Since Roman times, people have been taking land away from the river by building on the foreshore. Even today people build on the foreshore to provide more riverside property. But when people build on the foreshore, they take up space that the river and river wildlife needs. This can have a very big impact on the shape and speed on the river, which will also affect the river wildlife.
When the Romans founded Londinium, the Thames was 3 times as wide as it is today. Soon London became an international port and in order to make it easier for the boats, the Romans built wharves out into the river and deeper water. (Wharves are places to load and unload boats). Since then, people have narrowed the river for all sorts of reasons – to make river walks, to get more building land, to build flood defences or to build tunnels and sewers alongside the river. For example, a huge sewer and the District Line tube were built along the foreshore in Victorian times – this is what is beneath your feet as you walk along the Victoria Embankment. This process is called encroachment.
The most serious encroachment has been in central London. The narrowing of the river channel makes the river flow much faster. It also raises the level of the water.
Impacts* destroys the foreshore habitat thus reducing the number of invertebrates who can live there * removes shallow areas at the side of the river used by migrating fish and feeding birds such as herons * fast river flows make central London a more hostile place for wildlife * higher water levels increases the risk of flooding
What we can do?
Protest if you hear of a plan to encroach on the foreshore!