QWAG’s Spring Walk took place in decidedly wintry weather.
The main danger facing participants in last year’s Spring Walk and Social was probably sunburn, as the temperature soared to the mid-twenties during the event. In stark contrast, frostbite was more of an issue this year, as winter returned with a vengeance to South East London for a day.
Nevertheless, one dozen hardy souls took part at some stage in our “Going Loopy in Ladywell” event, a walk by the River Ravensbourne in Ladywell Fields to inspect the new channel which now meanders its way through the northern end of this large open space.
The diversion, completed last autumn, is the second phase of the QUERCUS (Quality Urban Environments for River Corridor Users and Stakeholders) project and follows the creation of Cornmill Gardens. QWAG had input into the design of both phases.
Photos from the walk
The walkers shelter at the station before setting off through Ladywell. The station opened in 1857, stimulating a building boom in the locality and turning the small village into a populous suburb.
The Honor Oak branch of the Ravensbourne flows between the back gardens of suburban Ladywell. Its fate is typical of many of the river’s smaller tributaries, often culverted and almost always hidden from view.
The administrative block is one of the few remaining buildings from the huge St Olave’s workhouse, opened in 1900 by the Bermondsey Union. It was used later as a military hospital, then became a retirement home.
The Ravensbourne in Ladywell Fields has suffered from some channelisation and is restricted elsewhere by toe-boarding. Railings along most of the banks keep the river unnecessarily isolated from the fields.
A proportion of the river’s flow is diverted into a new channel through the fields. This is achieved using a carefully constructed natural-looking weir, built outside the new building at the University Hospital.
Despite the snow, the walkers were able to see how the new channel has been constructed. Features include a couple of marginal ponds to allow a variety of riverside habitats to develop over the next few years.
The walkers head in the direction of St Mary’s church. It will take a few years for the river banks here to develop the rich diversity of wildlife found in other localities where rivers have been restored.
There’s just time for a final glance back over the fields to review the outcome of the QUERCUS project and imagine how the scene here will change. Then it’s off to the local pub to warm up and chat over a drink.