Get ready to welcome your restored Thames Barrier Park
The Royal Docks’ biggest park is in for a significant refresh this year. Find out more about our plans for this fascinating park, which made headlines 20 years ago just as it does today.
More trees, new benches, better paths – Thames Barrier Park is in for a major refresh this year. Since we started the work in March, the Royal Docks’ largest park has finally been getting the attention it deserves, with a nine-month long restoration programme to bring it back to glory.
Now celebrating its 20th anniversary, the park is a beloved landmark not just for the Royal Docks, but also for London as a whole. Don’t worry, you’re still able to enjoy the rolling hedges and scented plants of this park during the works this summer, as the improvement works are taking place in stages. Most of the green spaces are available during the works, and all facilities are accessible throughout.
We’ll be resurfacing the perimeter paths, improving access, upgrading the electricals, installing new benches, and building a brand new cafe terrace. The first section to be spruced up, starting in March and running until June, is the area to the north, closest to the main road. Phase two will run from June to August and see the eastern section getting a revamp, before phase three runs from the autumn and until the end of the year, focusing on the area along the river. The cafe is also getting a new lease on life: Made Up Collective who turn food waste into feasts, are making the site their permanent home.
All of this is based on our public consultation last year: nearly 500 of you responded, telling us you’d like better lighting, better paths, evening access to the cafe, and more greenery. There have also been 40 new trees planted in Thames Barrier Park this spring.
Thames Barrier Park was built to complement the elegant architecture of the flood barrier sitting adjacent in the Thames, but it’s a sight in itself: dramatic hedges move in waves towards the water, concluding in beautiful views of the river. The park is a three-time winner of the Green Flag award, the national standard for green and open spaces, and the goal is to make that four times this year.
Thames Barrier Park has a fascinating history. It was once a derelict and contaminated chemical factory site that took nearly 20 years to decontaminate.
We are pleased to have a chance to restore Thames Barrier Park this year. This park has a fascinating history. It was once a derelict and contaminated chemical factory site belonging to PR Chemicals and said to be one of the most polluted in the world. It took nearly 20 years to decontaminate and, in the end, the contaminated soil was covered with a six-foot layer of crushed concrete to protect the new soil laid on top. The park itself was designed by landscape architect Allain Provost of Groupe Signes in Paris and architects Patel Taylor in London. At the opening in 2000, it was lauded as one of London’s first post-modern garden designs and went on to win several awards.
An Architects’ Journal article from 2001 provides a curious throwback to how the park was perceived just after its opening: “[It] represents the thought, effectively new to post-war London government, that public urban park investment can lead the redevelopment of an area.” If that was a new idea at the time, things have certainly come a long way since then.
It was a much-appreciated park from the very beginning, “This public park is remarkable for London,” concluded the Architects' Journal in a story which, 20 years later, has taken on a historic air, “It is refreshing to see such a simple, confidently handled, truly contemporary park design in the UK.”
It’s hard to imagine Thames Barrier Park looking any different than it does today. But did you know that the ‘green dock’, the central section of the garden which provides a wind-protected microclimate for a variety of plants and wildlife, was originally meant to be a meandering river? Or that the park was initially going to have a ha-ha (a type of sunken stone wall) on every side, before that was scrapped in favour of regular fencing? Don’t worry, none of our plans will change the park’s excellent design.
When it first opened, the Thames Barrier Park was far more isolated, with Custom House being the nearest DLR station 20 minutes away. During those years, before Pontoon Dock DLR opened in 2005, it was a park visited mostly by locals and dedicated tourists. Today, as the Royal Docks steps into its new role as a creative centre for London, people from all over the city make the trip to Thames Barrier Park to see its rolling hedges and to admire the beautiful architecture of the Thames Barrier that has kept the city safe from flooding since 1974.
With the city changing so rapidly during the pandemic, we need green oases like the Thames Barrier Park, and we need to know that some things will stay the same. This year’s refurbishment will make sure that the park remains a beloved part of the Royal Docks in the years to come.
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