Conservation supergroup ‘adopts’ less-loved Limehouse Cut canal

Volunteers pick up litter on the Limehouse Cut
Cutting litter: volunteers use canoes to clean up the canal. Photograph: Canal and River Trust

A conservation supergroup has “adopted” London’s oldest canal in a bid to restore it to good health.

The Limehouse Cut, which dates back to 1769, links the Lee Navigation at Bromley-by-Bow to the Limehouse Basin and historically saved barges that were navigating into the Thames from having to wait for the tide.

But in recent times the Limehouse Cut has become infested with litter and duckweed, making the surface of the three-mile stretch of water bright green.

A total of 19 local organisations have joined forces to clean up the canal and its towpaths, protect the local wildlife and run community events.

The group, informally known as Super Adoption Stakeholders (SASS), was set up by the Canal and River Trust, a charity that looks after waterways in England and Wales.

Jeannette Brooks, the Canal and River Trust’s engagement manager, said: “The canals and rivers in London are thriving at the moment, but the Cut is perhaps one of the lesser known and less-loved sections.

“In the last year or so we’ve started to see more and more groups use and help improve the water space. The adoption will accelerate this ongoing revival no end.”

Lime green: the surface of the canal is covered by duckweed. Photograph: Max Eckersley
Lime green: the surface of the canal is covered by duckweed. Photograph: Max Eckersley

The Cut is the longest stretch of water in the 100 or so adoption schemes that the Trust is involved in across the UK.

Ms Brooks added: “We know from other areas that have been adopted the huge benefits of having people take ownership of their local canal, and we can’t wait to see the diverse activities within the adoption action plan get started.”

SASS consists of charities, clubs and businesses that use Limehouse Cut and its surroundings. The group, led by housing charity Poplar Harca, formally started its role this month (September).

Poplar Harca’s Babu Bhattacherjee said: “The group has four key themes: education, environment, sport and commercial development. We will have tremendous volunteering opportunities for local residents and especially young people. We are working to develop paddle sports on the canal and already have linkages so young people can progress their sport to the highest level.

“Poplar Harca is incredibly excited about the potential of this initiative for our local community.”

Ben Fenton of Thames21
Floating ideas: Ben Fenton runs a local reedbed project for Thames21. Photograph: Max Eckersley

Other organisations taking part in the adoption include Ldn Youth Rowing, British Dragonboat Association, Queen Mary University, London Legacy Development Corporation and waterway conservation charity Thames21.

Thames21’s Ben Fenton said: “We want to put in more floating reedbeds along the Limehouse Cut because it’s quite desolate in terms of vegetation. There’s not much in the way of habitats for wildlife.

“We also want to store canoes along the Cut, so we can take locals out and do reedbed maintenance. All the boats moor on the towpath side which means we have to plant the reedbeds on the other side, so we need canoes to access them.

“This adoption means we’ll be able to do more clean-ups along the canal.”

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