Shopping trolley among the objects fished out of river by dedicated college students, writes Frances Dismore
With strong belief in their ability to create their own future, Waltham Forest College students have put their energy and skills into improving the Lee Navigation for wildlife and the community.
The sports science students led by tutor Jarl Allard took on the task of pulling fly-tipped objects out of the canal channel near Tottenham Lock. With impressive focus, they deployed a grappling hook to safely and efficiently hoist out rubbish and debris, filling Canal and River Trust‘s boat ‘The Lee’ to the brim.
Student Charlotte Smith said: “It was a fun experience in team building and in keeping our community clean. It was surprising to pull out objects such as a chair, shopping trolley, fences and two motorbikes.”
Classmate Momodou Lamin Jaiteh said: “I enjoyed pulling out a moped and I was surprised at seeing wildlife living in the motor, it was the first time I’d seen a bullhead fish.”
Spurred on by their successful haul, the students returned for more. They applied their canoeing skills to a kayak-based litter-pick between Stonebridge Lock and Chalk Bridge. Leandro Defina saw the potential of using kayaks for the task. She said: “Kayaking is an efficient way to clean the river, it is a good business opportunity and provides voluntary opportunities.”
Tutor Jarl added: “It was a fun experience, it gave everyone the opportunity to develop co-operation, teamwork and newly learned practical skills. Litter-picking from kayaks allowed us to explore the riverbanks and see our local wildlife up close.”
The clearance work has prepared this section of the Lee Navigation, the western border of Waltham Forest, for the installation of 84 metres of floating reedbed. With the help of Thames21, Stonebridge Lock Coalition has used match-funding from Canal and River Trust and a grant from the Mayor of London’s Greener City Fund to secure a generous award from the Environment Agency to install the floating reedbed between Stonebridge Lock and Chalk Bridge, near Higham Hill, bringing the total length of the Tottenham Floating Reedbed Project to 170 metres.
Stonebridge Lock Coalition is a group of residents, from both Tottenham and Walthamstow and further afield, who volunteer their time to improve the Tottenham Marshes stretches of the Lee Navigation and River Lea diversion, which are integral to the ecological mosaic of the neighbouring Lee Valley Regional Park Nature Reserve, Lockwood Reservoir, and the internationally important Walthamstow Wetlands.
We do so because we believe that resident-led initiatives to safeguard local biodiversity and improve urban green space and rivers as habitat for wildlife can help reverse the current catastrophic loss of species. We know that contributing to improving the riparian habitat and water quality of the lower Lea, as a local response to the national and global challenge of ecosystem breakdown, will drive change. We are a community acting for the interests of our community, present and future.