ⓘ River Crane, London
The River Crane, a tributary of the River Thames, is a river running through west London, England. It is 8.5 miles long and flows entirely within Greater London. The Crane flows through three London boroughs: Hillingdon, Hounslow and Richmond upon Thames. Although the drainage basin is heavily urbanised, the Crane Valley is one of the few river corridors within London that provides a continuous belt of semi-natural habitat. However, in common with many urban rivers, the Cranes natural morphology has been significantly altered over the years by river engineering works such as widening, straightening and bank reinforcement.
The rivers source is a point south of North Hyde Road in Hayes, Hillingdon, from where its course is near semi-circular to the south then east, joining the River Thames in two places: on the border of St Margarets with Isleworth and by Riverside Mill and Helene House, Isleworth.
Passing through Cranford, the river crosses Cranford Countryside Park, skirts the eastern side of Heathrow Airport formerly the Heathrow Heath part of Hounslow Heath and Hounslow Heath where the Upper Duke of Northumberlands River joins the Crane. From this point, the Crane turns gradually east and passes through Crane Park in Whitton, Twickenham. In Crane Park is the site of the Hounslow Powder Mills which were built in the 16th century and continued to make gunpowder until 1927. The mills have disappeared, but the Shot Tower still stands nearby. The large millpool on an island above the mills is now a Local Nature Reserve, Crane Park Island. The river then turns to the north-east in Twickenham to join the Thames at Isleworth with a distributary splitting off forming a second section of the Dukes River running through Kneller Gardens - the Crane itself flows east through Cole Park in Twickenham on the border of St Margarets, where it forms its border with Isleworth. The Dukes River is tidal for the short distance below the weir by the bridge in Church Street, Isleworth, to its confluence with the Thames. Upstream in Isleworth it has been diverted to flow through Mogden Sewage Treatment Works, where it provides coolant for the power station. Treated effluent from the works is not discharged here but is instead piped to the Thames at Isleworth Ait.
The River Crane is the boundary between the London boroughs of Hillingdon and Hounslow. Around Hanworth and Twickenham, and Isleworth and St. Margarets it is also the boundary between the London boroughs of Hounslow and Richmond.
When extending the Piccadilly line from Hounslow West to Heathrow Airport, the high water table of the ground beneath the Crane made it impractical to tunnel under the river channel, so the line rises from tunnels to cross over it.
2. Associated watercourses
- The Frogs Ditch flows from south west Hayes, crossing under the M4 motorway before running along the western and southern boundaries of Cranford Countryside Park to join the River Crane immediately upstream of the Cranford Lane road bridge at the southern end of the park.
- The Whitton Brook flows into the River Crane at the Cole Park Allotments site.
- The Ickenham Stream flows into the Yeading Brook directly upstream of the A40 Western Avenue roadbridge in the London Borough of Hillingdon. This watercourse was originally constructed in the early 19th Century to convey water from a Grand Junction Canal feeder reservoir which in the 1930s became Ruislip Lido.
- Duke of Northumberlands River: this man-made river has two distinct sections, constructed at different times. The Upper DNR is a tributary of the Crane but also a distributary of the River Colne, Hertfordshire. It flows from the Colne at Longford to the Crane at Hounslow. The Lower DNR is a distributary of the River Crane, flowing from the diffluence at Whitton to the Thames at Isleworth.
- The Yeading Brook is the Cranes upper reach and is 16 miles 25.8 km long. Before the 19th century it was also referred to as the River Fishbourne. It rises in the ground between the northwest London suburbs of Pinner and Harrow and also rises in part from Headstone Manor moat, and follows a meandering course through North Harrow, southern parts of Ruislip then through Ickenham Marsh nature reserve, before skirting Northolt Aerodrome west of Northolt. To the south of the aerodrome the Roxbourne Brook joins it from Roxeth South Harrow. From here the Yeading Brook flows ESE through parkland separating Yeading from Hayes before finally turning south to pass through Bulls Brook Business Park, Hayes, which is its final stretch before becoming the Crane directly west of the A312 "The Parkway" and of the Bulls Bridge junction of arms of the Grand Union Canal. This junction is the tripoint of Hayes/Harlington/Cranford.
3. Pollution incidents
On 4 October 2013, a local newspaper web site reported:
"The Environment Agency EA has launched an investigation into a pollution incident at the River Crane in which appeared to have killed many fish. The agency was called into action following several reports from members of the public that a section of the river at Twickenham had turned black and fish were seen in distress.
The source of the pollution has been traced to an outfall pipe upstream of the A30, and EA officers are at the scene working with partners to minimise the impact of the incident."
On 7 October 2013, there appeared to be a temporary coffer dam with filled sandbags across part of the river, immediately north of the point where the London Underground Piccadilly Line and four conduits carrying unknown services crosses the river. A bulk road tanker labelled "non hazardous product" was seen with flexible hoses connected to the pool above the dam.
The Crane Valley Partnership reported that the Environment Agency had traced the source to a fractured main probably caused by illegal ground works carrying sewage sludge between the Mogden sewage works and Iver, Buckinghamshire. The escaping sludge found its way into the river via surface water sewers.
In a previous serious incident on 29–31 October 2011, a large but unknown quantity of raw sewage was deliberately diverted into the Crane. A two-metre valve jammed shut on Saturday morning at Cranford Bridge on the A4 Bath Road while Thames Water engineers carried out routine maintenance. Unable to force the valve back open, they arranged for the backed-up sewage to be taken away in tanker lorries for treatment. The volume of sewage was such that they were unable to remove it fast enough by tanker. Faced with the choice of letting the remaining sewage back up into the airport or spill to the River Crane, they opted for the latter, resulting in sewage entering the river and damaging wildlife. Sewage spilled intermittently into the river until 3 am on Monday. This resulted in the death of over 3.000 fish. A full assessment of the damage caused is still ongoing.
4. Catchment Partnership
The Crane Valley Partnership CVP is the relevant Catchment Based Approach CaBA catchment partnership providing the strategic co-ordination of efforts to manage and improve the River Crane and its tributaries, including enhancing biodiversity, water quality and quantity, connectivity, public access, community cohesion, and historical and educational opportunities. The CVPs origins lie with the West London Biodiversity Practitioners Group WLBPG, derived from the partnership that formed during the work on the Hounslow Local Biodiversity Action Plan LBAP. The WLBPG held its first meeting on 13 November 2002, at Heathrows Mayfield Farm classroom. The original members included: London Borough of Hounslow, London Borough Hillingdon, Groundwork Thames Valley, Syon Park Estate, Thames Water, Heathrow Airport Ltd, Glendale/British Airways, English Nature, London Wildlife Trust LWT, Royal Society for the Protection of Birds RSPB.
The main objective of this group was to encourage practical implementation of conservation work across West London. The group met again in February and July 2003. The partnership then evolved to become the River Crane Management Forum RCMF, which had its first meeting on 15 June 2004. The members present at this meeting were: Environment Agency EA, Greater London Authority GLA, Heathrow Airport Landside Property Services, Glendale for Heathrow Airport Landside Property Services HALPS, London Borough of Hounslow, London Wildlife Trust, Friends of the River Crane Environment FORCE, London Borough Hillingdon, London Borough Ealing, A Rocha, WSP for HALPS, Penny Anderson Associates.
These organisations had a mutual aspiration for joined-up action along the River Crane to improve water quality and biodiversity, as well as promoting the significance of the river corridor as part of the West London Green Chain. The Forum had another meeting on 20 July 2005, at which point the Crane Valley Partnership CVP was established. CVP is currently hosted/chaired by the educational charity Green Corridor. In April 2013, the Partnership appointed a Development Manager who is employed through Green Corridor. This appointment was made possible through funding pledged by Thames Water £400.000 after the serious pollution incident in 2011 that affected the lower parts of the River Crane.
The CVP is formed of five London boroughs and public, voluntary and private stakeholders, all working towards a shared vision: for a well-managed and high quality river corridor which is accessible to all, in which wildlife can thrive and local people can take pride and ownership.
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