During the last 20 years the implementation of the policies, projects and management proposals set out by the strategy have seen a transformation that few would have thought possible within the confines of one of the world’s largest urban conurbations. Only the commitment of a dedicated community and far-sighted group of partners has enabled a diverse mosaic of industry, heritage, conservation and geology to be brought into the 21st Century and beyond. That the work still continues is a lesson that exceptional landscapes do not exist by themselves. Landscapes have to be enhanced, protected, celebrated, accessed, understood and enjoyed. These were the aims of the Thames Landscape Strategy 20 years ago and have been the mission of all those involved in the project since.
Putting the Thames Landscape Strategy into action, has been a 20 year rolling programme of implementing the projects and management proposals set out in the strategy. The Thames Landscape Strategy works in partnership with our funding partners, other organisations and the local community to implement the guidance, projects and management proposals set out in the Thames Landscape Strategy.
Our goals for any given year are set out in the annual TLS Action Plan.
The work of the strategy can be broadly grouped into the topics outlined below.
The Thames Landscape Strategy implements projects on the ground that deliver our goals and management proposals as set out in the Strategy document. The TLS also works with other partners to implement projects and has established many initiatives to deliver our partner’s aspirations.
The TLS has raised £20,000,000 since 2000 to restore, open up and conserve the Thames corridor. Issues addressed in these projects include:
- access enhancements
- education and outreach
- nature conservation
- heritage conservation
- landscape and garden restoration
- adaptation to climate change
- Flood risk management schemes
- habitat creation
There is an unusually high proportion of public and charity owned land along the Thames between Hampton and Kew, managed with the public benefit as a priority. Well cared for and diverse riverside open spaces are of great importance to many local people – often being cited as one of their most important considerations. The TLS has championed best practice in this field finding innovative ways to improve the maintenance of the towpaths through the introduction of new techniques that top up existing arrangements based on the aspirations of local people.
The TLS Towpath management plan. updated by the TLS annually, sets out the specific management requirements for the riverside and has provided a handbook to guide maintenance for riparian owners, appointed contractors and communities since 2001. The plan provides the practical information needed – on a site by site basis, to manage the towpaths and informal open spaces. The plan includes:
- litter collection
- tree works
- mowing regimes including annual hay cuts
- invasive species removal
- tree and hedge planting
- maintenance of street furniture
- surface repair
The plan ensures that volunteering is directly linked to statutory provision in order to provide a best use of resources. Where extra measures are needed to top up statutory mechanisms and volunteer output the plan identifies possible sources of additional funding that would be required to implement these works. Where needed, the TLS has worked directly with appointed contractors.
The Thames Landscape Strategy works Towpath Management Plan won a special commendation for our innovative approach to riverside management in the National Waterway Awards.
To ensure community engagement and foster ‘ownership’ in the management of the landscape, a TLS Volunteer Programme was started in 2000. Initially volunteers simply helped to pick litter and remove weeds but through the evolution of the Towpath Management Plan the work has become increasingly diverse. A key consideration is to co-ordinate volunteer work so that it tops up statutory measures. Volunteer programmes are set annually in the TLS Towpath Management Plan and are designed to implement TLS In Action Projects. Much work is also carried out with community pay back workers and young people. Over 250,000 volunteer hours have been managed by the TLS since 2002.
The Thames Landscape Strategy also carries out survey work along the river. For example, every November the half lock in Richmond is opened letting the river become almost empty during a low tide. This is called the draw-off. The Thames Landscape Strategy works in a partnership with the Zoological Society of London (ZSL) and Marine Conservation Society to research the invasive and threatened native species in the River Thames. For more information visit the ZSL website The draw-off is also a chance to get down in the riverbed with volunteers to clean up the rubbish that would otherwise be inaccessible.
Education and Outreach
The TLS Education and Outreach Programme continues to develop exciting new initiatives including a formal schools programme in partnership with Orleans House Gallery to deliver a range of educational activities targeted at primary and secondary school pupils, families (especially those living in deprived wards across the TLS area), young parents, children and young people who are looked after and adults living in emergency accommodation. All TLS education work is linked to project work on the ground and volunteering.
The TLS also continues to develop a series of exciting events to promote the Arcadian Thames and its conservation and has published a series of walking leaflets and visitor guides available in the publications section.
Catchment Planning and Flood Risk Management
In 2009 Sir David Attenborough launched the TLS Restoration of the Lost Floodplain scheme to work in partnership to re-create, conserve, connect and enhance the natural floodplain in response to climate change for people, wildlife and occasionally water’. A trial scheme to restore the Home Park Water Meadows was initiated in 2010 in partnership with Historic Royal Palaces. Funded by SITTA and the Father Thames Trust, the £280k scheme has completed Phases One and Two.
The TLS is a partner in the Your Tidal Thames Catchment Partnership to take forward the Water Framework Directive along the tidal tideway and is an active participant in the Lower Thames Catchment Partnership. The TLS also sits on the Water Framework Directive Thames Panel that is developing the Thames River Basin Management Plan.
Landscape and Garden Restoration
The Arcadian Thames has more historic parks and gardens than almost any other location in the UK. Many of these historic places however had fallen into disrepair and were in need of restoration. The Thames Landscape Strategy has acted as the catalyst for an ambitious restoration programme across for a range of different open spaces including formal gardens, historic parkland, grand avenues and informal public spaces. Whilst the TLS has managed many of these restoration programmes directly, much more has been achieved through the wider action of partners – the TLS stimulating these programmes and co-ordinating activity at a landscape scale. Activities include:
- Preparation of landscape restoration masterplans
- Assistance with partner landscape restoration masterplans
- Re-opening of lost views
- Avenue restoration
- Historic landscape restoration
- Preparation of historic garden management plans
- Garden restoration
The TLS has championed the enhancement of the ordinary public open spaces that connect the main historic sites clustered along the Thames. These include intimate spaces such as Ranelegh Drive, bustling promenade walks and historic waterfronts such as Richmond and Kingston Riversides. Working in partnership with the four boroughs much work has been carried out to improve these spaces focussing on the following themes:
- streetscape surfacing
- lighting (to improve both the appearance of light columns/lanterns and the light source itself – for people and nocturnal wildlife)
- repair and enhancements of historic walls, railings and steps
- placement of litter bins
- repair of benches
- access improvements
- enhancements that aid mental mapping and legibility
- planting and street trees
Biodiversity and Habitat Restoration
The historic network of parks, gardens, towpaths and avenues of the Arcadian Thames forms the capital’s largest interconnected wildlife corridor that stretches from Inner London to the Surrey Hills and beyond. This mosaic of habitats supports a diverse range of resident and migratory species. The TLS has worked at a landscape level with a diverse variety of partners to enhance these riparian habitats and green corridors implementing a range of local and national initiatives. Increasingly, measures to restore natural floodplains are being explored linked to the London Rivers Action Plan, the London Biodiversity Action Plan and the Water Framework Directive. Measures have included:
- Enhancement of Green corridors
- Naturalisation of riverbanks
- Reedbed creation and management
- Sand martin, owl and bat box installation
- Enhancement of backwaters and other wet habitats
- Re-introduction of meadowland
- Pollarding and coppicing of riverside trees
- 4km of native hedge planting layered in a traditional way
- Tree planting – over 5,000 native trees planted
- Restoration of Floodplain channels at Home Park
- Measures to re-introduce productive landscapes
The TLS is lead for the Tidal Thames Habitat Action Plan for the London Boroughs of Hounslow and Richmond.
Hounslow Tidal Thames BAP
Richmond Tidal Thames HAP
£5m has been raised and spent on habitat enhancements since 2000.
Recreation and Tourism
The TLS actively promotes all types of formal and informal recreation along and on the Thames. Over £6m has been raised to improve the visitor experience through the implementation of new walking and cycling routes, signage, interpretive panels and boardwalks.
The TLS Waterspace and Visitor Action sets out our goals and aspirations and in 2008 the TLS launched the Arcadian Thames Travel Plan Network. .
Policy, Strategy & Development Control:
The Thames Landscape Strategy works with local and regional partners to ensure that the needs of this stretch of the Thames are considered within the planning and development processes. This ranges from responding to planning applications that directly affect the river, to feeding into the local development framework processes of partner boroughs, to working with other statutory agencies to advise on regional strategic plans such as catchment management plans or flood risk policies.
Achievement and Success: Strategic Planning, Development Control & Community Partnership
The Thames Landscape Strategy set a precedent for communicating the importance of Landscape to both professionals and the general public. Achievements include:
- Instigated the production of two further Strategies covering the River Thames,
- Shaped London wide policy documents and Thames policy area and is cited in the current draft London Plan.
- Continues to be used to inform policy within local authorities.
- Designation of the river corridor between Hampton and Kew as London’s Arcadia – one of London’s cultural quarters
- Has been used internationally to inform water based strategies, from Tokyo to Richmond, Virginia.
- Has been recognised by peers in the presentation of awards by the Landscape Institute, Royal Town Planners Institute and internationally by the Environmental Design Research Association.
- Has been used as evidence at public enquiry in support of planning policy decisions based on Landscape Character such as the Seething Wells, Kingston development site.
- The principles set out in the strategy are used to inform a variety of strategic working groups, such as the local and regional Biodiversity Action Plan groups, and the Kew Gardens World Heritage Site Masterplan Steering Group.
- Firmly established the importance of planning policy in protecting the landscape.
- The TLS has helped to shape Flood Risk management plans for the Thames, working with both the Lower Thames Flood Risk and the Thames Estuary 2100 teams within the Environment Agency.
- Establishment of a Community Advisory group that has met with the TLS quarterly since the first meeting in June 1995.
- Been a lead partner in the Richmond Environment Network (now the South West London Environment Network) since 2005. This is an umbrella organisation that provides support information and guidance to members of the public working in the environment and civic pride sector.
- Worked with local volunteers, community payback attendees and schools litter picking along the towpath and foreshore, linked to changes in towpath management and TLS project work
- Actively engaged with hard to reach groups
- Established a Friends group that has just over 2000 members