Volunteers needed to help conserve Chiswick Eyot

Image: Chiswick Eyot

Local residents do battle with the Mitten crabs to stop the eyot washing away

The Old Chiswick Protection Society is looking for volunteers to help with conservation work on Chiswick Eyot.

The eyot (or ait) is one of about 180 of these tiny narrow islands in the River Thames, formed over time by the accumulation of sediment, which have become home to many different kinds of wildlife. Chiswick Eyot is a nature reserve and ancient withy bed where swans have nested and willow trees have grown for centuries.

Traditionally, up until the 18th century, the willows were cut to make baskets for the Chiswick cheese fairs in next door Dukes Meadow, and also to take produce from Chiswick’s market gardens into London. Now, they serve a different purpose: defending against invasion.

Images: Willows on the eyot; photographs Jennifer Griffiths

Chinese Mitten Crabs, a species of crab thought to have been introduced to the Thames estuary in roughly 1935, arriving in this country by clinging onto the hulls of ships, have made their home in the mud, burrowing into the banks and creating complex, interconnected burrows.

The consequences for Chiswick Eyot are potentially disastrous, as the crabs’ burrowing loosens the mud around the eyot, and when the tide flows in and out, the earth is washed away, steadily eroding the island over time.

Image: They eyot’s defences against erosion; photograph Jennifer Griffiths

Thames21 receives substantial donation from Asahi to help the Old Chiswick Protection Society carry out conservation work

The Old Chiswick Protection Society, supported by river charity Thames21, cut the withy branches and use them to build defences. Asahi UK Ltd, who now own the Griffin Brewery in Old Chiswick, have made a generous donation of £7,500 to support the work.

Tom Whitehead from Thames21 told The Chiswick Calendar:

“Asahi’s generous donation will enable us all to deliver a full calendar of hands-on river restoration work alongside individuals and groups from the local community. Projects like this aren’t just a boost to nature, they’re also vital for the wellbeing of the community and its heritage.”

Image: Members of Old Chiswick Protection Society, Asahi and Thames21; photograph Jennifer Griffiths

Volunteers needed on two weekends in May

The aim of the Old Chiswick Protection Society is to preserve, protect and develop local features of historical, architectural and artistic interest, including the streets, open spaces and trees, in order to retain and enhance Old Chiswick – the area around St Nicholas Church and along Chiswick Mall.

The role of preserving and protecting the Eyot has become an annual fixture. They are looking for volunteers to help cut the withies and weave them into fences to shore up the earth.

Next sessions will be Saturday 11 and Sunday 26 May, from 10am-2pm. All volunteers welcome. Wellies are essential.

Image: Thames21 explain how the conservation work will be carried out; photograph Jennifer Griffiths

Thames21 work with communities across London to improve rivers, canals, ponds and lakes for people and wildlife to enjoy. They are helping the Old Chiswick Protection Society by advising them on how to manage and maintain the eyot.

Vic Richardson from Thames21 told The Chiswick Calendar he would like to see more birds nest on the island. The river charity has planted new trees such as Hawthorns and Hazels in recent years, to attract more birds. They would also like to plant more trees with berries.

Image: Northern bank, facing Chiswick Mall; photograph Jennifer Griffiths

A small team from Asahi visited the eyot in April to present their donation and have a look at the work in hand.

Steve Hadcroft, Asahi UK Director of Manufacturing said:

“We are delighted to be able to support Thames21 and OCPS with their volunteering efforts to help clean up and conserve the Thames. With the Fuller’s brewery running since 1845 we have a great appreciation for both the local Chiswick community and natural environment of the Thames and we hope this donation will play a small role in supporting both.”

Therese Tobin from OCPS replied:

“The Old Chiswick Protection Society is very grateful to Asahi for their generous donation towards our community conservation activity on Chiswick Eyot. This is helping to protect the Eyot from erosion. We are very appreciative of our enthusiastic and indefatigable volunteers, who come out in all weathers to work on Chiswick Eyot.”

Image: Looking across the river from the eyot; photograph Jennifer Griffiths

Read more stories on The Chiswick Calendar