Case study:Sutcliffe Park

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Location: 51° 27' 18", 0° 1' 48"
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Project overview

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Status Complete
Project web site
Themes Flood risk management, Habitat and biodiversity, Social benefits, Urban
Country England
Main contact forename Toni
Main contact surname Scarr
Main contact user ID User:Ascarr
Contact organisation Environment Agency
Contact organisation web site
Partner organisations Quaggy Waterways Action Group
Parent multi-site project

Case_study:Quaggy Flood Alleviation Scheme

This is a parent project
encompassing the following
Lake at Sutcliffe Park

Project summary

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Before the restoration project, the Quaggy at Sutcliffe Park was a forgotten river. It flowed underground through a concrete channel, unnoticed and providing little habitat for wildlife.

By bringing the Quaggy out of its culvert, a meandering river has been reborn. Now, the river can overflow into the park using it as a flood storage area.

And at other times, the park is there for local communities to enjoy. A network of pathways and viewing points criss-cross the park. Within the wetland areas, there are wooden boardwalks making the area more accessible for prams and wheelchairs. It is a habitat for a huge variety of plants and animals, and features wildflower meadows, wetland areas, reed beds, lakes and ponds.

The river is now a place where wildlife can thrive - from emperor dragonflies and wetland birds, to amphibians and butterflies. Several protected species have now made it their home, including the reed warbler and little grebe. The park has quickly become an important area of natural beauty and a recreational site for the local community.

It’s making a major contribution to the quality of life for local residents. Natural environments encourage regular physical activity, reduce the risk of serious diseases and improve mental well-being.

Monitoring surveys and results

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Surveys have shown that park visits have increased significantly. And people who used the park before, are now staying longer. One in four only started visiting the park after the improvements.

  • The number of park visits increased by 73%
  • People stay longer, on average 47 minutes per visit compared to 34 minutes
  • Total time spent in the park per person per month increased by more than 3.5 hours
  • 28% of people surveyed started visiting only recently, due to the improvements
  • More people visited more often, stayed longer and were more likely to visit to exercise and for health
  • Analysis showed that visitors’ self esteem increased the longer they had spent exercising in the natural environment.
  • Local green spaces are an important health resource for surrounding communities.

83% of visitors feel differently in the park now the River Quaggy runs though it, because of increased biodiversity, better opportunities for recreation, and the peacefulness and relaxation of being near water.

Before restoration, Sutcliffe Park was a flat green area, lacking biodiversity, with the Quaggy River running in an underground culvert. Interesting bird species have now been seen in the new wetlands including heron, little ringed plover, common sandpiper, wagtails including yellow and grey, with linnets and goldfinches feeding on the groundsel. Equally as exciting are the numbers of dragonflies and damselflies that can be seen around the lake, in the wetland pools and along the Quaggy River. Emperor dragonflies (Europe's largest species) have colonised the park and have been seen ovipositing (egg laying) in the water bodies and the river channel soon after completion of the scheme. Large numbers of the attractive red common darter, black tailed skimmer, common blue and blue tailed damselflies can also be seen using the marginal plants in summer time. Water figwort, celery leaved buttercup and gypsywort are all valuable species which have self seeded along the river channel. Bats have also been detected along the river corridor.

The re-naturalisation of the river for flood management and re-landscaping work has lead to the site being recently designated as a local nature reserve.

Lessons learnt

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The levels should have been set so that no lowflow runs through the culvert surrounding the park. However, some flow does still go through the culvert. This means that the channel within the park can suffer from very low flows.

Image gallery

Sutcliffe Park Flood defence aspects
Sutcliffe park before
Sutcliffe park after

Catchment and subcatchment


River basin district Thames
River basin London


River name Quaggy
Area category 10 - 100 km²
Area (km2)
Maximum altitude category 100 - 200 m
Maximum altitude (m) 135
135 m
0.135 km
13,500 cm
Dominant geology Calcareous
Ecoregion Great Britain
Dominant land cover Suburban
Waterbody ID GB106039023290

Other case studies in this subcatchment: Colfes School, Lidl, Manor House Gardens, Manor House Gardens Gauging Station, Manor Park, Mottingham Farm, Quaggy Flood Alleviation Scheme, Quaggy channel improvements, River Quaggy- Chinbrook meadows, Sydenham Cottages Nature Reserve


Name Sutcliffe Park
WFD water body codes GB106039023290
WFD (national) typology Calcareous
WFD water body name Quaggy
Pre-project morphology Closed culvert
Reference morphology
Desired post project morphology
Heavily modified water body Yes
National/international site designation
Local/regional site designations
Protected species present No
Invasive species present No
Species of interest Himalayan balsam (Impatiens glandulifera )
Dominant hydrology
Dominant substrate
River corridor land use Urban
Average bankfull channel width category
Average bankfull channel width (m)
Average bankfull channel depth category
Average bankfull channel depth (m)
Mean discharge category
Mean annual discharge (m3/s)
Average channel gradient category
Average channel gradient
Average unit stream power (W/m2)

Project background

Reach length directly affected (m) 1600
1,600 m
1.6 km
160,000 cm
Project started 1989/01/02
Works started 2003/04/01
Works completed 2004/06/01
Project completed
Total cost category 1000 - 5000 k€
Total cost (k€) 3600
3,600 k€
3,600,000 €
Benefit to cost ratio
Funding sources Environment Agency

Cost for project phases

Phase cost category cost exact (k€) Lead organisation Contact forename Contact surname
Investigation and design
Stakeholder engagement and communication
Works and works supervision
Post-project management and maintenance

Reasons for river restoration

Mitigation of a pressure Flood risk management
Hydromorphology Channel pattern/planform
Biology Fish, Invertebrates, Macrophytes
Other reasons for the project Community demand


Structural measures
Bank/bed modifications Planting of native species
Floodplain / River corridor Creation of pond, Creation of a lake, Wildflower meadows
Planform / Channel pattern Creation of new channel, Deculverting, Meandering channel
Other Boardwalks, Paths, Seating areas, Viewing points
Non-structural measures
Management interventions
Social measures (incl. engagement)
Other Community engagement


Hydromorphological quality elements

Element When monitored Type of monitoring Control site used Result
Before measures After measures Qualitative Quantitative
Channel pattern/planform Yes Yes No No No

Biological quality elements

Element When monitored Type of monitoring Control site used Result
Before measures After measures Qualitative Quantitative
Fish Yes Yes No Yes No
Invertebrates Yes Yes No Yes No
Macrophytes Yes No No No No

Physico-chemical quality elements

Element When monitored Type of monitoring Control site used Result
Before measures After measures Qualitative Quantitative
Nutrient concentrations Yes Yes No No No

Any other monitoring, e.g. social, economic

Element When monitored Type of monitoring Control site used Result
Before measures After measures Qualitative Quantitative
stakeholder liaison Yes Yes No No No
health benefits No Yes No No No Improvement
economic benefits No Yes No No No Inconclusive
River Corridor Survey Yes Yes No No No
Bat Survey Yes No No No No
Mammel survey Yes No No No No
birds Yes No No No No

Monitoring documents

Additional documents and videos

Additional links and references

Link Description case studies1.php?csid=46 River Restoration Centre Case Study

Supplementary Information

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construction The works were designed to alleviate flooding in the Lewisham area. The flood detention area was constructed on the Quaggy River. The location of the detention area is approximately 3km east of Lewisham, in the London Borough of Greenwich, in Sutcliffe Park, formerly eight football pitches. The construction includes a 2.5m high x 480m long earth embankment, which surrounds Sutcliffe Park. The embankment is 2.5m high at its highest point to the west side of the site and at existing ground level to the east. The embankment retains floodwaters within the reservoir basin that has been excavated. The culvert carrying the river follows two sides of the park and is to remain. The low flow inlet control structure was formed through cutting slots into the side of the culvert and a reinforced concrete channel to direct the flow into the park. A few metres downstream of the low flow inlet is a 0.5m high weir to direct the majority of the flow through the park.

The high flow inlet also has slots cut into the side of the culvert and a concrete slab in front to prevent erosion. Just downstream of the high flow inlet a flume has been constructed within the culvert to constrict the flow. The spillway also has slots in the side of the culvert and the landform is at a lower level to allow the water back into the culvert at this location. The outlet structure is constructed from reinforced concrete and has a plastic pipe connecting the flow from the park back into the culvert. The low flow inlet and outlet structures have penstocks within them to control the water movements.

description The plans for the river restoration programme date back as far as 1989, although the work did not commence until April 2003 and the park was re-opened in June 2004. Prior to the restoration work, Sutcliffe Park was described as a flat area of open greenspace with a lack of biodiversity, with the mown grassland primarily used for sporting activities. It consisted of 11 football pitches and an athletics track, with only the track remaining since the enhancements. It is about 1.6 km in circumference with numerous entrances and exits. Since the 1930s the River Quaggy has ran underground along a concrete channel, referred to as a “culvert”, around two sides of the park.

The park has now been re-landscaped to create a naturalised river, which flows through the park at surface level. The culvert still exists, but now overflows into the park when it is full. The design of the park allows a controlled flood to occur which covers the lower lying sections of the park, where the river feeds into the lake. An important influence of this scheme is the presence of a local action group called “The Friends of The Quaggy / QWAG”. Community participation and involvement of local residents played a key role in identifying and campaigning the viable alternative to river channelisation.

The restored park is more of a wetland environment as it provides a variety of habitats for local wildlife, including reed beds and a shallow lake. The park is now rich in biodiversity and users have commented on the “joy of watching nature doing its own thing”. It has a more formal feel at one end due to its wrought iron railings and traditional benches, whereas the opposing end is more natural with bridges, boardwalks and outdoor furniture. There is a circular seating area which acts as a meeting place for local residents and school children to convene. The abundance of flora and fauna allows visitors an opportunity to learn about environmental matters.

Users of Sutcliffe Park include predominantly dog walkers and joggers. It is also used by family groups to feed the ducks and as a thoroughfare to bus stops. The establishment of a “Friends of Sutcliffe Park” is currently emerging and a recommendation for the local walking group “Green chain” to include the park within their routes is being addressed.