We are a charity with bold plans to build a new riverside park, The Edgelands, connecting Epping forest with the Thames. It would pay homage to the the forgotten and desolate nature of much of this post-industrial landscape but that honours its past as we try to breathe new life into this strip of land.
The Edgelands would draw in more visitors and attention to the River Roding. It represents our position as a boundary in the city: between boroughs, between roads and reeds and – in the upper reaches – between the rural and the urban. The edge is where there’s most fertility as different ecosystems meet and the interplay of species is richest. This park would create a unified voice for the River for tackling pollution and improving our green spaces as seen in the neighbouring successful scheme of the Lea Valley park.
Wetlands teem with biodiversity, providing homes for many endangered species and people. They are part of our natural infrastructure, providing essential protection against environmental issues like flooding, drought and pollution. With our Edgelands we hope to restore wetlands for the community to enjoy and nature to thrive alongside elevating the flood risk posed in the lower reaches of the River Roding.
The East Ham Levels would be incorporated into the Edgelands using the three playing fields on the West side of the North Circular, also linking them into the Roding Valley Way. Depending on discussions with the community, this could provide much needed sports or play facilities.
An Avenue of Trees to Connect Boroughs
A new riverside path could create the missing link of the walkway between Barking & Ilford and linking it in to the existing path at Wanstead Park by way of the Aldersbrook – creating a new linear park and wetlands on land currently owned by Transport for London with the intention to possibly open it wider for cyclists after a few years of opening. Preserving the natural barrier of trees that help reduce the pollution from the North Circular is essential in our plans as they provide a natural barrier and provide a beautiful canopy to walk amongst as you admire the kites, herons and occasional owls that choose to make this their home.
Edgelands Art Trail
A number of concrete surfaces and structures, lost to brambles, are scattered along the riverside path route to Ilford, we would put a call out to artists to reclaim these as podiums for their art. Similar in concept to the Four Plinth of Trafalgar Square, these Plinths we hope would see a scheme to show a series of specially commissioned contemporary works of art – with an aim to highlight pollution and the broad history of our British waterways.
The scope of the Edgelands is shown in the map here. With much of the land currently lying derelict, our park would reopen local access with the entrances and exits shown. The reestablishment of connections between boroughs and to the river itself will serve to improve local access to nature and join together disparate communities.
Many paths running through the Edgelands already exist and are shown in Orange with only a few new paths needed, shown in Red. The Teal path is the part of the route we’ve already been working on as a Trust with local people to clear a route, litter-pick, install benches and plant trees.
The advantage of the Edgelands is it requires minimal improvements on existing infrastructure by means of making it accessible to the public. The network of walking connections encompass all the main destinations in Barking & Dagenham, from the view at Estuary to the ancient Barking Abbey Grounds. We love the River Roding, but this stretch is too overgrown; the narrow path was an afterthought from the North Circular construction, not for cyclists and groups of walkers to share. We see the Edgelands as being a distinct and beautiful new walking route of its own. The pandemic has rocked everything, the word ‘unprecedented’ has lost all meaning and times are uncertain, but our parks are treasured like never before.
YouTube legend, John Rogers, visited the area and made this video below of the ‘Lost World of the River Roding’… enjoy.
We’re so grateful for your support in helping us to continue to protect and improve our river. Sewage overflows still discharge directly into freshwater, plastic accumulates in our rivers, while sediments suffocate the flora and fauna which call them home. Only 14% of rivers and lakes in England are in good health by the Environment Agency. We want to change that. We can make our rivers a safer, cleaner place for people to swim, kayak, fish and play. With your donation, you can support us to organise vital conservation work. Here’s an idea of the amazing work your donations help to fund:
£5 a month
£5 a month could buy water quality test kits to identify and fix river pollution. Or buy a sapling to plant in our reforestation programme.
As part of our wider nature conservation programme, volunteers have been working to construct wildlife refuges for some of the River’s iconic species. Your contribution goes towards materials needed to make owl, bat or bird of prey homes alongside mink tracking stations.