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Richmond Lock & Weir Turns Classroom

Year 3 students from Unicorn School in Kew have visited the Port of London Authority (PLA)-managed Richmond Lock and Weir to learn about the River Thames as part of their national curriculum course work.

Twenty-three students from Mrs Daw’s class investigating rivers, joined PLA lock foreman Colin Brandon for the morning to learn about how he manages the river level between Richmond and Teddington Lock, using the weir and how boats are able to pass beyond the weir using the Lock.

After the original London Bridge was replaced in 1832, the Thames flowed faster which in summer months could leave sewage on the riverbed exposed at low tide, causing a terrible smell. The opening of the Lock and Weir in 1894 enabled us to maintain the water level from Richmond up to Teddington.

Mrs Daw, Unicorn School teacher said: “The children loved their visit. They had already learned about how the Houses of Parliament had to be evacuated during the Great Stink, so it fit in very nicely.

“They were able to get a first hand view of the mechanics of a boat being floated up and down as the Lock filled with water and how the massive sluice gates are lifted to reduce water levels up stream.”

PLA lock foreman, Colin, said: “It’s great fun being able to teach the kids about the tidal Thames. Richmond Lock and Weir is helping to keep the balance between the forces of nature and our urban living environment.”

Denise Rowley, PLA environment officer showed the students a chart of the ecology of the Thames, which includes 125 different fish species, 300,000 wintering birds, and 900 seals.

“It’s an immense ecosystem and the students were excited to see it first hand”, said Denise. “Standing on the Lock gate is a Grey Heron, we have the rare Swollen Spire and Thames Door Snails at Oliver’s Ait in Kew, and a seal has been spotted in Richmond recently.”

Hidden in plain site, Richmond Lock and Weir and the team operating it play an important part in managing river flows and protecting the local ecosystem.

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