Living on the River

livingThe Downings Roads Ancient Moorings are one of London’s oldest remaining river moorings. They now form a prime example of river based urban regeneration in the London Borough of Southwark.

Over the past 25 years the moorings have evolved into a vibrant atmospheric community with over 30 historic boats providing affordable homes and studios for more than 100 adults and children around an infrastructure of award winning floating gardens and walkways.

The community at Downings Roads reflects a wide variety of skills and expertise including architects, musicians, artists, solicitors and key workers. In addition, several boat dwellers have established their own businesses in Southwark. Over the years the community has developed strong and varied links in the borough particularly in the voluntary and educational sectors and children from the moorings attend a number of local schools and nurseries.

Thanks to its Ecological Initiatives, Downings Road is one of the top recycling communities in London – with 75% of all its waste diverted from landfill.

As one of the city’s few floating gardens, and a recipient of a Best Community Gardens Award  by Southwark in Bloom from Southwark Council, the moorings provide a habitat for a broad range of flora and fauna. They received two gold and a silver award in 2008,2009 and 2010.

As well as improving the visual amenity of the area they are a vital link in the green corridor of the Thames foreshore and each year attract a growing number of enthusiastic visitors from all over London. The gardens are open to the public 3 days a year to garden enthusiasts. The NGS, National Garden Scheme and Open Garden Squares Weekend organised by London Parks Trust.

The moorings at Downings Roads form the largest single collection of historic trading vessels on the Thames including both sail and motor barges from all over Europe, some over 100 years old. Their presence demonstrates a continuation of Southwark’s traditional links with the activities and life of the river.

At present two barges are adapted for accessing alternative energy. An ongoing feasibility study is looking at the use of sun, light, wind and river to power, initially, the communal areas of the moorings, and eventually each individual barge. We hope that this initiative will prove a model for other river communities.

Expert advice (and/or sponsorship) for this project would be very welcome.

With the help of Southwark Council – the community now recycles as much of its rubbish as possible. Most kitchen waste is now composted in special boxes located on the garden barges.  Recycling bins for newspaper, glass, plastics and cans are sited on a platform interconnected between the two access brows of the moorings( i.e. diverted from landfill) with the support of Southwark Council Recycling services), total estimate of recycling is 75%.

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