Tideway has finished work on one of the greenest sites on the super sewer project, complete with its own ‘bug hotel’, following a ceremony at Barn Elms in south-west London.
The site in Barnes sits among more than 100 acres of wetland and more than a dozen sports pitches next to the Beverley Brook, a tributary of the River Thames.
And now, after years of construction here as part of the super sewer project, Tideway’s work is finished and the land has been restored, complete with new public artwork and what is thought to be London’s biggest ‘bug hotel’.
This event marks another key milestone for London and follows the opening of Tideway’s site next to Putney Bridge a week earlier.
The Tideway team is now looking ahead to finishing work at other sites ahead of activating the tunnel for the first time next year, when the River Thames will begin to be protected.
Samantha Freelove, Tideway’s Legacy and Sustainability Manager, said: “Our Barn Elms site is in a green and tranquil part of west London. We wanted to ensure our works enhanced the nature conservation of the site and we have done this by wrapping our kiosk in materials to promote a diverse array of biodiversity, together with installing a biodiverse roof.
“We’ve also planted native trees, shrubs and wildflowers. As our site is located in the far corner of the Barn Elms playing fields, it will be relatively undisturbed and will provide space for nature to thrive.”
Tideway’s work underground in this area has diverted the West Putney CSO into the new super sewer running beneath the Thames.
This CSO has historically discharged untreated sewage into the Thames an average of 30 times every year, totalling around 35,000 tonnes; this will be reduced by 95% once the super sewer is fully operational.
Alongside the essential infrastructure required to help clean up the River Thames, Tideway has also replaced one of the changing room buildings at Barn Elms Sports Centre with new, modern and improved facilities for public use.
Sarah Olney, Liberal Democrat MP for Richmond Park, said: “Opening this site back up to the public is a wonderful moment for Barnes and an important milestone for London as we all look ahead to a cleaner, healthier river when the super sewer is activated next year.
“This site sits in a serene part of west London, and Tideway has carefully designed this space to ensure a seamless reintegration into the natural environment, incorporating a fantastic bug hotel and beautiful artwork from Adam Chodzko.
“I’d like to thank the Tideway team and Adam, as well as the local community for their patience while this vital infrastructure was completed.”
The artwork at Barn Elms is based upon the area’s connection to Sir Francis Walsingham – the government administrator responsible for intelligence services in the reign of Queen Elizabeth I – who resided at Barn Elms Manor.
It was Walsingham’s spy system that discovered the Babington Plot of 1586 to murder Queen Elizabeth I and her ministers and replace her with Mary, Queen of Scots. Babington’s encrypted correspondence with Mary was intercepted and decoded by Walsingham’s spies, preventing the plot from being carried out and ultimately leading to the execution of the Queen of Scots.
For A Way from Heaven, Adam selected a portion of the code, which Walsingham deciphered, to be laser cut into the anodised aluminium façade of the building at different scales. Working from a digitised version of the original, the work faithfully recreates the handwritten script of Babington’s code, written with a quill and ink, and enabled the artist to employ artistic licence to create an equally enigmatic message that resembles topographical marks on a map but can be decoded to read ‘A Way from Heaven’.
Artist Adam Chodzko said: “Creating A Way from Heaven was an amazing and rare opportunity for me. Being able to work at such a large scale, over several years, knowing that my design and the ideas behind it will be chanced upon by a diverse public for many decades ahead was both a challenge and a treat.
“The more I explored the Barn Elms site the more it seemed to reveal a complex web of fascinating histories, ecologies, human uses, etc. Folding all these separate strands together in a way that might work as a whole – at least a dream-like whole – became a really enjoyable process. Circling falcons, secret codes, an imprisoned Queen, ghosts, empathy, the structure of a Lacewing and 16th century ruffs are all in there!”
Once the super sewer is fully operational in 2025, discharges will drop by around 95%, contributing to a much cleaner, healthier river for generations to come.
For more information about the Barn Elms site, head to tideway.london/locations/barn-elms.