Putting the Thames Back into Kingston
Launched in July 2005, this exciting Thames Landscape Strategy project aims to transform many areas of Kingston’s riverside and initiate a real revival in the use of the Thames. Like so many towns, Kingston traditionally turned its back on the river due mainly to the industry that lined its banks. But scratch beneath the surface and Kingston also has the most glorious boating traditions. It is the town that Jerome K Jerome hired his skiff from before setting off, three men in a boat, up the Thames to Oxford and there are more rowing, sailing, canoe, punting and skiff clubs clustered around the town than almost anywhere on the Thames.
The Thames Landscape Strategy plan is simply to ‘Put the Thames Back into Kingston’, to celebrate this watery heritage and to use it as a mechanism to regenerate the use and character of the Thames corridor linked to wider Borough initiatives and the Environment Agencies Waterways Plan.
To make Kingston a key Thameside centre it has been important to look at the riverside open spaces from the point of view of how they interact with the river itself including its wildlife, flooding and use. Working closely with the Royal Borough of Kingston and the Environment Agency, the TLS is currently consulting on what local people and users of the river would like to see improved. An ‘Integrated Moorings Business Plan’ has been produced to prepare the way for a raft of enhancements to Kingston’s waterspace such as floating restaurants, business boats, permanent and visitor moorings.
Alongside the river, several early hits have been designed and consulted on that are ready to be implemented before the main project is ready. At the Half Mile Tree on Lower Ham Road a discreet landscaping scheme has been implemented to include scrub works, footpath and access enhancements and signage installation. On the Lower Ham Road a volunteer group has been established to help tidy up rubbish in the river and to coppice overgrown trees and at the upstream entrance to Cranbury Gardens a landscaping initiative has been designed to open up a short section of riverside that has formally been off limits to the public.
Putting the Thames Back into Kingston will extend from the borough boundary stone through to the redundant filter beds at Seething Wells. It is being project managed by the Thames Landscape Strategy in partnership with Andrew Lynch and Ian Myhead of the Royal Borough of Kingston upon Thames.
‘To conserve, enhance and promote Teddington Lock, placing it at the heart of a waterspace renaissance throughout the Thames Landscape Strategy area’
Located between Hampton and Kew, Teddington Lock is a unique and important river landmark. It connects the non-tidal Thames, running through Oxford and Henley, to the tidal Thames, and is a key gateway for local people, through the historic Teddington footbridge and river towpaths.
Teddington Lock is the largest lock on the River Thames and is owned and managed by the Environment Agency. Teddington Lock contains heritage features of regional and national significance, including the enormous barge and skiff lock and original lock office. The site is located inside a designated conservation area and is at the very centre of the Thames Landscape Strategy region. From the early 19th century, when the Corporation of London opened the original timber pound lock to the public, Teddington Lock has always been a key site along this stretch of the Thames. In 1857, the original lock was replaced and a new skiff lock added to accommodate the increasing craft and commercial freight traffic. The lock cut was extended, boat slides were added and in 1904, the enormous barge lock was built to cope with the larger freight carriers. This broad arrangement of locks still remains today and whilst freight traffic has been all but replaced with pleasure craft, the site provides a unique reminder of the river history and heritage associated with Teddington Lock and the wider river corridor.
‘Teddington Gateway’ was launched at the Teddington River Festival in June 2004, where more than 15,000 people descended on to Teddington’s riverside. This date was chosen to coincide with the 100th birthday of the Teddington Barge Lock, a fitting start to a project centred around river heritage and improving connections from, to and along the River Thames.
The objectives of Teddington Gateway are both bold and important. They have been devised to conserve and enhance the most important historic and natural elements of the lock area and the surrounding open spaces and towpaths. These include enhancements to lighting, seating, railings and signage. Biodiversity works such as habitat creation, hedge and tree planting, and building and lock structure restoration.
The enhancements to Teddington Lock will seek to address the fundamental issue that Teddington Lock, as the junction between the tidal and non-tidal river is often seen as a barrier to boat navigation. For this reason it is important to address the areas further upstream and downstream of the lock in order to encourage and facilitate local people, boat users and day-trippers to visit and go beyond Teddington, be it through scheduled passenger services, hire or privately owned boats.
In addition, Teddington Gateway will improve facilities for other river users (such as pump-outs, passenger landing stages and visitor moorings), commuters, visitors and local people by improving amenities on the riverbank and towpaths enabling greater recreational opportunities, public enjoyment, access to and understanding of the Thames corridor.
Whilst a strong commitment and vision for the project has been achieved, there is still considerable development work and consultation to be conducted to take the project proposals forward and ensure they are well designed and of lasting benefit. Heritage Lottery Funding is being sought that will need to be matched by contributions from the public and grant giving trusts.
Teddington Gateway is being developed through the TLS partnership. The members involved share common views and aspirations and are strongly committed to the project. The Environment Agency is the lead organisation and is working closely through the TLS partnership with the following members and groups; London Borough of Richmond upon Thames, Royal Borough of Kingston upon Thames, Port of London Authority, Teddington Society, Local businesses, clubs and residents.
Molesey and HurstPark
The Thames Landscape Strategy in partnership with Elmbridge Borough Council and Surrey County Council have carried out a number of consultation exercises with Molesey residents, on whether there is a need for a management plan for Hurst Park and Molesey Riverside between Hampton Court Bridge and Hurst Park. On Saturday 3rd October, the Thames Landscape Strategy attended an open day with their marquee, asking residents to give their opinions on how they would like to see the area’s landscape managed in the future. The day was a great success with over 300 people attending.
The next step in the consultation was a mailout of a questionnaire to all residents in the area through the Hurst Park Residents Association. The questionnaire was structured around a number of different management issues, ranging from access, signage and sports facilities through to scrub management, wildlife and biodiversity. Over 80 responses were received from local residents, both from the Molesey bank as well as the Hampton bank, along with a number of responses from residents of Garrick’s Ait. Both the residents association and the Thames
Landscape Strategy are pleased with the response rate, as the questionnaire was relatively long and postage had to be covered by respondents.
The findings from the survey showed an overwhelming majority in favour of a conservation management plan being developed for the riverside. Results also showed that residents were united in their views on a number of key issues. The key findings of the consultation will be drawn together in a report, which will be fed back to Elmbridge Borough Council and Surrey County Council. This report will also be fed back to the local community via the very active Hurst Park Residents Association.
Hampton Court Approaches
Hampton Court evokes the same kind of feeling of awe today as it did when it was first built. Seated on the banks of the Thames it has had the pleasure of welcoming visitors through its gates since it was first opened to the public by Queen Victoria. The railway station was even positioned in such a way as to create a sudden visual impact for every passenger as the palace came into view across the water. The views and approaches to HamptonCourtPalace have been of great importance to the Thames Landscape Strategy. The Hampton Court Approaches project – in conjunction with HistoricRoyalPalaces, RoyalParks, London Borough of Richmond Upon Thames, English Heritage, and the Environment Agency, and funded by Transport for London, is designed to recreate that ‘wow’ factor that had been lost during subsequent years of development and changes in town planning. One of the elements of this project has been the tidying up and improvement of Hampton Court Road. Locally known as ‘between the walls’, Hampton Court Road runs along the separation of Home Park and Bushy Park and is the main road from Kingston Bridge to Hampton Court roundabout.
London Borough of Richmond Upon Thames transport team started work on the site in spring 2008, revamping the footpath and cycleway. The tarmac of the footpath had gotten tatty and was very narrow. Right up against the side of this busy road, there was also a cycle path painted along the edge of the road. Following consultation between the partners and public, it was decided that this should be corrected to serve not only the goals of the Approaches project visually, but also to improve the safety of the paths users.
The path has been widened to accommodate both cyclists and pedestrians as a shared use path. It has been moved away from the edge of the road and separated from it by a strip of grass which is not only safer but improves the rural feel and adds continuity to the grass on the wall side. The tarmac has been replaced by far more attractive heritage sealed gravel, and this also creates continuity as the paths directly outside the Palaces front gates have also been covered in sealed gravel, as have the improvements to the Barge Walk along the river to Kingston Bridge. The gravel is also more permeable that the tarmac so will create less surface run-off in the event of heavy rain or flood.
The next stage of the project is to improve the safety and accessibility of Hampton Court Road that runs alongside Taggs Island. This will include a shared use path of sealed gravel.
There are also plans to improve the road layout in Hampton Court Village. Details will be updated as the project develops.