In March 2018 Tower Hamlets Council installed rafts with wetland vegetation to enhance wildlife habitats, visual appearance and water quality. The project was funded by generous donations from the Williams Charitable Trust and the Tower Hill Trust.
A total of 55 rafts, each 4×2 metres in area, were installed. Most of the rafts were placed along the southern edge of the canal at Spirit Quay, between Vaughan Way and the steps opposite the junction of the two branches of the canal, a distance of about 200 metres. Further rafts were installed around the Tobacco Dock area to extend and supplement the planting from 2015.
The rafts were installed by Bow Landscapes, the Council’s landscape contractor for the Wapping area, with expert supervision and assistance from Frog Environmental, who supplied the rafts. High quality BioHaven floating islands were used, planted with a mix of native wetland vegetation, including Water Plantain, Marsh Marigold, Lesser Pond-sedge, Yellow Flag Iris, Soft Rush, Purple Loosestrife, Water Mint, Water Forget-me-not, Reed Canary-grass and Lesser Spearwort.
By summer 2018, the vegetation is well established on most of the rafts. The rafts along Spirit Quay already form the impression of a continuous green edge to the otherwise stark canal (see header photo), with the flowers of Purple Loosestrife adding colour. Earlier in the year, Yellow Iris and Marsh Marigold also flowered. Moorhens, Coots (photo left) and Canada Geese have all nested on the new rafts, and they are used for resting by these species as well as Egyptian Geese, Tufted Ducks and Mallards. They also provide shelter for fish, helping them to escape predators such as gulls, herons and Cormorants.
In addition to their visual appeal and wildlife value, the roots of the plants will take up nutrients and help to filter pollutants from the water. This will help to keep the water clear, reducing algal growth and generally improving water quality.
All photos by John Archer (click to enlarge). For lots more photos of the rafts being installed, and some of the first explorations of them by waterfowl, see the Love Wapping website.