New River Walk

Friends of the New River Walk

The New River was built in the early 17th Century as an aqueduct to convey drinking water from a spring in Hertfordshire to a reservoir in Myddleton Square, behind Sadler’s Wells. Canonbury is fortunate in having a long section of the original waterway and this provides a very pleasant area for walking and a lovely outlook for many houses. The maintenance and cleaning of the waterway is undertaken by Council staff supported by volunteers, including the Friends of the New River Walk.

New River Walk Restoration

A message from the new Chairman Rocco Falconer, April 2024

It has been unusually tempestuous on the New River Walk of late. As many of us will be aware, Islington Council undertook to renovate both sections of the NRW to contend with the increasing levels of silt and subsequent aeration and algae problems. The messy and unsightly period of excavation and earthwork has happily come to an end, but the sticky business of what to do with the resulting silt unfortunately has not. 

The budget for the renovation work was fixed and, by their own admission, the good people of Islington Council did not anticipate quite the amount of silt that there would be. As a consequence, the ‘revetments’, originally planned to be small and unobtrusive, have turned out to be very much larger and character-changing than certainly we at the Friends of the New River Walk would have wished. We feel that the nature of the changes do significantly alter the form of the New River, particularly on the southern section, and do not feel these changes are an improvement, particularly given the extent to which they narrow the watercourse. 

We have liaised with LBI on this over meetings and emails, and requested that the revetments be removed. We have, so far, had absolutely no joy whatsoever with an intransigent council. They are prepared to admit that the revetments are larger than planned, and that the reason for this is a budgetary limitation, but they are not prepared to take action to remove them. This leaves us in something of a pickle: do we pursue this matter with the force that perhaps the NRW deserves, or do we settle and accustomise ourselves to the changes? 

As some of you may now, I have recently taken over as Chair of Friends of the New River Walk, filling the titan-esque shoes of Jack Lambert. I have stepped into the ring at quite a challenging time with quite a daunting foe! Accordingy, any help on this matter would be most gratefully received and any counsel, tips or suggestions would be taken into due consideration. We are a small community but would very much like to have our voice projected further. 

As it stands, our current strategy will be to seek, perhaps with the threat of legal action, permission to organise and of LBI to organise the movement of the silt from the southern to the northern section where more space should make the ’revetments’ less invasive and wider. Even to get LBI to agree to this feels like quite a gargantuan task, but a task to which we must earnestly commit ourselves. In that case, we would be seeking volunteers to do the literal ‘heavy lifting’ of such a task. We would also very warmly welcome support or brainpower in the challenge to the actions of LBI to try and recover the former character of the walkway.