the charity in keeping with the law and good governance practice. The role of the whole Committee, including elected trustees, is to lead the direction of QWAG through the planning of the group’s finances, meetings, events and projects.

Membership and meetings
In 2012-13 there were six members’ meetings including the AGM. The Committee arranged a range of speakers and presentations including:

  • Pamela Zollicoffer who took us on a trip to the source of the Quaggy at Locksbottom, Bromley – this visit has led to
  • QWAG considering plans to engage more with communities near the source of the river
  • Julia Grollman talked of her very different experience as a conservation volunteer on a trip to help restore mangroves in Africa
  • Author Tom Bolton’s spoke about London’s Lost Rivers based on his book of the same name
  • Thames Water on the sewers of London and how we mistreat them

Membership subscription rates were once again frozen for 2012-13. By the end of 2012 QWAG had 75 paid up members in 57 households.

Inspiring events
Filmed walks – QWAG started the year by organising a series of ‘filmed walks’ along the Quaggy to capture on film the story of the river. As an online tool, these films provide a ‘virtual tour’ of the river for use in formal and informal learning and to get to see the river, its good points and where it still needs to be helped to recover.

The first film, from the confluence of the Quaggy with the Ravensbourne in Lewisham town centre to Manor Park:
click here

The second film runs from Manor Park to Joan Roan School: click here

In film three we walk through the Sutcliffe Park culvert and find the design of the scheme unlike the design plans we had seen before the restoration work was carried out: click here

The fourth film runs from Hadlow College to Chinbrook Meadows and Sundridge Park: click here

3RCU – QWAG took part in the planning and delivery of the fourth annual 3 Rivers Clean Up and as in 2011 saw far lower amounts of Himalayan Balsam.

As a result, and as touched on at last year’s AGM, we have started to imagine what the next wave of non-native invasive species may be and our role in this, and to reconsider what this also means for the planning and running of events such as the 3RCU which are all about allowing people to engage in nature. As a result this year we have started considering running more evens to help people understand the ecology and nature of the rivers.

QWAG’s Lawrence Beale Collins attended the Local Action Group workshop for community groups run by the GB Invasives Non-Native Species Secretariat.

Ladywell Fields – We also gave some advice to London Bubble Theatre for its celebration in September 2012 of the restoration of Ladywell Fields with the renaturalised River Ravensbourne.

Practical action
Pollution episodes – QWAG members continued to kept watch for episodes of pollution or other threats to the river and its ecosystem. The long running deliberate and / or negligent pollution of the Quaggy at Clarendon Rise, off the lower Lee High Road, was finally resolved.

Ravensbourne Catchment Forum – In August we attended the inaugural meeting of the new Ravensbourne Catchment Management Forum and in January we hosted the second meeting. The Forum’s role is to help secure the improvements in the ecological status of rivers and water bodies in the whole catchment as part of complying with the Water framework Directive as described by our 2101 AGM speaker, Dave Webb of the Environment Agency.

Lewisham Biodiversity Partnership – QWAG also continued to attend useful meetings of the LBP chaired by QWAG Vice Chair, Mike Keogh, to share knowledge and skills with other community conservation groups and to support the Councils in its aims for nature and biodiversity.

Influencing planning decisions
Lewisham Gateway – QWAG continued to track strategic planning matters and relevant planning applications likely to affect the river environment. In November 2012 we received advice that the Lewisham Gateway redevelopment was to resume after sufficient public money had been put into the scheme to attract new developers MUSE and Taylor Wimpey.

We liaised with the developers and their agents, attended their public consultation events and invited them to our January 2013 members’ meeting billed as ‘Making space for nature in retail heaven’ to explore their plans in detail and offer further advice.

Our expectations are high: that the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity is taken to get the restoration of the Quaggy at its confluence right – and that the redevelopment of Lewisham town centre will have positive influence on other parts of the town not directly within the New Lewisham Gateway scheme, for example, the river stretch beneath the pavement in front of Lewisham police station.

Manor Park bridge – QWAG also attended the opening of the new bridge into Manor Park on and over the Quaggy. At the event we sold a copy of Ken White’s book on the Quaggy to the Mayor of Lewisham, Sir Steve Bullock, commended Lewisham Council for its on-going Rivers and people’s project and requested that in decisions about the Council’s budgets the gains made from investment river restorations such as at Ladywell Fields will not be squandered by reducing care and maintenance of rivers and parks.

Communications
QWAG continues to keep members and others informed of events and news with a monthly ‘bite-sized’ A4 bulletin, Flow, which is also sent to our external contacts in local authorities, environment agencies, MPs and the media.

Social media – QWAG’s use of social media has ballooned. Use of twitter helps QWAG to keep in touch with other local organisations and to promote issues to do with rivers, local amenity and regeneration as well as to form wider links with other community groups working on rivers around the country. QWAG started the year under review (March 2012) with 280+ twitter ‘followers’ and ended on 20 March 2013 with 537 followers.

During the year QWAG handled a range of enquiries from the public with requests for interviews, permission to use images and photographs, and queries about particular stretches of the river, its route and condition from students, researchers and also statutory agencies.

Paul Newing
We were sorry to hear of the death of Paul Newing who chaired Lewisham Local History Society, had been a local councillor and was “a conscientious civic-minded citizen and a Lewisham man through-and-through.”

QWAG would like to thank:
Lewisham Methodist Church for use of its meeting space; Lewisham Council for its support of the Rivers and People project; Greenwich Council for supporting the 3RCU; Voluntary Action Lewisham for advice on community finance and accounting; park user, local amenity and fellow community groups and statutory partners especially the London Boroughs of Bromley, Greenwich and Lewisham, Thames 21, Glendale, the River Resources Centre and the Environment Agency for on-going liaison and advice.

Paul de Zylva
Chair
20 March 2013

Annual Report 2011

Annual report 2011

Hitting our stride

2011 saw the Quaggy Waterways Action Group (QWAG) turn the corner and hit its stride – or something approaching it. We built on our work in 2010 during which we took early steps with our QWAG 2010+ Plan to recover from the death of our former Chair, Ray Manchester.
We formed a stronger, active Committee. We took on and ran more activities and events for members at and in between meetings. We started experimenting with social media as a way to reach new and existing audiences. And we enjoyed ourselves.

Toward the end of 2011, having steadied the QWAG ship, we started planning for the longer term seeking the kind of confidence and ambition that has characterised QWAG’s work since 1990 when founder, Matthew Blumbler, with others, saw the potential of re-naturalised urban rivers as part and parcel of everyday thinking – whether in planning, regeneration and flood risk, in health, education and recreation policies or in environmental improvement, economic development and ‘place making’.

That is why we have set our eyes on the next phase of QWAG’s role – by starting to:

Plan the next big restoration – the River Quaggy is already a beacon of urban river improvement helping to put south east London on the map for reasons other than the kind of stories that hit the news headlines; it’s looked to by other communities in London, the UK and beyond as an example of what can be done.

But there is much to do to complete the links between the isolated gems where the river and its surroundings have sprung to life such as at Chinbrook Meadows and Sutcliffe Park – and the sterile swathes of concrete encasing the river through much of its course especially between those two oases and in central Lewisham; and,

Help the Quaggy achieve good ecological status – because it’s currently in ‘poor’ ecological condition and needs a lot of work improving the quality of its water so that the river meets the requirements of the Water Framework Directive by 2015.

In an era of cuts, apparent gloom and excuses for inaction, we have to remind ourselves that we are (just another) small grassroots community group of volunteers. And then we start working together, start thinking big and thinking the possible – not the impossible – and we find ways to do things that continue our traditional role of inspiring and encouraging others to do right by rivers.

Governance
At the AGM on 20 January 2011 members elected the following members to serve as the charity’s trustees and committee members for 2011 with one vacancy:

Chair: Paul de Zylva Vice Chair: Mike Keogh

Treasurer: Anne Scott Secretary: Pamela Zollicoffer
Trustee: David Larkin Trustee: Maria de Jesus
Committee member: Lawrence Beale Collins

In 2011 the trustees met 7 times to plan the group’s finances, meetings, events and projects.

Membership and meetings
In 2011 there were six members’ meetings including the AGM. Excluding trustees an average of 12 members attended members’ meetings; AGM attendance was 25. For 2011 the Committee arranged a range of speakers and presentations including:

  • Chris McGaw of Lewisham Council’s Rivers and People project on the role of Conservation volunteers in a bog society
    Reptile and Amphibian Society
  • The Environment Agency – Joanna Heisse speaking on Alien invaders – what we do and do not know about alien invasive species in our rivers
  • Breaking the digital barrier – a meeting to explore the use of social media including twitter and facebook by community groups
  • Thames Water – Robert Smith presented on the role London’s sewers with his talk Water from River to River

Membership numbers in 2011 following the summer renewal stood at Subscription rates were once again frozen for 2011-12. By the end of 2011 QWAG had 50 members

Inspiring events

April: ‘A Quest for the Quaggy’ – a walk along the Quaggy from Sutcliffe Park to Manor House Gardens with the Rivers and People project of Lewisham Council.

May and June: once again Julia Grollman and Matthew Blumler planned and ran two popular river clean ups as part of QWAG’s contribution to the third annual 3 Rivers Clean Up (3RCU) – the fortnight of events with Thames 21 and many others aims to maintain local rivers by removing invasive plants (Himalayan balsam) and rubbish and, in doing so, involve people in understanding and caring for rivers as well as having fun experiencing the river for real.

The 3RCU features in the Mayor of London’s Environment Report for London, 2011
http://data.london.gov.uk/datastore/package/state-environment-report-london-june-2011 (page 65)

July: Lewisham People’s Day saw us launch our new promotional leaflet featuring a large yellow duck and Mayor Boris getting close to the water on the first 3RCU.

September: we followed our inaugural bat walks in 2010 with another bat walk in Sutcliffe Park, Greenwich to continue to explore how well local restored rivers support biodiversity and key species such as bats.

September: ‘Bridges over the River Quaggy’ – this newly designed walk took in 10 of the bridges crossing the river in its lower section. The event was the first annual Ray Manchester Tribute Walk. 50 people walked from the Quaggy’s confluence in central Lewisham with the river Ravensbourne, where both rivers are heavily engineered and encased in concrete, to Sutcliffe Park – an example of how improved treatment of rivers can lead to benefits for people, for nature and for a greater sense of place. When we arrived in Sutcliffe Park, we met Canadian television which was making a film of river restorations around the world.

Practical action
During the year QWAG members kept watch for episodes of pollution or other threats to the river and its ecosystem. We would like to be able to report that these matters had been resolved but are unable to do so.

Despite constant vigilance, requests for various agency’s to cooperate and not unreasonable expectations that they would there is still no resolution to two significant pollution threats to the Quaggy:

Clarendon Rise – From the bridge at Clarendon Rise – off the lower Lee High Road near the new Nando’s restaurant – a cast iron foul sewer is visible running above the River Quaggy. In May 2010 QWAG reported to the Environment Agency that sink outlets had been connected directly into the river and in June added that the sewer was leaking toilet waste into the river. QWAG has pursued this with both the Agency and with Thames Water and although the sink connections have been corrected sewage is still visibly entering the Quaggy via poor connections QWAG continue to apply pressure to resolve this pollution threat. During the year a diligent new officer at Lewisham Council did start to take action but it will soon be two years since we first asked for action with no clear sense that the matter will be fully resolved.
Milk Ditch – this tributary in the Bromley stretch of the Quaggy crosses allotment land above Chinbrook Meadows. We two years we have with Chinbrook Meadows Park User Group investigated pollution in and odours from the stream caused by poor waste water connections to the mains from baths and washing machines. QWAG continues to pursue Thames Water and the Environment Agency to seek action and has now formally written with others to Bromley Council seeking action and resolution.

Influencing decisions
QWAG continued to track strategic planning matters and relevant planning applications likely to affect the river environment.

Core Strategy – In February 2011 QWAG appeared at the Examination in Public into the Core Strategy. Welcoming many aspects of the draft strategy QWAG suggested that more was required to secure local rivers as truly distinctive features of the borough. QWAG’s comments led to the Council making various changes to the wording of the strategy.

Lewisham town centre area Action Plan (AAP) – In spring 2011, QWAG met with Lewisham Council to explore the purpose of the AAP in restoring the river environment in central Lewisham. QWAG has long called for rivers in the town centre to be broken out of the concrete casing as this affords the opportunity to capitalise on re-naturalised rivers as part of a rounded vision for the town centre vision other than a retail experience.

Manor Park bridge – QWAG supported the proposed new bridge at one end of Manor Park as a way to open up the park and river running alongside it as a leisure space and, in doing so, to create a new green route for walking and cycling between Hither Green and Lewisham and improve use of the park to ward off ‘anti-social behaviour’. The bridge, which has been delayed to allow treatment of Japanese Knotweed in the vicinity, will hopefully in spring 2012.

Lee High Road – there have been multiple built developments along the Lee High Road and as in previous years QWAG objected to the height of proposed additional re-developments which will see 5 storeys going directly up on the river’s banks, where previously there was one storey. Despite this dramatic overshadowing of the river Lewisham planning committee granted permission for the full five storey development.

Communications

Each month QWAG produces FLOW – a single A4 page bulleting which is sent to members in email form with paper copies going to 20 members without email. Flow is also sent to our external contacts in local authorities, environment agencies, local MPs and the media.

Social media – QWAG ended the year (March 2012) with 280 twitter followers. During the year QWAG has used twitter and facebook as new ways to reach different audiences. We have used twitter in particular to keep in touch with other local organisations and to promote issues to do with rivers, local amenity and regeneration as well as to form wider links with other community groups working on rivers around the country.

In early 2012 QWAG organised a series of ‘filmed walks’ along the Quaggy to capture on film the story of the river so that this can be used as a ‘virtual tour’ of the river on the website. On each walk we used twitter to show live progress of each stage of the wade up the Quaggy and this led to useful feedback from other community groups and a local MP.

At Lewisham People’s Day in July we launched our new leaflet: http://www.qwag.org.uk/home/

As usual, People’s Day QWAG with the chance to set up an eye-catching stall and exhibition in Mountsfield Park, Catford and engage with people directly about local rivers and regeneration and to publish another summer newsletter.

QWAG’s archive project saw Matthew Blumler, Pamela Zollicoffer and Philippa starting to capture QWAG’s history, including articles and photographs, in digital format to create more extensive use, better and more accessible record keeping and allow greater use of more material on the website for educational, research and local history purposes.

During the year QWAG handled a range of enquiries from the public with a range of requests for interviews, permission to use images and photographs, and queries about particular stretches of the river, its route and condition from students, researchers and statutory agencies.

Thanks
QWAG would like to thank: Lewisham Methodist Church for use of its meeting space, Lewisham Council for People’s Day organisation, Greenwich Council, for supporting the 3RCU and permission to hold the bat walk in Sutcliffe Park, community and statutory partners especially Thames 21, Glendale, and the Environment Agency for ongoing liaison and advice.

21 March 2012

Annual Report 2010

Annual report 2010

This year QWAG started working its way back to the kind of levels of activity it enjoyed before the untimely death of our Chair, Ray Manchester, on 16 July 2009. Both established and newly active members have worked to honour Ray’s memory by sustaining momentum and setting a new direction.

QWAG started raising its sights by working to the QWAG 2010+ plan approved by members at the 2010 AGM. This annual report outlines these activities which include popular participatory events such as bat walks and river clean ups and work to influence decisions by local authorities and others which may affect the River Quaggy and river corridor.

To start the year it was encouraging for QWAG by being recognised by the Government as “a great example of environmental action”. By the year end QWAG had carried out many of the tasks it undertook up to July 2009.

There is more to do to attract and involve more members to fulfil QWAG’s aims.

Governance
At the AGM on 20 January 2010 members elected the following members to serve as the charity’s trustees and committee members for 2010 with one vacancy:

Chair: Paul de Zylva Vice Chair: vacant
Treasurer: Anne Scott Secretary: Pamela Zollicoffer
Trustee: David Larkin Trustee: Maria de Jesus

In 2010 the trustees met 7 times to plan the group’s finances, meetings, events and projects.
Membership and meetings
In 2010 there were six members’ meetings including the AGM. Excluding trustees an average of 12 members attended members’ meetings; AGM attendance was 25. For 2010 members’ meetings the Committee introduced having guest speakers starting with:

  • Councillor John Paschoud – speaking on Lewisham Council’s Core Strategy
  • Chris McGaw – on the new Rivers and People project
  • Matthew Blumler – on the role of communities in river restoration
  • Dr Geraldene Wharton – on assessing the success of urban river restorations
  • Dr Paul Rainey – on the geology of the Ravensbourne catchment

Membership numbers fell in 2010 as files were updated and the renewal of subscriptions intended before Ray Manchester died was carried out. Subscription rates were frozen for 2010-11. By the end of 2010 QWAG had 50 members – a good basis for raising membership in 2011.

Inspiring events
In May, Dave Larkin, QWAG’s own ‘batman’, led members on QWAG’s inaugural ‘bat walk’ in Sutcliffe Park, Greenwich, where QWAG-inspired river restoration and flood alleviation had been completed in 2005. The evening walk marked the start of QWAG’s Green City Bat project to explore how well local restored rivers support biodiversity and key species such as bats.

Dave arranged for London Bat Group’s Jason Cunningham to join the walk to explain bat behaviour. Using hand held bat detectors Pipistrelle and Soprano bats were seen circling for insects. The evening’s highlight was the brief visit of a large Noctule bat, a rare sight in London. Dave ran a follow up bat walk in Sutcliffe Park in September.

In June, Julia Grollman and Matthew Blumler planned and ran two popular river clean ups as part of QWAG’s contribution to the second annual 3 Rivers Clean Up (3RCU). The fortnight of events with Thames 21 and many others aims to maintain local rivers by removing invasive plants (Himalayan balsam) and rubbish and, in doing so, involve people in understanding and caring for rivers as well as having fun experiencing the river for real.

30 members of the public joined 17 QWAG members over two weekends (6th and 13th June) to remove 90 bin bags worth of balsam and 50 large bin bags of litter and assorted rubbish plus lots of scrap metal. Any risk of the balsam spreading was avoided by piling it onto the river bank to rot down in situ. Thanks in particular to Matthew for his considerable leadership coordinating the whole fortnight of events as well as QWAG’s two clean ups. Pictures from the 3CRU are at: www.flickr.com/photos/3rcu/

Practical action
During the year QWAG members kept watch for episodes of pollution or other threats to the river and its ecosystem:

Clarendon Rise – From the bridge at Clarendon Rise a cast iron foul sewer is visible running above the River Quaggy. In May 2010 QWAG reported to the Environment Agency that sink outlets had been connected directly into the river and in June added that the sewer was leaking toilet waste into the river. QWAG has pursued this with the Agency and with Thames Water and although the sink connections have been corrected sewage is still visibly entering the Quaggy via poor connections QWAG continue to apply pressure to resolve this pollution threat.
Milk Ditch – in February QWAG members visited this tributary crossing allotment land near Chinbrook Meadows to investigate pollution in and odours from the stream. QWAG worked with the allotment holders and Chinbrook Meadows Park User Group to investigate the cause which turned out to be poor waste water connections to the mains from baths and washing machines. QWAG continues to pursue Thames Water and the Environment Agency to seek action.
Three cornered garlic – on spring bank holiday Monday QWAG members pulled up clumps of the invasive plant, Allium triquetrum, found spreading along the Quaggy’s banks in central Lewisham.
Japanese Knotweed – Julia Grollman worked with Thames 21 to inject this rampant invasive species with Glyphosate at the Weigall Road clean up.

Influencing decisions
During 2010 QWAG continued to track relevant planning applications likely to affect the river environment and engaged in strategic decisions about the future of the area including:

Core Strategy – Early in 2010 QWAG submitted a comprehensive response to Lewisham Council’s draft Core Strategy, the overarching strategy for the future of the borough including the role of rivers and local environment, and how and where development should take place.

In responding to the draft QWAG observed the many welcome positive policies in the draft strategy on the role of rivers but advised that these alone would be insufficient to make rivers a distinctive feature of the borough. In particular, the opportunity was not taken in the strategy to make the most of the confluence of the Quaggy and Ravensbourne rivers at Lewisham town centre. Here QWAG would like to see town centre regeneration lead to the full and proper restoration of the rivers, which would be unique to a London town centre. Public hearings on the core strategy will be held in February 2011.

Manor Park bridge – QWAG supported the proposed new bridge at one end of Manor Park as a way to open up the park and river running alongside it as a leisure space and, in doing so, to create a new green route for walking and cycling between Hither Green and Lewisham and improve use of the park to ward off ‘anti-social behaviour’. QWAG asked members to express support for the bridge by writing letters to the planning authority. The bridge was approved by Lewisham Council in December 2010 and is set to be in place in spring 2011.

Lee High Road – there have been multiple built developments along the Lee High Road and as in previous years QWAG objected to the height of proposed additional re-developments which will see 5 storeys going directly up on the river’s banks, where previously there was one storey. Despite this dramatic overshadowing of the river Lewisham planning committee granted permission for the full five storey development.

Café – QWAG objected to the proposed increased operation of a café on the Lee High Road and backing on to the lower Quaggy found to be causing persistent river pollution.

Communications
In March the local press reported the Government’s praise for QWAG as “a great example of environmental action”. QWAG’s work inspiring the proper restoration and management of rivers had been chosen as an example of creating ‘sustainable communities’. The South London Press (19th March) reported: ‘River action group is a ‘great’ example’ and The Mercury (24th March) ran with ‘River group hailed for heroic actions.’

For Lewisham People’s Day in July QWAG set up an eye-catching stall and exhibition in Mountsfield Park, Catford. As usual, People’s Day provided QWAG with an opportunity to speak with people directly about local rivers and regeneration and to publish a summer newsletter www.qwag.org.uk/data/newsletter_10.pdf

Toward the end of the year Maria de Jesus and Philippa Spratt started to refresh QWAG’s website with the aim of returning to using the website to promote river restoration and report and update members and others on QWAG’s work. In 2010 the number of visits to the site as a whole averaged 1,880 visits per month, with the highest totals in March and November, at just over 2,200. The most visited pages were the ‘home’ page and the ‘Quaggy’ page.

QWAG’s archive project saw Matthew Blumler, Pamela Zollicoffer and Philippa starting to capture QWAG’s history, including articles and photographs, in digital format to create more extensive use, better and more accessible record keeping and allow greater use of more material on the website for educational, research and local history purposes.

In November Matthew, Pamela and Maria presented to Bromley Friends of the Earth on QWAG’s past, present and future and the urban rivers’ role in nature restoration and flood prevention.

During the year QWAG handled a range of enquiries from the public with a range of requests for interviews, permission to use images and photographs, and queries about particular stretches of the river, its route and condition from students, researchers and statutory agencies.

Ray Manchester
During the year QWAG explored options for ways to mark Ray Manchester’s contribution including an annual walk in his name, planting black poplar trees, practical projects to continue improving the river environment and creating an ‘outdoor classroom’ in Manor Park. A shortlist of ideas and intended use of funds to mark Ray’s role will be presented to members in 2011.

Thanks
QWAG would like to thank: Lewisham Methodist Church for use of its meeting space, Lewisham Council for People’s Day organisation, Greenwich Council, for supporting the 3RCU and permission to hold the bat walk in Sutcliffe Park, community and statutory partners especially Thames 21, Glendale, and the Environment Agency for ongoing liaison and advice.

19 January 2011

Make a splash without getting wet!