Restoration of the Lost Floodplain

The Restoration of the Lost Floodplain

‘To work in partnership to re-create, conserve, connect and enhance the natural character of the floodplain in response to climate change for people, wildlife and occasionally water’.

 richmond flooded



Our climate is changing and these changes are anticipated to affect the way that we use and manage the Thames floodplain as we move through the 20th Century.

In 2009, Sir David Attenborough Patron of the TLS launched the ‘Restoration of the Lost Floodplain’ project setting out a way forward to adapt our fragile habitats along the Arcadian Thames in response to anticipated changes in the world’s climate, prioritising ways that strategic projects such as the emerging TE2100, River Thames Scheme and WFD could be implemented on the ground.

The goals and aspirations of the Restoration of the Lost Floodplain have been fully integrated into the Review of the Thames Landscape Strategy and the All London Green Grid Area 9 Framework for the Arcadian Thames.


Increasing Flood Risk and Climate Change

It is now commonly agreed that flood risk will increase over the next century in the Thames Landscape Strategy area.  Studies carried out for the Environment Agency predict, for example, that peak flow fluvial flooding at Teddington could increase, over the next 100 years by up to 40%.  The floodplain of the Thames narrows as the river enters the TLS region with little scope for formal enhancements to the flood defences (such as new walls and flood relief channels).  Some weirs are being modified to allow water to pass downstream easier.  It is anticipated that the best form of defence will be preparation for a flood – increasing resilience to our properties and open spaces.

In the tidal section, between Teddington and Kew, the flood defences are often set back a considerable distance from the riverbank – often being a contour line running through the landscape.  All the land in-between these lines is within the functioning floodplain.  Studies predict that as flood risk increases, together with anticipated changes in the way that the Thames Barrier is operated, inundation of these open spaces will be far more common.  At present these places are managed largely as a ‘dry’ landscape and are not suitable for the predicted flood risk changes.


Why Act Now?

As London’s temperature rises, rainfall and storm intensity increases and the likelihood of summer droughts intensifies there will be an inevitable affect on riparian wildlife and human use of the floodplain. Established habitats will begin to decline and species will need ever larger areas of linked natural open space to adapt and move about in if they are to survive. The increased likelihood of flooding will bring extra pressure on emergency services and local emergency planning to ensure that people and property remain safe. Established recreational patterns will be blocked by rising waters putting the long-term viability of wider sustainable transport and visitor initiatives at risk.


The Restoration of the Lost Floodplain

The Restoration of the Lost Floodplain proposes the re-creation, restoration and re-connection of a naturally functioning floodplain to sustain a mosaic of different habitat types implemented at a landscape scale. By restoring the natural functions of the floodplain, spaces can be made for wildlife to flourish whilst allowing water to be stored during floods and slowly released as river levels drop. Making space for water in a managed and controlled way we can keep people and property safe.

New footpaths, cycle routes and informal trails could be put in place including the provision of signage and, dry (and safe) routes for use during a flood event. These will be set within a framework of a restored historic landscape of formal parks, creeks, ponds, avenues, woodland, grazed wet meadows and native hedges. By restoring our lost floodplains we can conserve the character of ‘the countryside in the city’ that makes the Arcadian Thames so special – spaces that work for people, for wildlife and for water whilst adapting to climate change and re-creating more naturally functioning floodplains.

 Project Aims

To restore and adapt those open spaces that are situated within the floodplain so that their essential character is conserved whilst allowing them to function as a floodplain both in times of inundation and in drought.  This would include habitat enhancement, historic conservation, recreational improvements and naturalisation of the river corridor.

Areas that have been identified include:

  • Desborough Island
  • Hurst Park
  • Home Park Water Meadows (formed a trial area with work on Phase One and Two of the scheme now completed)
  • Seething Wells
  • Canbury Gardens
  • Ham Lands and Towpath
  • Petersham Meadows
  • Old Deer Park
  • KewTo work with communities and authorities to propose and promote resilience to increase readiness for a flood eventTo work with the Environment Agency and local authorities to act as conduit for WFD and flood risk management strategies to be presented to communities along the river corridor

To work with communities and authorities to propose and promote resilience to increase readiness for a flood event

To work with the Environment Agency and local authorities to act as a link (for WFD and flood risk management strategies) between statutory agencies and communities.


ham towpath


It is proposed that the ‘Restoration of the Lost Floodplain’ will:

•           Optimise the use of the floodplain for water to go to during a flood event.

•           Identify ways to restore and re-connect the natural rhythms of the river corridor to create a ‘living landscape’ – a mosaic of habitats (created at a landscape scale) allowing wildlife to flourish and move about in as climate changes.

•           Create a network of sluices, controls and channels linked to a real time flood forecasting model to enable flooding to be carefully controlled across a large area reducing the risk and disruption to people.

•           Put in place a network of sustainable footpaths, cycle routes, informal trails, signage and dry routes to allow visitors and locals to navigate through the landscape even in times of flood and drought.

•           Restore the historic landscape framework of fields, avenues, creeks, ponds, woodland, grazed wet meadows and native hedges.

•           Put in place a long term management plan to carry out the day-to-day maintenance of the riverside that will include an active volunteer programme

•           Establish an education and outreach programme to connect people with their environment


natural floodplain


At the core of the project is the principle that the floodplain is our most important asset in managing increased flood risk that results from climate change. Places for people to enjoy, for wildlife to flourish and, when needed, for water to go. By restoring our lost floodplain we can conserve the character of the countryside in the city that makes the Arcadian Thames so special for future generations to enjoy and use.


To download the complete document

Restoration of the Lost Floodplain final document


Environment Agency Information:

Flood pages

Flood warning

Sign up to Floodline Warnings Direct: 0845 988 1198


The North Sea Flood 1953 BBC Website