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Thames Landscape Strategy - Hampton to Kew -

TLS Towpath Management Plan

Visitors enjoying the towpath in Richmond The riverside is a particularly difficult environment to manage. The diverse needs of biodiversity, aethetics and recreation all have to be balanced and in much of the TLS area any maintainance plan has to account for daily tidal inundation and difficult environments to access.

For these reasons, the Thames Landscape Strategy is working with local councils to produce an annual TLS Towpath Management Plan that covers everything from litter collection, access, tree management to grass collecting. The success of the management plan has been considerable and achieved through developing new ways of working in harmony with the river and in partnership between local communities and riparian owners.

View the 2011 Annual Towpath Management Plan for the boroughs of Hounslow, Richmond, Kingston and Elmbridge (.pdf 2.17MB)

View the 2010 Annual Towpath Management Plan for the boroughs of Hounslow, Richmond, Kingston and Elmbridge (.pdf 1.1MB)

View the 2009 Annual Towpath Management Plan for the boroughs of Hounslow, Richmond, Kingston and Elmbridge

View the 2008 Annual Towpath Management Plan for the boroughs of Hounslow, Richmond, Kingston and Elmbridge (.pdf 1.7 MB)

NB For maps of individual reaches showing litter grot spots please contact us as they are too large a file to upload.

View the 2007 Annual Towpath Management Plan from Kew Bridge to Canbury Gardens (.pdf 395 KB)


Throughout much of London the flood defence walls keep litter largely within the river channel. In the upper reaches of the tideway however, much of the river corridor consists of low laying parks, towpaths and open spaces that are regularly inundated by the high tide.

For this reason the monthly flucuations of the tide have to be accounted for in the development of work schedules. It is during periods of spring tides (usually for 4-6 days each month just after the full moon) that most of the litter found on the towpath is deposited by the high water. The TLS management plan accounts for the natural rythym of the tides in that it allows for the litter to accumulate during the spring tides to be cleared away immeadiatly after the cycle changes to lower water. Signage is placed at key points along the towpath to inform visitors why the riverside is covered in flotsam and jetsum and the dates that it willl be cleared. This approach has seen a staggering 80% reduction in the overall amount of litter and significantly increased enjoyment and understanding of the riverside.

In the town centre areas, the TLS has been working with riparian councils to reduce the amount of litter from riverside users. This was a particular problem at honey pot locations such as Richmond. Small temporary skips are now installed at key locations along side fixed litter bins on warm dry days to increase capacity and recently the introduction of recycling bins has been trailed. Extra litter pickers during busy periods have been employed and early morning refuse collections now clean the riverside before most visitors are even out of bed. In addition, TLS projects are paying for new litter bins at key sites that have been identified as litter hot spots.

Vegetation Management

The TLS plan includes the mowing of grass, tree and scrub management and weeding of riverside structures. These are now managed in a more sustainable way to account for complex river eco-systems, views and recreational use and is devised to dovetail with regeneration work. In this way projects are intergrated at inception with day-to-day management. Each stretch of the river has to managed differently accounting for local charachteristics and is constantly modified as survey work throws new light on environmental consderations. For this reason the Managemnent Plan is broken into many small site specific sections – there is no ‘one size fits all’ aproach. This has necessitated in close co-operation with Council contractors and the consolidation of management areas.

The plan looks to the long-term establishemnet of a healthy, diverse and natural riverside ecosystem. This approach starts on the river bed and moves up through the river bank to the land and accounts for the diversity found in such environements including aqatic species, plants, insects, birds and mammalls. Traditional countryside management techniques are being re-introduced including native hedge planting (over 2km in 2005), hedge laying (almost 1km in 2005), willow spiling, reed planting and coppicing of trees. Hisoric views are kept open and improved scrub management and hay cutting has seen a considerable increase in the diversity of riverside species. Several trail locations have been established along the river to monitor changes. At one such site the number of native species has increased from 10 to 40 including all manner of flowering plants, reeds and sedges.

A key consideration in the development of the plan has been the recreational use of the river. In certain places, grass is kept short for picnicers or fisherman whilst in others scrub is allowed to grow to mask unsightly views or block the way to a particular site that was regularly vandalised.

Traditional native waterside trees are being planted or encouraged along the riverside including willow, ash, alder and black poplar and are managed in traditional ways including coppicing and pollarding. Dead wood is being left in situ where possible and where it needs to be removed (for example in the tidal areas) is placed nearby or used to create habitat loggeries for insects and stag beetles.


Volunteer work has been factored into the TLS Mnagement Plan and is now an integral part of the management process working alongside council contractors at specified times. Volunteers carry out a range of tasks including weeding, comprehensive litter picks, foreshore clearance, coppicing, hedge laying, structure repair and removal of invasive species such as Himalayan Balsam. In 2005 a staggering 3,200 volunteer days were carried out on TLS projects in Molesey, Kingston, Teddington, Ham, Twickenham, Richmond, Kew and Brentford. Volunteers ranged from local people and families to riverside businesses or large corporations.

The use of community service, probation and prison service workers is being introduced at present to carry out a range of tasks as part of the rehabilitation process. Following a successful pilot scheme at Molesey in partnership with the Swingbridge Community Boat Project and the Surrey Care Trust it is hoped to roll out this approach in Richmond, Ham and Kingston.


The TLS Riverside Mangement Plan looks to the long-term and although there is still a lot more work to do it has been one of the great success stories of the Thames Landscape Strategy’s first decade and has had a considerable influrenece on the appearance, enjoyment and diversity of the Thames corridor.

For information on tide times please follow the links on the Port of London Authority’s website

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