The 3RiversCleanUp is an annual, intensive series of volunteering events that aims to improve and maintain the Rivers Pool, Quaggy and Ravensbourne that flow through Lewisham, Greenwich and Bromley. The events are organised by a unique partnership between the Environment Agency, environmental groups and local authorities.
The first 3RCU took place in 2008 with the main aim to control the growth of Himalayan Balsam along the rivers. Himalayan Balsam is an invasive non-native plant that spreads quickly, clogging up river banks and reducing biodiversity. It shades and crowds native species and causes riverbank erosion, leading to an increase in the risk of flooding.
Now in its fourteenth year (although we missed 2 due to Covid-19!) the 3RCU has largely brought the Himalayan Balsam under control. This success has given partners more time to focus on other activities to restore rivers to attract wildlife. It has also allowed volunteers the chance to discover, learn about and enjoy their rivers, and to take pride and ownership of them.
Recent river restoration in this area has won multiple awards and brought benefits for all communities and all ages – humans and wildlife! Many parks have been regenerated around naturalised, wildlife rich rivers. Rivers that had, until recently, been concreted dead drains, dangerous and fenced off or hidden underground.
But with the benefits of restoration come new challenges. Rubbish, still thrown into remaining concrete sections, gets washed into the new open spaces. And as wildlife colonises the re-born rivers the bullies of the plant-world can threaten the diversity along their banks.
Volunteers are still needed to help maintain these valuable local spaces for people and wildlife.