East London Waterworks Park is a volunteer-led charity based across Hackney and Waltham Forest. One of the organisations that founded the project was formed in response to the 2012 Olympic Games, and it hopes that the project will create a longer, more widespread legacy than just the Olympic Park in Stratford.
The crowdfunding campaign was launched to raise £500,000 to demonstrate community support for the project to transform an old Thames Water depot into the first new swimming ponds to be built in London since Hampstead Ponds in 1777.
Hackney benefits from the incredibly popular London Fields Lido and Hackney West Reservoir for outdoor swimming, but Waltham Forest has no outdoor swimming provision. During last year’s Summer heatwave, swimming pools were inundated with locals desperate to cool off.
With some 40% of young people in Waltham Forest and Hackney living in poverty, many of the existing facilities are simply too expensive.
The group’s aim is to transform this concrete-covered depot to, once more, play its part in supporting the health and well-being of the local community and visitors from all over London and beyond. Having access to green and blue spaces makes people mentally healthier according to a significant body of academic research. Through opportunities to learn and grow, and conservation volunteering and wild swimming, it plans to connect people with nature in new and tangible ways.
FLORA AND FAUNA
The biodiversity of the old depot that borders Hackney and Waltham Forest is as you might expect limited as it is currently a huge slab of concrete that is predominantly used for storing machinery.
This is at odds with the rest of the surrounding area. The vibrant River Lee Country Park stretches for 26 miles from the Limehouse Basin by the River Thames, all the way up to Ware. It is often referred to as the “great green lung” in the east and includes Walthamstow Marshes, a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSI) and one of the last remaining examples of semi-natural wetland in Greater London.
The marshes contain a variety of plants such as a range of neutral grassland types, sedge marsh, reed swamp, sallow scrub and areas of tall herb vegetation. There are several species of plant and insect which are uncommon in the London area, such as the Essex skipper butterfly, the pyralid moth, and there is also sporadic breeding by the nationally endangered marsh warbler. The breeding bird community includes reed bunting, and reed, sedge and willow warblers.
There are also numerous parks in the area such as Millfields, Jubilee and Springfield, and the River Lea that borders the site. Although it is currently heavily polluted, we hope that we can influence and inspire local businesses and the community to work together to improve the River Lea and take better care of it in future.
The sustainably maintained ponds will cover around 5,000 square meters and allow more than 1,000 people to swim each day for free.
There will also be spaces for scientific research, arts, and a make-and-repair workshop. The park will be the largest community rewilding plot bought from the UK government. It will create habitats for rare butterflies, invertebrates, bats, and birds, and be the first public swimming ponds in the UK to be filled with rainwater cleaned naturally by reeds and aquatic plants.
COME AND JOIN US!
The group is divided into seven circles that meet regularly and report into the Hub Circle. Currently the different circles are as follows: Fundraising is looking for help promoting the crowdfunder and working on grant and corporate donations; Inclusivity is researching and listening to the local community to ensure the project and park welcome everyone; Learning is designing the learning experiences of the project and park; Communications is looking for graphic designers, illustrators,
animators, social media and marketing specialists; Design is looking for architects, engineers, ecologists, and gardeners; Technology is looking for web developers and IT specialists to help build the systems we need to help manage a community-owned park.
And we need to spread the word even further and wider. This can be a community-owned park created by and for everyone. Inclusivity is boosted by allowing anyone to join any working group, providing an opportunity for local people to create a focus for doing good in their spare time.
This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to improve the environment, and the physical and mental health of the people of East London.
We need to raise £3 million within the next year to buy the land, before we miss this once-in-a-generation opportunity to make a real difference to our local communities.
Which is where you come in. We need you to spread the word among all your friends, family, colleagues and like-minded souls. Whether you think they may want to volunteer among one of the seven circles and put their expertise to good use or can make some noise about it on their socials – to copy a certain large supermarket’s catchline, ‘every little helps’! So please help us make this once-in-a-lifetime project become reality!
We have made great progress so far, but we still need your help. With your support, we can raise £500,000 directly through our crowdfunding which you can contribute to here. If we can achieve this, we have every reason to believe it will unlock further funding of £2.5 million from corporate donations and grant funding.
For further info and updates on the crowdfunding campaign follow @eastlondonwaterworkspark