River gets its bend back as wetlands unveiled

New habitat for wildlife created in Albany Park as flood risk reduced, reports James Cracknell

Turkey Brook is now free to flow through Albany Park
Turkey Brook is now free to flow through Albany Park (credit Enfield Council)

A new wetlands habitat and river restoration project – providing a home for wildlife as well as reducing flood risk – has been officially opened in Enfield Wash.

The £1.5million transformation of Albany Park and restoration of a section of the Turkey Brook has been completed with the help of Enfield Council, environmental charity Thames21, the Environment Agency, Greater London Authority (GLA), community group Friends of Albany Park, as well as local school pupils who took part in a planting session on Thursday.

Turkey Brook previously flowed in a continuous concrete channel along the north side of the park, but during the last year the river has been diverted into the park in a new meander, helping to slow the flow of water and provide new habitats for wildlife. By also creating an embankment on the other side of the park using the excavated soil, the park will now act as a flood storage area in the event the river overflows its banks.

At the launch event for Albany Park Wetlands yesterday the council’s senior engineer Ian Russell told the Dispatch: “It is a project that delivers multiple benefits; it is now a better park for people and wildlife, but it is also about flood relief.

“The Turkey Brook was in a concrete channel three metres deep. By diverting the river, we have slowed down the flow, and all that spoil has been used to create a bund so that 50,000 cubic metres of water can be stored here – preventing flooding to between 300 and 400 local properties.”

While there is no recent record of flooding in the area around Albany Park, Turkey Brook did over-top its banks along other parts of its course in January and Ian said the wetlands project has been created with climate change in mind.

“We have done computer modelling and we know that if that river spilled over it would flood these properties and there is no point just waiting for it to happen. We have now also got a huge biodiversity gain, with new habitats, and Albany Park has been made a more interesting place to visit.”

Cabinet member Rick Jewell, council chief executive Ian Davis, deputy London mayor Shirley Rodrigues, and Enfield mayor Sabri Ozaydin
Surveying the new wetlands (from left) are the council’s cabinet member Rick Jewell, chief executive Ian Davis, deputy London mayor Shirley Rodrigues, and Enfield mayor Sabri Ozaydin (credit Enfield Council)

The project was funded by a £346,000 capital grant from the Mayor of London, alongside a £901,000 grant from the Environment Agency and £250,000 from Enfield Council’s capital programme. Work is continuing to create more than 300 metres of improved footpaths and cycleways in the park, as well as an outdoor classroom that can be used by local school children and community groups. New entry points will help connect surrounding neighbourhoods to Albany Park.

Albany Park is just the latest in Enfield to see new wetlands areas created, with others including Firs Farm Recreation Ground and Broomfield Park. Rick Jewell, the council’s cabinet member for environment, said: “Albany Park is a fantastic example of how we are improving and enhancing our open spaces and making them more accessible, particularly in areas of the borough that have in previous years not had sufficient attention.

“It was an enormous task to re-route the river but this will attract wildlife, improve biodiversity and, along with the wetland, protect local homes from flooding risks.”

Shirley Rodrigues, deputy mayor of London for environment and energy, joined Cllr Jewell and helped school children from Prince of Wales Primary School with planting sub-aquatic species along the river such as iris, horsetail and hard rush. She said: “This fantastic project in Albany Park shows how our green spaces can be transformed to be better places for nature and Londoners and make our city more resilient to a changing climate.

“The design of this park now protects hundreds of homes from flooding, which is increasingly necessary as intense rainfall becomes even more frequent.”

It is hoped the project in Albany Park will bring the community together to learn about sustainability and improve local wellbeing. The council, with project partner Thames21, is keen for volunteers to get involved. The Friends of Albany Park is also looking for new members. A walk along Turkey Brook is being organised for Saturday 23rd October – to take part go to thames21.org.uk/events