Filter Bed 101

A little bit of history…

The Seething Wells filter beds were once a ground breaking waterworks site constructed in the 19th Century to provide London with clean water from the River Thames and help defeat cholera outbreaks in London, following the epidemics of 1848 – 1854.

It was operated by Thames Water until the late 1980s and was finally sold to a private company in 1992.

An awful lot of wildlife…

Following it’s decommission as a working site, Seething Wells was left to nature …and nature worked its magic! The site rewilded and became the home of over- wintering wildfowl, bats reptiles, and many more species. Trees grew and flowers bloomed.

A site worth protecting…

There is something special about Seething Wells. For a start, it has 13 hectares of standing open water – the largest in the borough. This unique feature provides a habitat for an amazing range of fauna and flora. Add to this some history in the making – the Seething Wells filter beds and pump house are an early example of Victorian civil engineering with the pump house now listed as a building of Townscape Merit.

We are not alone in thinking this site is special. Since 2005, it has been given- Metropolitan Open Land Status (MOL for short) this is the equivalent of Greenbelt status and means that the site should not be built on except under special circumstances. It is also part of a Grade 1 Site of Importance for Nature Conservation. Designating a site as a SINC helps raise awareness of its importance for wildlife and makes it a focus for nature conservation. It also helps to safeguard the site from inappropriate development. This special area also makes up part of the South Riverside Conservation Area which runs along the Thames from Kingston.

The site doesn’t look like a nature reserve…

Unfortunately the site has been poorly looked after since it was taken over from Thames Water.

We are working hard to:

  • represent the interests of the majority of local residents and to accurately reflect their views
  • campaign to secure the long-term future of local nature reserve on the site
  • campaign to preserve the heritage of the Seething Wells Filter Beds and ensure that future developments do not harm it
  • encourage a community spirit and sense of responsibility within the local community
  • act independently of any political party

Since 2022, SWAG has been under new leadership and we have worked hard to forge positive links with local residents, the council, and the site owners – raising awareness within the borough and beyond of the plight of Seething Wells.

To ensure we speak on behalf of local residents, we have surveyed local residents and responses show huge support for keeping the site as a nature reserve and opening it up to local people.

We have contacted numerous national bodies such as English Heritage, the National Lottery along with more local groups such as the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust and the River Thames Scheme. We often get verbal support, but no funding or other committments… but we don’t give up.

We worked for a year with Kingston councilors taking part in, and co-chairing, an All-Party Working Group. We held the council to account and made sure that the final list of recommendations and guidelines firmly kept to the community’s aims for the site.

We also regularly leaflet local streets and attend famers’ markets and other local events to spread the word and try to get more volunteers involved in our work. We are cautiously in dialogue with the site owners and have had two meetings with them so far. Being informed of their plans and thoughts is crucial for working towards a successful outcome for this unique site.