Can the recently completed River Quaggy Flood Alleviation Scheme be likened to the apocryphal curate’s egg?
In a rare act of hubris our report on the QWAG spring walk four weeks ago boasted how QWAG events always seemed to be blessed with sunshine of late. In Greek tragedy hubris is swiftly and inevitably followed by retribution, so it was no surprise that a heavy day-long downpour was forecast for our Lewisham Walking Festival walk by the Quaggy from Lee Green to Lewisham.
The irony that a walk organised to showcase the recently completed Flood Alleviation Scheme could be ruined by excessive rainfall was not lost on the organisers. But on the day the rain was mostly light and patchy – more of an irritant than an impediment – and twenty or so hardy souls completed the course.
The walk started at the New Tiger’s Head at Lee Green. A plaque on the wall claims “the house was frequently the centre of a frozen lake in the early 1800s when the Quaggy River regularly broke its banks and froze from January to June.” QWAG Chair and walk leader Ray Manchester explains how the Quaggy has always been a troublesome neighbour to the residents of Lee and Lewisham.
The Quaggy runs alongside the car park of the Duke of Edinburgh in Lee High Road. Here it is confined to a concrete channel, although it does have a natural river bed where deposition can occur and plants take hold. Ray explains how QWAG’s plans for floodwater storage were adopted by the Envionment Agency in place of a scheme that would have widened, deepened and extended the channels.
The Quaggy runs through the picturesque Manor House Gardens. A measurement station here constantly records the flow of the river. In dry weather this can be 50 litres or less per second. But because most of the flow is derived from surface run-off it rises rapidly when it rains, often to over 1,000 litres per second. The peak recorded flow was a staggering 7,820 litres per second on the 9th June 1992.
The walkers pause by the gates to Manor Park. The park has been closed for over two years while it has been used as the base for the Flood Alleviation Scheme works. A regeneration project is just reaching completion and the Quaggy, which used to run un-noticed around the edge of the park through impenetrable undergrowth, has been made accessible. The park will host the official opening of the Flood Alleviation Scheme on the 5th June.
An impressive riverside tree in Eastdown Park provides welcome shelter for the group. Between Eastdown Park and Clarendon Rise the Quaggy flows just behind the properties along Lee High Road. Ray updates the group on the progress of recent planning applications that have great potential to either enhance or degrade the river corridor environment.
The walkers examine the in-channel works behind Nando’s from Clarendon Rise bridge. Officially the downstream end of the flood alleviation works is marked by Clarendon Rise bridge. However, QWAG were able to arrange a deal between Nando’s and the Environment Agency to make improvements to the stark concrete channel immediately downstream of the bridge. These provide a far more interesting view and talking point for the diners on the outdoor terrace of the restaurant.