Lewisham residents clear alien invaders from their rivers

Environmentally-conscious Lewisham residents will have the opportunity to help care for the borough's rivers as part of a volunteer project this June.

Photo: Sofija Radovic

Environmentally-conscious Lewisham residents will have the opportunity to help care for the borough’s rivers as part of a volunteer project this June.

The 3 Rivers Clean-up, a collaborative project organised by environmental charities and local authorities, aims to rid local waterways of rubbish and destructive weeds.

The sessions, held during the first half of the month, will be an opportunity for locals to meet new people and do something to help the environment. Dedicated volunteers will receive invitations to a celebratory party at the end of the two-week effort.

The project aims to remove the invasive plant Himalayan Balsam from the area, as well as picking up litter along the river banks.

Lewisham Council organizer Chris McGaw said: “It is important to eliminate it before the seed’s spread. It takes five years to eradicate it and this is our 3rd year of the project.”

“But its only the second time we have done this to this river bank. Seven government and non-governmental organizations coordinate the project together with the local council.”

Himalayan Balsam is a species that escaped from gardens and quickly started to grow along our riverbanks, where it thrives on the damp ground. As it is not a native plant, it changes the natural characteristics of the riverside vegetation, which has an impact on wildlife in the area.

Mr Tom Hughes, one of volunteers said that this is his second year to be involved in this project: “I really love rivers so this means I can contribute to them and spend nice day doing something I like.”

“I used to live close to here last year so that is how I found it about the action. This plant over time has become the only plant by the river and then when it dies over the winter it will also affect wildlife in area and it doesn’t looks nice.”

Cleaning of Lewisham’s three rivers, the Ravensbourne, Pool and Quaggy, is taking place over the first fortnight in June, with events scheduled every day at different venues throughout the Ravensbourne river system.

The effort, backed by London environmental charity Thames21, will also cover neighbouring boroughs Greenwich and Bromley.

Ms Claire Sherer said: “It is volunteering week, so we got the day off to participate in any chosen area and I have choose this one.”

“I live in South-east London, not in Lewisham, but this river comes to where I live as well so I feel like I am doing something good for my local environment.”

Volunteers should confirm attendance in advance by emailing individual session organizers. For more information, and a project timetable, visit the Thames21 website.

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