Switching paving for plants in Herne Hill

As you walk around Herne Hill this summer, look out for places where grey concrete paving has been prised up and replaced with lush, green gardens. It’s part of the Lost Effra Project, a local scheme led by London Wildlife Trust that is busy working with local people along the Effra’s former course to create vibrant wildlife gardens that also reduce flood risk.

One of these newly planted areas is the pedestrian island on the corner of Milkwood Road and Lowden Road, an area previously covered with broken concrete paving slabs. It started when Simon, a resident of Lowden Road who had been looking for ways to improve the neglected space at the end of his road, approached the Lost Effra Project. Through working in partnership with Lambeth Council and the Greater London Authority, the paving was replaced with new gardens, brimming with life and colour.

The gardens themselves are practical as well as beautiful, soaking up the water that flows off the tarmac road when it rains. This stops it from reaching the outdated sewers underneath Herne Hill (already full from the water that would have flowed in the River Effra as well as the wastewater from a growing number of Herne Hillians) and helps to reduce the risk of the area going under water again in heavy downpours.

As you walk back towards Herne Hill station, you’ll notice that six new gardens have also sprung up around Oborne Close, a low rise housing estate (and well used shortcut) that backs onto Milkwood Road. Thanks to efforts from local residents, London Wildlife Trust and Lambeth council, concrete has been replaced by flower beds that soak up rainwater, help prevent fly tipping and anti-social behaviour, whilst also bringing residents together through planting and looking after their new gardens.

From taking up a few paving slabs in your front garden to building a green roof on your bike shed, there’s plenty you can do cheaply and in small spaces to help prevent flooding by working with nature. For more information please visit www.wildlondon.org.uk/lost-effra, follow the project on Twitter at @LostEffra or email hspring@wildlondon.org.uk.