King St / Water Lane
There’s no local issue guaranteed to get Twickenham people all fired up quite like the fate of the old swimming pool site by the river. Apart from Heathrow expansion, the RFU, the Gloriana boathouse debacle, schools, cycle lanes and traffic that is, but let’s put them to one side for a second.
When it comes to the saga of the old Twickenham Baths site, or more specifically the piece of land running from Water Lane down to Embankment then this week is an important one. It’s time for the big reveal. Woohoo! This is the week when you get to see LBRuT’s plans for a town square (and other stuff) which will, so we are told, ‘give a focus to the town’ and help open up the space between King Street and Twickenham’s greatest asset. And by ‘greatest asset’ we don’t mean the twickerati ice cream van or even that giant pink rugby ball, we mean the riverside. The concept being promoted by El Brute is a ‘regency style’ development complete with covered arcade, colonnade and amphitheatre. Well, at least we can say that there’s not a lot of that in Twickenham town centre at the moment. Continue reading
Twickenham hasn’t always made best use of its Thames-side location. It’s perfectly possible to pass through the town without realising that the main drag passes just 100 metres from the river.
Water Lane site, Twickenham
That looks set to change with the Council’s acquisition of the large site on the corner of Water Lane and King Street currently occupied by Santander, Superdrug and M&Co. It’s a TWAP* thing, of course. The plan is to redevelop the site to create a ‘town square’ at the top of Water Lane, provide better access to the river and the Diamond Jubilee Gardens (possibly including some kind of outdoor performance space), and create a mixed use development incorporating retail outlets and residential properties. Sounds good. What’s not to like?
Council supremo Lord True, aka the Blue Baron, said, “The separation of Twickenham Town from the historic riverside, that was so critical to the development of the area, has long been regretted by local people, and led to wide spread under appreciation of the quality of the unique place. By acquiring the properties, the Council is fulfilling a promise to enable the creation of a new heart and square for Twickenham that will unite town and river again”. Cue air punching and stirring music.
Work to give Twickenham Embankment a major overhaul is now underway. Phase 1? Cut down all the trees. Now, here at twickerati HQ we like a tree as much as the next person. We like the leaves, the branches, the trunks and even the humble twig, so it’s a shame when they get the chop. But it has to be said that that particular stretch of prime riverside location was not being put to best use. It was pretty much a case of tall trees screening the river and shading a car park. With the site cleared it’s possible to see just what a big area it is. The plans do include the return of (smaller) trees as well as new planters, improved lighting and clearer crossings. Freeing up some of the parking spaces to give better river views and access wouldn’t go amiss either. Unless you live on the Island perhaps.
So, is this latest Council initiative just a case of environmental El Brutalism or is it a long overdue attempt to improve this slightly shabby expanse of prime riverbank? Only you know the answer to that. Oh, and please don’t suggest they build a new primary school there, that would be simply too much.
* El Brute website
* Previously on twickerati: Embankment makeover
What is Twickenham’s greatest asset? Its rugby connection? No. Its wide selection of charity shops, curry houses and cafes? Nope! Its people? Come off it! The only time “people are our greatest asset” is on that poster gathering dust behind the filing cabinet in HR. Well what then? It’s the river, stupid.
Our location on the banks of the greatest river in London, if not in the whole of Englandshire, is what raises Twickenham from being just another London suburb to being somewhere special. And we really do mean special rather than ‘special’. But there’s a dark secret at the heart of all this specialness. And it’s this: Twickenham does not always make the best use of its riverside location. But things have been changing and more change is on the way. The next few months will see improvements to Twickenham Embankment, and specifically to the section in front of the Diamond Jubilee Gardens which at the moment looks, well, a bit crap (see below).
Embankment, Twickenham (a bit crap)
We’re talking new paving, new flower beds and planters, new lighting, clearer crossings. The work will also remove the current trees – presumably good news for those who park underneath and regularly get birds dumping on their cars (we don’t even want to think about what the blokes get up to!)
Anyway… the work follows in the footsteps of the creation of the Diamond Jubilee Gardens in 2012 and the 2009 improvements to the eastern end of Embankment near the Barmy Arms. The makeover will give a boost to this underused section of riverbank where the trees and ranks of parked cars effectively place a screen in front of the river. The work falls under the Twickenham Action Plan umbrella and the artist’s impression on El Brute’s website looks good. And cor blimey, they’ve even managed to make the majority of the cars disappear too. Now that’s magic!
A longer term plan should be to move the parking further back from the river (the ice cream van can stay, of course) and properly link up the Gardens to the river frontage but in the meantime, improving this section of “Twickenham’s greatest asset” is a good move. Work will start at the end of September and last for 21 weeks.
* LBRuT Page
A boat. In Twickenham
A boat balances precariously in the slipway at Twickenham Riverside. Well, we say ‘precariously’ but it is actually supported, just. And no, it’s not the new children’s play boat for Champions Wharf. That’s going to be a Viking longboat.
Meanwhile, don’t forget that Twickenham Festival continues. Twickfest ain’t over til it’s over:
* Here’s a quick link to our What’s On Guide
* And here are our Festival Photos
“TWAP! In the name of love, before you break my heart!” as The Supremes didn’t sing back in 1965. But they might have done had they been living in Twickenham rather than the Motor City and whilst taking a keen interest in the regeneration of the town (48 years in the future). That makes next to no sense but luckily a plan going before Richmond Council’s cabinet on 16th May is a little grounded in reality.
In support of its Twickenham Action Plan (aka TWAP) El Brute is proposing to buy a piece of land for the good of us all. Huzzah! Probably. The site in question is on the corner of King Street and Water Lane. Or to be precise it’s 1, 1a and 1b King Street (namely Santander, M&Co and Superdrug) and 2/4 Water Lane (the car park area behind the bank). The intention? To open up the corner of Water Lane, King Street and Church Street into more of a plaza-like thing, and make better use of the area behind Santander. This is likely to involve linking up the space with the service road that runs along the top of the Jubilee Gardens. Furthermore, by giving the Council ownership of all the land between King Street and Twickenham Embankment it would allow for a more coherent approach to improving and developing this valuable piece of Twickenham’s riverside. And that’s the tricky part, ‘improving’ is not always the same as ‘developing’ and one person’s exciting new development is another’s blot on the landscape. Needless to say any building project won’t be without cost and involving a commercial partner whose objectives might not be quite to the liking of every single person in Twickenham who’s ever held an opinion could present some challenges. Remember the plans for the pool site? Course you do, but we live in hope.
There might also be some who wonder how the Council can start buying up land during a recession but with the plot on the market, it does feel like a real opportunity for El Brute to invest in something that will help deliver a long-term improvement for Twickenham. And, when it comes to considering the options in detail, keeping the huge asset that is Twickenham’s river frontage open for the enjoyment of residents and visitors alike should be at the top of the list.
More on this story to follow. Probably.
* Richmond Council papers on the plan
* Richmond Council Cabinet Agenda
* Twickenham Riverside Blog – background on the site
There’s always something interesting about snippets of local history, whether old or recent, in the way they provide insights into the other people’s lives whilst adding colour and character to the places we know well. We’ve been asking you to submit your Twickenham memories on our “social history page” and we’ve had some great insights. With this particular tale we thought we’d give it an airing on the front page too. We’ve got all the classic ingredients: childhood memories, a long hot summer and a great local pub. And so, in this guest post, long term Twickenham and Teddington resident Dominique sketches a portrait of school holidays 1970s style in…
Cola, Rafts and Ladybirds
The White Swan
During the long hot summer of 1976 I spent as much time as possible at the White Swan pub in Twickenham; not because I was a kid who liked a pint in the heat, but because my best mate Vicky lived above the smoke-filled bar with her family.
There was a lot of fun to be had and mischief to get into over the river, away from grown-ups, and fuelled by bags of crisps. Another year and I’d be embarking upon the much trickier secondary stage of schooling; but now I had 6 weeks of glorious carefree holiday stretching ahead of me. Nothing could be better than spending it with Vicky at the pub. So I took myself off regularly at weekends, sometimes during the week too, and almost certainly outstayed my welcome.
Christmas gets underway in Twickenham with a Yo Ho Ho (or is it Ho Ho Ho, we’re never sure? One was the Green Giant, the other Father Christmas, is that it?).
The lights are on the tree and we suppose that means it’s time to start getting into a festive mood and/or start panicking. We were even joined by a Star Wars storm trooper to help the Christmas spirit along. George Lucas missed a trick there. Next up: Ebenezer Vader Snubs Death Star Christmas Party III.
Thanks to the Twickenham Town Business Association, Twickenham Alive and others for putting on a good event. And remember kids, check out our What’s On item for a summary of what’s on in and around the town over the next few weeks.
In the meantime, here’s a few more pics…
Two people, a man and his son, cross the bridge to Eel Pie Island as the autumn sun sets.
Autumn Sunset, Eel Pie Bridge