Tidal Thames

Tamiza - rewitalizacja brzegów

While walking the coastal promenade, Thames Pathway, some small, inconspicuous flowers drew my attention, because their presence - in my opinion - clearly shows the gap between English and our Polish understanding of the use of natural resources.

Flowers on the River Thames, which I want to say, are slightly different, but equally beautiful and you can see of them the same aesthetic sense, because they also were planted on the Thames "artificial", ie by human hands. The point is that these beautiful flower beds, which can be seen in zdjęcu consist of a common - let's call it directly - weeds. And more specifically, with plants that were covered banks of the River Thames, before the man managed to use them

Flowering weeds

Central London during the summer is literally filled with flowers. It's amazing that people, often having available to their use only a tiny balconies or windowsills, can decorate them so beautifull, that all the backstreets often resemble a park alley. Londoners' creativity in this subject always make a great impression on me, and within such envirotment one really want to live in.

Flowers on the bank of Thames I'm telling about are slightly different kind, but equally beautiful. What's more, you can see over them the same aesthetic sense, because they were planted near the river "artificially", ie by human hands. The point is that these beautiful flower beds, which can be seen on the photo, consist of a common - let's call it directly - weeds. And more specifically, of plants that used to cover banks of the river Thames, before humans managed to transform them.

Enslaved river

Thames, at least near London, is quite unpredictable and intriguing. Between suburbs of London and the sea it is basically an estuary, a mixture of fresh and salt water. Not every plant is able to grow using such brackish water. In addition, the North Sea tides changes the water level in the river Thames for about seven meters a day! It is no wonder that the people for thousands of years were trying to tame the River Thames. When they finally managed to (eg by building a gigantic dam just outside London), it turned out that this success swept out of the river almost all existing plant and animal life. And now, where nothing was yet done with it, it looks that way:

During last 10 years people gave another chance to the environment.

"Tidal Thames" project

About 2005 an idea was born - since there is nothing left, let's start fron scratch.  Let's do a whole new ecosystem, using our whole knowledge - unfortunately quite scarce and ages old - about all former Thames life that existed in tidal zone. Let's restore european eel (once caught in Thames en masse), barbs, sea basses, freshwater shrimps, mussels, mayflies... Of course one cannot just release these species over dewasted places and hope that they settle. Before that, a great work is to be done to prepare correct environment for them. Thus one of the first steps are forementioned flowers.

Roślinność nad Tamizą

So, what exactly do we have here? These little white flowers clustered in groups are called water hemlock (Oenanthe  crocata), some kind of wild celery (by the way - deadly poisonous even after eating few leaves). And these bigger ones, resembling chamomile, are flowers of salt aster (Aster tripolium), which can be found over Europe in salty places, because on such grounds it grows best. Salty soil is favoured by inula too (Inula crithmoides) - these are yellow flowers on the photo. From the other hand. probably most beautiful, but not flowering at the moment I was there, were purple loosestrifes (Lythrum salicaria), somewhat like lavenda. It is so invasive weed, that USA banned it for expelling native species.

The point is that just such a set of plants like that, on meadow periodically flooded with salt water, creates a suitable environment for live of many of those species mentioned above.

From Thames to Vistula

And now the big question: what is it for? This is the difference between our way of understanding the world, and the more mature western way. After all, there will never be any money from it. Some might say (and in Poland I often read such statements) that Warsaw is a city, and if I want to watch the wildlife, then I'm free to leave to some remote forest. The Mayor of London however was convinced that people need for living more than concrete, asphalt and gas.

And in Poland? In 2011 r.  under the guise of revitalization the administration officers shaved from bushes and plants all Vistula River banks near Port Czerniakowski. As Przemek Pasek wrote one time, revitalization is a word full of meaning that can be variously interpreted. The next two years were marked by such interpretation: deforestation and depletment of everything that grows, devastation of nature between tidal embankments over the entire course of the river.

Thames in London is just another example of what can be achieved, when the goverment thinks further than "until next elections".

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