I have previously written to say that I support whole-heartedly the aims of the Twickenham Riverside association. However my experience with a stall I hired at the Craft Fair on the Embankment on Saturday 15th December, has raised some concerns about the footfall and access for the public in this area which I hope are being addressed if any scheme is to make the area an attractive destination.
The craft stalls were erected in front of the derelict swimming baths. It soon became clear there there is virtually no casual footfall along this end of the Embankment. (In fact someone came up to tell me they had refused to hire a stall for that very reason). I do not believe this lack of passing trade was due merely to the bitterly cold weather or the derelict state of the baths (or even the winos at the end of Wharf Lane). There were plenty of people around but shoppers who ventured to the top of Water Lane then headed off left along Church Street.
Why? Locals may know there is nothing worth seeing at the end of Water Lane but visitors to the area would not know this. But what is there at the top of Water Lane to draw anyone further down it? Nothing at all. (The “award-winning housing” at the river end of Water Lane would not get any prizes from me.) The hideous brick building at the junction of Water Lane and King Street is seriously off putting. (Who remembers the old coaching inn?) Could someone not be induced to grow some ivy or creeper over it?
The alternative approach is to stroll along the Embankment from the Church (or indeed from the end of Bell Lane) to where?….. What is the destination when you get there ? ….Wharf Lane? This is just a dull access road for shops. And there is another problem – there is a natural barrier created by the small mooring basin at the end of Water Lane, which prevents a “clear” path along the Embankment.
There are also trade vehicles which are by their nature larger than cars and park near the end of the footbridge to Eel Pie Island to serve its residents. On Saturday there were some high trade vans parked, for a lengthy period, on the road by the Eel Pie Island footbridge obscuring the view along the Embankment. This is probably a regular occurrence and contributes to making the Embankment area by the old swimming pool a “dead” area.
(It has not however deterred a number of the local “winos” from setting up shop on a bench at the end of Wharf Lane and while they were not threatening, they were calling out comments to passers-by and cannot make the area more desirable for families and tourists and indeed local people. My concerns about how the staffing of a “public” park would address this and similar elements at night, remain. It is a real problem which would need to be addressed.)
If the Riverside area is to be made attractive to visitors, then I would suggest an attractive pedestrian circuit needs to be developed to attract people down Water Lane and along the Embankment behind King Street and back up Wharf Lane. It is not clear to me from looking at the drawings of either scheme how this is to be achieved but I am quite willing to accept that I have missed part of the debate on this and would be happy to be updated by someone better informed.