New faces, skilled hands. That is what we see nowadays when we organise a clean up of the river Ravensbourne, which winds its way through Ladywell Fields, writes Lawrence Beale Collins of the Healthy Rivers Project.
We were all forced to exercise locally during Covid lockdown and that gave us an opportunity to really see what sort of nature we had in front of us.
To sit by the river, listening to the gentle riffles and occasionally spot the flash of a kingfisher zooming through to its next feeding site, inspired many to get involved once restrictions were lifted. The team of dedicated volunteers has, as a result, been reinvigorated.
Hearing stories from those that found places of peace and calm along the river during lockdown reminded me of my first encounter with Ladywell Fields.
I was born in Lewisham Hospital in the 1950’s, but only really got to know Ladywell Fields properly when I started interviewing people along the river for a project I was doing at UCL in 2010.
Chris McGaw, who helped run the original Rivers and People project for Lewisham, described how he would take a lunch break from the bustle of the Wearside office and come and sit by the river and be transported, for a moment, into a rural idyll where birdsong filled the air and wild flowers covered the riverbank.
I was drawn into volunteering with his team and subsequently heard of similar encounters with nature along this river.
Fast forward to 2021, with Chris long gone to run a nature project in East Anglia, I run the Healthy Rivers Project, with the help of both Lewisham and the Quaggy Waterways Action Group (QWAG).
I really enjoy being in the river and that’s why we try to run community events whenever we can so others can experience river nature too and we can talk about it.
Another great project within this river catchment is the Ravensbourne Riverfly, a citizen science project that has been running since 2016.
Here, we have also seen an influx of newly-trained* volunteers keen to kick-sample the rivers monthly, looking for freshwater invertebrate indicators that will tell us if the water quality is up to scratch.
Just lately this has been put to the test with two pollution issues up on the Pool tributary. Both have had an effect on our findings with river insect numbers taking a bit of a dive but they will recover, they always do. Nature is both resilient and also an inspiration.
*The Zoological Society of London runs all Riverfly (RMI) training sessions. For other volunteering opportunities see Ladywell Fields’ facebook page.