Anne Scott reports on QWAG’s walk in search of some of the Quaggy’s secrets south of the border in Bromley.
On the first Sunday morning of the 4th Lewisham Walking Festival about 30 of us assembled at Grove Park station for a walk in search of some of the Quaggy’s secrets south of the border in Bromley. The weather was overcast, but a pleasant temperature for walking, and the walk was led by Ray Manchester, chair of QWAG.
We walked in short stages, with frequent stops for Ray to tell us about the history of the river and pass round photographs of the area in the past. It was the coming of the railways that led to the transformation of the area from countryside into suburb, and the tendency to confine the river to narrow channels or pipes. Misguided flood alleviation projects exacerbated this trend in the last century.
After a glimpse of the Boundary Ditch, a tributary of the Quaggy which forms the border between Lewisham and Bromley here, we walked on to see the Kyd Brook (as the Quaggy is known south of Grove Park) flowing out of Sundridge Park Golf Course, where it is relatively natural, into a pipe which goes under the road and a housing estate.
We then made our way downstream to Chinbrook Meadows to see the river where it was restored in 2002. It was wonderful to see how much vegetation had grown up in just four years, much of it self-seeded. The gently babbling stream and the quieter marginal ponds now form a haven for wildlife as well as a pleasant playground for humans. Matthew Blumler, QWAG’s founder, told us about how QWAG was started, its successes so far, and its vision for the future of the river.
On the bridge in Chinbrook Meadows
The success of the River Quaggy Flood Alleviation Scheme and the part played by award-winning Sutcliffe Park to store floodwater is explained on the bridge in Chinbrook Meadows.
On exiting the park towards Chinbrook Road it was possible to compare the naturalised river with a still-channelised stretch. In the straight channel the water runs faster, giving little depth, which adds to the barrenness of the concrete.
We finished the walk in Sydenham Cottages Nature Reserve, a little-known gem of green space. The Quaggy flows along its edge, unfortunately inaccessible behind railings in a deep vertical-sided channel. This section is a prime candidate for future restoration.
A few of us returned to Chinbrook Meadows after the walk to enjoy the delights of the cafe and an event organised by the Friends of Chinbrook Meadows in the afternoon, which finished with pond dipping. This helped us to appreciate further the importance of the restored river for wildlife.
Thanks to Ray, Matthew and Mike Keogh, our safety officer and first-aider, for an enjoyable and informative walk.