Chiswick Eyot

Since its inception, OCPS has been actively involved in helping preserve Chiswick Eyot. This has involved members pollarding old, and planting new, willow trees on the island, so helping to retain the soil.

In recent times we have developed our methods for helping protect the island with 'a light touch'. This now also includes managing  the "invaders"- stabilising the banks after erosion by Chinese Mitten crabs, and removing Himalayan Balsam (see Eyot invasive species).  

The island is both an historic withy bed (a history of this can be downloaded here: Chiswick Eyot as historic withy bed) and, from 1993, a Local Nature Reserve. Together with Thames21 (T21) Thames 21, we have drawn up a Management Plan which shows how we are approaching the challenge of protecting Chiswick Eyot in both these guises. For this plan, please see: Management Plan for Chiswick Eyot 2011 and the update for 2012 Management of Chiswick Eyot Update 2012.

Activities

We ask members to come in early January and help bundle the withies which have been cut professionally in late December (see Bundling and Bank stabilisation). This is a  family affair as people of all ages can join in. Then we and Thames21 organise working days during the rest of the year to help build revetments made of posts and withies along the inner bank of the island.
 
In the months when birds are not nesting, working with OCPS, T21 also organises work days to remove the endless amounts of plastic and polystyrene that deposit on the island. Removal of this detritus helps the undergrowth to develop thereby not only increasing biodiversity but helping to stabilise the mud. 


Access

The Eyot is unique in being the last remaining withy bed on the Thames continuously cultivated since at least the mid-18th century. But it is extremely fragile: it floods every high tide and so the island is barely more than mud which is readily washed away by the river. Thus too much footfall is extremely deleterious. Also, access can be of risk to your safety and health: tripping over is all too easy and there is no help at hand. Moreover, the Thames is still not free of sewage, which is deposited on vegetation and mud, and so there is a major risk of infection if you have, or get, a cut or wound. The final straw is that the tide comes in unexpectedly quickly and it is easy to get cut off. Being a Nature Reserve, too much disturbance of any sort upsets the extremely delicate balance both of plants and of birds on this tiny island.

Therefore we ask people only to cross onto the Eyot during one of the work days arranged as part of the programme of management described above. Details of these days can be found on our News page and on the Thames 21 website.