The Duke’s River and Mogden Sewage Works

A walk along the Duke of Northumberland River that runs from the River Crane in Twickenham to the River Thames in Old Isleworth led by the Friends of the River Crane Environment.

The Crane Valley Partnership with the assistance of FORCE, has won funds through the Mayor of London’s Green Poll in April 2015, to improve The Duke’s River as a route and habitat for people and wildlife.  The Friends of the River Crane have done extraordinary things over many years along the River Crane corridor, connecting and improving neglected watercourses and routes, cleaning up the river environment and very importantly challenging Thames Water on major pollution incidents.

The Duke’s River is a 500 year old, 4 kilometre long constructed waterway that runs off the River Crane.  Syon Abbey was suppressed in 1539 during the Dissolution of the Monasteries by Henry VIII. John Gates was the trusted enforcer for this process at Syon and instrumental in developing ‘the Duke’s River’ which was built  in 1544-5 with 80 of the country’s best ‘ditchers’ and conscripted local tenants, to transfer water for industrial power to two mills – Kidds Mill and Brazil Mill.

I joined the walk that had set off from Kneller Gardens in Twickenham on the narrow riverside path alongside the fenced boundary of Twickenham Rugby Stadium and followed the route along to the Thames, with the group led by Rob Gray and Frances Bennett of FORCE. The walk was full of fascinating details and moments: a coot nesting quietly under a bridge on weed and plastic, two stringed bundles of rotting local newspapers, tragic examples of 1980s public space design, fenced off water, two moorhen chicks of different sizes, and the resilience of life force in amongst human debris and tarmac. And the second largest sewage works in the UK – even more life force.

The Duke’s River runs right through the Mogden Sewage Treatment Works, covering 140 acres and treating sewage from North and West London managed by Thames Water. And this was particularly interesting …

Screen shot 2015-05-11 at 01.15.52Screen shot 2015-05-11 at 01.14.36

The writer Nick Papadimitriou has spent decades walking the urban environment and documenting particular details and interests, mapping systems. “He hoovers up magic out of stone and concrete” – Russell Brand. His brilliant website Middlesex County Council details his work.

“I always walked a lot, as a child growing up in Finchley in the county of Middlesex, walking was the way I got to know my world.” – Nick Papadimitriou

In John Rogers’ fine documentary film about Nick Papadimitriou ‘The London Perambulator’, Nick spends some time at Mogden Sewage Treatment Works. The whole film is really very interesting, but for the specific insights to Mogden …

3’35: ‘Do you think in some way the sewage farm knows I’m here?’

16’45 – 19’00: ‘This is the other side, this is what we don’t want to look at…’

and at 39’25, a poignant articulation of life in the surrounding suburbia…

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