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Explore a secret Thames island with TideFest - Sunday 28th September

15.09.14

Isleworth Ait (c) Katie Bermingham

Pictured: Isleworth Ait
© Katie Bermingham

TideFest is a new River Thames event taking place on World Rivers Day, Sunday 28th September, which will highlight and celebrate the importance of the tidal Thames for nature and Londoners.

As part of the celebrations London Wildlife Trust is offering a very rare chance to access Isleworth Ait nature reserve, an island in the Thames. Isleworth Ait provides an undisturbed sanctuary for birds such as treecreeper, kingfisher and heron, beetles and rare molluscs such as the German hairy snail.

In Chiswick there will be opportunities to take part in free Stand Up Paddle Boarding and kayaking lessons at Kew Bridge; alongside a fishing competition and river dipping on the Thames foreshore. To the south, a heritage walk will explore the River Wandle, a tributary of the Thames where there will also be fishing lessons for 12-18 year olds.

Carlo Laurenzi OBE, Chief Executive of London Wildlife Trust, said: "TideFest brings us together in celebrating the River Thames on World Rivers Day. The Thames is an essential part of London, a vital natural resource which benefits much of London's wildlife and brings huge pleasure to Londoners and the many tourists who visit our city each year."

"As part of TideFest London Wildlife Trust is arranging special access to Isleworth Ait Nature Reserve, an island sanctuary in the Thames which is famed for its unusual and scarce wildlife. Numbers are strictly limited, but for a small number of lucky people, this will be a unique opportunity to visit one of our most iconic nature reserves."

As the Thames has become cleaner, recreational opportunities have expanded, with many people enjoying angling and water sports such as sailing and kayaking in the heart of London. The river was declared biologically dead in 1957, yet over 120 species of fish have now been found in the river and estuary. Seals and porpoise have been recorded in the heart of London.

A key partner in TideFest has been the Angling Trust, the national representative body for the sport, who together with the London based Thames Anglers Conservancy, have organised the first of what will be an annual fishing competition at Kew Bridge to assess the continuing health of the tidal Thames.

Angling Trust National Campaigns Coordinator, Martin Salter said: "There have been too many false dawns for the Tidal Thames and far too many devastating fish kills from sewage discharges and plunging levels of dissolved oxygen in the water. But now we really do feel that London's river is experiencing a new beginning with improved water quality and the prospect of seeing an end to the storm water discharges that have done so much damage to fish and other wildlife. Our new annual fishing competition will provide a living guide to the health of the river. "

The RSPB are also taking part in TideFest. Their Events Coordinator Lottie Williams commented: "The Thames Tideway, marshes and mudflats provide an amazing habitat for a huge array of species from curlews to common seals. Come and speak to us at TideFest and discover just how many species live along the River Thames."

TideFest is taking place as part of the month long Totally Thames festival, and is supported by the Thames Tunnel Now Coalition which includes London Wildlife Trust, Thames 21, RSPB, WWF, River Thames Society and the Angling Trust.

A full programme of TideFest events on September 28 can be seen here: www.wildlondon.org.uk. There will be a number of prize giving ceremonies and photo opportunities on the day.

ENDS

For more media information, interviews or images please contact:

Martin Salter, Angling Trust National Campaigns Coordinator on 01568 620 447 / 07976946033 / martinreadingwest@googlemail.com  

Images of Isleworth Ait can be downloaded from http://bit.ly/1qmaQQe free for press use. Where indicated please credit Katie Bermingham.

Isleworth Ait is one of the largest of the 18 islands in the Thames within Greater London, located just downstream from the mouth of the River Crane. It is characterised by a tall canopy of mixed woodland of mainly poplar and willow that is regularly inundated by high tides.  The Ait (Old English for island) is noted for supporting nationally rare snails (the two-lipped door snail and the German hairy snail) and provides an undisturbed sanctuary for birds such as treecreeper, kingfisher and heron. The Ait is part of a Site of Metropolitan Importance for Nature Conservation and was designated a Local Nature Reserve in 2003.

London Wildlife Trust is the only charity dedicated solely to protecting the capital's wildlife and wild spaces, engaging London's diverse communities through access to our nature reserves, campaigning, volunteering and education. www.wildlondon.org.uk

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