East Londoners can benefit from ‘untapped asset’ of capital’s rivers

Riverside residents are being urged to ‘reconnect with the water’ as part of an environmental scheme running in two east London boroughs.

Blue Connections, focused on Barking Creek and the River Roding – a tributary of the Thames – aims to improve people’s understanding and appreciation of rivers and boost their skills, employability and mental health.

The scheme, targeted at residents and community groups in Barking & Dagenham and Newham, will offer riverside ‘walks and talks’ on the wildlife and ecology of the river, online seminars and a transferable and vocational skills training programme.

It will also feature opportunities to get involved with a ‘community mapping’ exercise aimed at identifying and removing barriers for fish migrating between freshwater channels and the tidal Thames, and environmental surveys on intertidal habitat.

The project is being run by the Thames Estuary Partnership, funded with an £86,000 grant over two years from City Bridge Trust – the City of London Corporation’s charity funder.

City Bridge Trust Chairman Giles Shilson said:

“The River Thames is the lifeblood of London, but many of us who live in the capital often see it as a barrier to be crossed rather than something to learn from and enjoy.

“Reconnecting with the water, its ecology and the huge variety of fish and mammals that live in it can have a marked effect in improving how people feel and their quality of life.”

The Blue Connections scheme will offer in-person and online training in skills such as communication, project planning, mapping and design skills.

The project is particularly aimed at young people from under-represented BAME communities, which currently account for just three per cent of workers in the environmental sector across the UK.

Thames Estuary Partnership Technical Director Amy Pryor said:

“In many ways the Thames and its tributaries are an untapped asset which is literally on people's doorstep and which can be used by people in so many different ways to improve their lives.

“This project will give people living near the water the chance to learn more about the river and how to look after it and the environment more generally, to develop new skills they can use in any job and boost their employability, with the added bonus of learning outdoors, which is a major boost to mental health.”

Any individuals or community groups which would like to get involved in the scheme are asked to email Amy Pryor at a.pryor@ucl.ac.uk

More information about the Thames Estuary Partnership is online at www.thamesestuarypartnership.org

The City of London Corporation’s charity funder, City Bridge Trust, is London’s biggest independent grant giver, making grants of over £25 million a year to tackle disadvantage across the capital – www.citybridgetrust.org.uk

Case studies

Ben Copson was an undergraduate on the Environmental Geography BSc programme studying out of the University of Cardiff’s EARTH department when he undertook training as part of an internship with the Thames Estuary Partnership, working on a project entitled Estuary Edges.

He said: “Working as an intern for Thames Estuary Partnership and helping out at the Estuary Edges fish trials was immensely rewarding and I would recommend any student take advantage of the opportunities for training.

“Throughout the day I was exposed to every working element of the survey; from fyke, seine and gill net operation, to hands-on experience with fish and marine organism handling, to data collection and recording.

“Personally, taking part in the fish survey trials has aided my ability to use the relevant equipment for fish surveying; given me more confidence in handling fish and being able to record data on their dimensions, and has boosted my knowledge on typical Thames River fish dynamics – all extremely valuable for fieldwork and coursework projects on my course and in the future.”

Picture captions

- Barking Creek

- Thames Estuary Partnership intern Myriam Ibarra with baby eel caught in surveys at Point Wharf in Greenwich

- UCL students with Institute of Fisheries Management fish expert Steve Colclough

- City Bridge Trust Chairman Giles Shilson

Notes to editors

The City of London Corporation is the governing body of the Square Mile dedicated to a vibrant and thriving City, supporting a diverse and sustainable London within a globally-successful UK – www.cityoflondon.gov.uk

The City Corporation’s charity funder, City Bridge Trust, has allocated £15.5 million to the London Community Response, set up to help charities deal with the impact of coronavirus, and has also given over £1.7 million in one-off grants to 202 organisations it already supports to help them offset lost income resulting from the pandemic.

The London Community Response Fund is administered by City Bridge Trust, the funding arm of Bridge House Estates. The City of London Corporation is the sole trustee of Bridge House Estates and Members of its Court of Common Council form the City Bridge Trust Committee, responsible for taking grant and funding decisions for the charity.

About the Thames Estuary Partnership

The Thames Estuary Partnership (TEP) is a 20 year old charity, hosted by University College London, that improves and builds understanding of one of the world’s most famous rivers. We bring together key stakeholders in the tidal Thames, working in partnership across environmental, social and economic needs to improve the river for people and wildlife that it is home to.

We work with governmental bodies, port and local authorities, riverside developers, NGOs, community groups, passionate individuals and the wider public to maximise our positive impact on this unique river. Our work revolves around three essential components – cross-sector stakeholder collaboration and knowledge exchange, multi-discipline projects and research, and communication to varied audiences. www.thamesestuarypartnership.org