Thursday, 4 August 2016

The river Quaggy as it flows through Eltham

Now in all the years I lived Eltham I never came across the River Quaggy.

But then when you live in an urban area you take water for granted.

It comes out of taps, goes down the drain and that is pretty much that, except of course for the quarterly bill.

The Quaggy at Chinbrook Meadows, before the restoration, 2002
But in rural communities water courses, ponds and wells are very important.

Look at any old map and count the number of streams, pumps and wells and chart how close are the farm houses, cottages and homes of the well off.

As late as 1860 the two fine houses of Stockton Range on Edge Lane were built with their own internal well.

And so it was also in Eltham, which brings me back to the Quaggy which flows through south east London, touching Mottingham, Middle Park and Sutcliffe Park before heading on across southern Kidbrook and Blackheath and joining the River Ravensbourne next to Lewisham Station.

And like many such water courses it was buried and lost to view or made to flow down concrete channels but more recently stretches of it have returned to something more natural.

“There are now a number of locations (Sutcliffe Park and Manor Park being good examples) where a new course has been created above ground and a range of wildlife has returned to SE London as a result. The river has the practical effect of reducing flood risk in the area, but also provides locals with wonderful public spaces to enjoy”*

Now the historian R.R.C.Gregory doesn’t mention the river, which was for many was just there and of little note other than when it flooded.

I wish I had been more adventurous back in the 60s and explored what I could of it but today that is what the Quaggy Waterways Action Group is doing, “bringing an urban river to life”

So I will just direct you to their site at and let you do the rest.

Chinbrook Meadows, june 2003, ater the restoration
But before you do spare a thought for Mark Jacob and his partner, Rosie who share my passion for waterways and would like to see this watercourse reappear through Lewisham, “I am hopeful that further changes can be made to the river's path through central Lewisham - at present, it feels like a wasted resource as it is more of a concreted 'canal'.

Lewisham will undoubtedly change a great deal in coming years and the river should be at the heart of this.”

They joined the action group recently which has been working hard to restore the Quaggy.  I particularly liked the two images on the site showing the before and after state of the river as it flows through Chinbrook Meadows to the south west of Eltham.

But there are plenty of images which show what people can do to return their area to a more pleasant environment.

And so passionate are Rosie and mark about this 17 miles of urban river that they named their micro bakery after it.  Not that this is an under hand form of advertising because it was a brief reference to his River Quaggy Bakery that set me off looking for the river.

From there I was back in the Eltham of the 1840s, which I sometimes think is no bad place to have been.

Now this I am fully aware might constitue a slide into nostalgic tosh so I shall just reflect on how vital such rivers and streams were to a rural community and wish the group well.

*Mark Jacob

Pictures; from Quaggy Waterways Action Group, who I hope will approve my use of their images.

No comments:

Post a Comment