The purpose of Rewilding Arcadia is to deliver and explain a series of nature-based flood risk management projects that are designed to restore the lost floodplain to re-connect water, people, heritage and wildlife with the natural cycles of the Thames (in normal times, during floods and drought).
Rewilding Arcadia looks to achieve multiple landscape benefits, for the long-term, to ensure that local communities, businesses, landowners, agencies and river users are fully engaged with flood risk management policy and solutions to increase public understanding about flooding and the need for change.
By its very nature, the Arcadian Thames should be resilient to flooding, however, previous land-use decisions have seen much of the wildness of the floodplain lost through historic modifications. As a result, the floodplain’s capacity to function during a flood has been greatly reduced.
To a large extent, the loss of the natural floodplain has not been a problem. Climate Change however, has altered the balance. The river is reclaiming its lost floodplain back; putting cherished landscapes, recreational opportunities, heritage and wildlife at threat as flood risk increases.
Rewilding Arcadia does not set out to create large new areas of floodplain or to improve the existing flood defences. It is simply looking to restore the lost floodplain features to those areas that will flood already – the parks, towpaths, gardens and wildlife sites that are within the floodplain but not currently managed with water in mind.
The geographical scope of Rewilding Arcadia looks to the River Thames floodplain between Weybridge and Chiswick – a stretch of the Thames that is affected by tidal and fluvial floods or a combination of both. This makes flood risk management solutions complex and as such, policies to manage flooding are included in both the River Thames Scheme and TE2100 projects.
Six strategic sites have been chosen for floodplain restoration to act as demonstration projects to guide future works.
The six sites are:
- Desborough Island
- Hurst Park
- Home Park Water Meadows at Hampton Court
- Canbury Gardens, Kingston
- Ham and Petersham
- The Syon Reach in Richmond, Kew and Brentford
A series of demonstration projects have been identified at each of the six sites. At the same time, RA will work in partnership with local communities, landowners and statutory agencies to develop the longer-term aspirations set out in the relevant strategic plans. Education, engagement and outreach work will form the most significant part of the first phase.