Back in the loop

The Enfield Society committee member John Cole welcomes efforts to improve the New River Loop in Enfield Town

The New River Loop in Enfield Town has frequently been covered in green algae
The New River Loop in Enfield Town has frequently been covered in green algae

Enfield Council is at last forging ahead with a number of projects to improve the general condition of the New River Loop in Enfield Town.

With no natural flow, to be kept in good condition the New River Loop relies on three working pumps, rainfall and regular sensitive maintenance by the council, which is responsible for its upkeep.

Sadly, particularly in warmer and drier periods, the New River Loop has suffered from high levels of silting, low water levels and excessive coverage by pond weed. Together with a high nutrient load, mainly from falling leaves, the loop suffers from very low oxygen levels, resulting in algal blooms, occasional incidents of multiple fish deaths, and poor biodiversity. In addition, there is an almost complete lack of marginal and floating vegetation.

In 1997 a Heritage Lottery Fund grant of £1.8million was given towards a £2.4m restoration of the loop. The balance was funded by the council, Thames Water and The Enfield Society. For a while afterwards, the loop was kept in pristine condition. But conditions have worsened over the years, and too often the loop becomes unhealthy, taking on a rather poor appearance at locations including River Front and River View. This has not gone unnoticed by residents, councillors and the council’s own officers.

Following a meeting with senior council officials in August last year, The Enfield Society organised a clean-up at Carr’s Basin near Enfield Town Park. Environmental charity Thames21 recruited more than 30 volunteers to help clear a large area of pond weed.

Since then, the council has been working on putting together a New River Loop management plan, detailing the maintenance required and an action plan for improvements.

Prior to Christmas, the council cleaned out Thames Water’s pollution ‘interceptor’ which collects and prevents pollution from entering the loop opposite the Crown and Horseshoes pub. This year, the council has committed to installing water level monitors, working with Thames Water to upgrade the pumps at Southbury Road, upgrading the council’s own pump at Parsonage Lane, resurfacing the footpath on the west side of Carr’s Basin, de-silting the section between the Crown and Horseshoes pub and Church Street, and erecting information boards setting out the story of the loop.

The council has now established regular chalk treatments which should help breakdown the remaining silt by activating micro-organisms deep in the silt. It has also commenced a feasibility study to create a small wetlands in Chase Side Gardens at the Chase Green Avenue end. If this is feasible, a public consultation will follow. Finally, the council agreed to review the Town Park outfall that feeds the wetlands, to determine its impact on water levels and to raise the training levels of parks maintenance staff

The council’s outline management plan for the New River Loop is due to be published shortly. Continued community and partnership engagement will be enshrined in this document and The Enfield Society will continue to monitor its progress. Let’s hope we start to see a real difference this summer.