Former sewer is now a popular location
The River Wandle, which runs though parts of Wimbledon, has been declared one of the 10 most improved rivers in England and Wales.
A new Environment Agency report has put the Wandle on a list which also includes the River Thames.
The report says of the Wandle: "Historically the river has suffered extreme pollution and was officially declared a sewer in the 1960s.
"But over the last 20 years it has become a vibrant rich habitat due to better environmental regulation, a fish stocking programme and huge local enthusiasm for the river which has resulted in a vast improvement of water quality.
"The Wandle is now well known as one of the best urban coarse fisheries in the country and supports a huge variety of wildlife supporting a wide variety of species including chub, barbel and eel. It has also become a very popular location for walkers.
The improvement has been aided by the work of many volunteers, including the Wandle Trust, which holds community clean-ups of the river on the second Sunday of every month, rotating between the boroughs of Merton, Sutton and Wandsworth.
The next Wandle clean-up is in Ravensbury Park from 11am-3pm on Sunday September 11, where they will remove rubbish and possibly carry out some vegetation management.
Ian Barker, Head of Land and Water at the Environment Agency, said: "Work that we have done with farmers, businesses and water companies to reduce the amount of water taken from rivers, minimise pollution and improve water quality is really paying off – as these rivers show. Britain’s rivers are the healthiest for over 20 years and otters, salmon and other wildlife are returning for the first time since the industrial revolution.
"But there is still more to be done, and we have plans to transform a further 9,500 miles of rivers in England and Wales by 2015 – the equivalent of the distance between the UK and Australia."
Wimbledon Liberal Democrat MEP Sarah Ludford added: "Environmental improvements have been one of the success stories of the European Union. Pollution pays no respect to national boundaries, and having common commitment and legal obligations to meet has helped stimulate action and secure public investment.
"The Thames was declared 'biologically dead' in the 1950's, and now there are many different species of fresh water fish living and thriving in the river.
"Improvements would have been made without the EU laws on water quality, but the pace would have been very much slower. We will only see this continue as the UK complies with the 2015 targets, and I will make sure that this continues. The people of London deserve an ecologically strong and clean river, not an open sewer."
The next meeting of the Merton Park Ward Residents Association will be hearing from local wildlife expert, Tony Drakeford, about the wildlife on the Wandle which now exists thanks to work by volunteers. The meeting is open to all and is at 8pm on Tuesday September 6 at Merton Park Primary School in Erridge Road.
September 4, 2011