The Carbuncle Passage culvert at Pymmes Brook
The Carbuncle Passage culvert at Pymmes Brook

Congratulations to Joyce Rosser and her colleagues! 36 people joined the second Moselle River walk, from Wood Green to Markfield Park, on Sunday. As a late arrival I made up a 37th just in time for the last steaming of the wonderful Beam Engine and a couple of valuable conversations with Chris Barker and Ian McLaughlin. Filled with further questions I then retraced my steps for half the route. 

For the moment the Haringey Rivers Forum’s campaign to recognise and restore the Moselle is raising more questions than answers. As one sympathetic local politician put it to me integrated catchment management is still a ‘niche’ matter in Haringey. In that spirit our next meeting (with Professor Sarah Bell, environmental engineer at University College) will explore the issue of water quality in greater depth. Here I want to share some of the wider uncertainties about the Brook and its future. If we were to succeed in getting 40% of the Brook deculverted by 2040, what would be looking at?

Slow and silty beside Markfield Park
Slow and silty beside Markfield Park

A continuing question mark concerns the drainage chamber at the eastern end of Carbuncle Passage. The guide to the walk says the Moselle can be glimpsed here just before the railway. But is this really the river? On Sunday, after a day or so’s consistent rain, the silt on the bottom was no more than moist. Had the flow been diverted south down another culvert which branches off just after Scotland Green? Hard to tell. There was a fair amount of water moving sluggishly through the open culvert besides Markfield Park just before it meets the Lea but it hardly looked the body of water you’d expect from the substantial stream seen earlier in the day in Tottenham Cemetery. 

No more than moist silt despite the rain
No more than moist silt despite the rain

Where is it, for a start? For much of their length Haringey’s short hidden rivers are also part of the surface water drainage system. Their routes have changed over the years and plans for their culverts are often buried in the archives. An extensive survey of the culvert on the Heartlands by St William has shown it to be several feet east of where it had been assumed to be. Meanwhile the Haringey parks departments’ recent inspection of a culvert beneath Chestnuts Park, widely thought by some of us to be the Stonebridge Brook, revealed a storm drain with no more than a few millimetres of water in it. It may have been installed in the 1960s in anticipation of a housing development that never took place.

The Passage – room for a river here?
The Passage – room for a river here?

Perhaps instead the bulk of the stream was flowing into Pymmes Brook down another channel north-west of Ferry Lane (yet another culvert this time which follows Tamar Way and goes under Down Lane Park)? As far as I know - without donning waders - you can’t tell: the discharge takes place out of sight in a short tunnel beneath the main road. And who would be organising such changes of direction in the first place? Do such sluices actually exist? So back to square one. It turned out that there was a decent flow of water discharging into Pymmes Brook downstream of Carbuncle Passage (and after it crosses crossing beneath Tottenham Marshes.) That would suggest the chamber before the railway line isn’t the actual Moselle but part of a surface drain that sits on top of, or alongside, the main culvert.

The implication for the future – bearing in mind that flood risk management must come in as well – is that if a decent naturalised river is to feature in Tottenham it would require a consolidation of the three channels below Scotland Green. What would opinion be if Carbuncle Passage was taken up and the Brook restored there and then opened up across the Marshes? Is it feasible? How would it be paid for? And would the gains outweigh the losses? 

John Miles, Acting convenor, Haringey Rivers Forum

Planters in Mayes Road
Geraniums ready to refresh the planters

This year has seen two major changes to the plots we manage. Taking advice from us Haringey robustly fenced the strip of land in Martins Walk and installed new planters towards the Alexandra Road entrance. The fence installation there did some damage which we are working to restore but many of our shrubs and colourful annuals are in surprisingly good shape. We’ve also used funds from Haringey to refresh and brighten the planters at the head of Park Ridings in front of the Mall goods yard. 

Meanwhile St William have taken over the management of the lime trees between 101 and 125 Hornsey Park Road. They raised the crowns and thinned some excess branches and then made a nice job of pruning the spring fuzz. The health of the trees should improve with the bark boxes they have installed at their base. The new surface allows ground-water to penetrate – one reason why the trees have weathered this summer’s heat better than its equivalent two years ago. A tiny clump of birch, ash and holly has been retained at our request beside the electricity substation. There will be further changes in a year’s time when St William take up their planters and move their sales room to begin the pocket park.

Lavender Garden: Most complex project
Pruning, cleaning - and planning

Our most complex challenge continues to be the lavender garden at the junction of Clarendon and Hornsey Park Road. The big news is that the main plants – the lavender, roses, fig tree, olives, cypresses and buddleia – all get by without any watering. This plot has proved very successful in responding to global heating – all we’ve done is a little mulching to help the young roses. It is a haven for insects – bees in particular, butterflies and dragonflies. But the lavender has aged considerably and has proved difficult to replace so we are also looking at alternatives – a first experiment with euphorbias has done well. This winter we’ll be pruning the olives again and planning repairs to the north-south footpath.

New flowerbeds on Hornsey Road
Local inspiration - thanks to Neville!

The low-maintenance success of the cherry trees on the Hornsey Park Road build-outs has been good. Well done to Haringey for finally taking the cars off the pavement there - footway repairs must surely follow! We’ll be trying to extend the planting around the Mayes Road junction and the ever-disintegrating zebra crossing. A star this year has been the hibiscus in the little Umoja garden which is at last approaching middle height. Despite all this good news the most consistent requirement on our first Saturday of the month sessions is cleaning up rubbish. It’s a question of grin and bear it and the hope that when we install our new upgrades on Mayes Road we may see some welcome behaviour changes by the information board. Veolia do a brilliant job with the two rubbish bins by the benches but they shouldn’t have to cope with the misuse of the site for abandoned packaging, furniture and waste food! 

Hornsey Park Community Gardening takes place from 10am on the first Saturday of every month.

Find us in Martins Walk or near the Mayes Road information boards.

Next session Saturday, August 3rd

© Parkside Malvern Residents Association 

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