Eton becomes an ‘island in the stream’ again after restoration project

A £100,000 project to breathe new life into an historic Eton watercourse and return the Berkshire town to its original ‘island town’ heritage has finally been completed.

On Tuesday (March 19) The Right Honourable The Lord Waldegrave of North Hill, provost of Eton College unveiled a plaque formally marking the Barnes Pool Watercourse Restoration Project, watched by local councillors, supporters and volunteers.

Project supporters gathered for the official opening, including Norman Grundon (wearing a cap), Ros Rivaz (red coat) and Peter Eaton (second from right) with Lord Waldegrave (far right).
Project supporters gathered for the official opening, including Norman Grundon (wearing a cap), Ros Rivaz (red coat) and Peter Eaton (second from right) with Lord Waldegrave (far right).

Among them was Norman Grundon, chairman of Grundon Waste Management, who has been personally involved in the campaign, lending the team the benefit of his lifetime’s expertise in both the waste and aggregates sectors.

“This was such an exciting and inspirational project and there were so many challenges, that every day I thought we wouldn’t get any further,” he said. “Clearing the culvert with its beautiful Victorian brickwork was really tricky, tree roots had grown into it and there was so much rubbish and sludge to remove, that it pushed us all to the limits of our expertise.

“To see the work now completed and looking so marvellous is a real achievement for everyone involved and we are delighted to have been able to support such a wonderful project for the local community.”

Working with environmental charity Groundwork South, Grundon Waste Management also donated £20,000 through the Landfill Communities Fund.

The project was the dream of local Eton resident and horticulturalist Peter Eaton who as a child, remembers playing in the brook catching small fish and collecting frog spawn.

“One day, about five years ago, I thought how nice it would be if we could do something to bring the brook back to life,” he said. “The project was adopted as part of Eton’s Neighbourhood Plan and a team formed with the aim of restoring the watercourse to create biodiversity and gardens east of Baldwin’s bridge.

“It was a much bigger project than we anticipated – we had to remove 175 years’ of silt from the culvert system and restore land that had been left to go wild – but we are very proud that our vision has now come together. A massive thank you must go to Norman and to all the other experts and supporters who have made it possible.”

The brook and stream leading to Barnes Pool have been dredged and landscaped, while the area around the pool has been has been landscaped to create a wildflower meadow and a community garden.

The name Eton means “settlement on an island” and historical records show that the town was originally built on an island, surrounded by the River Thames. Over the years this gradually became silted up and the flow finally ceased around half a century ago.

The water was restored by clearing the silt out of the brick pipe or culvert that brings the water from the Thames near the edge of the Brocas down through the brook and onto Barnes Pool under the bridge.

Ros Rivaz, chair of the Eton Community Association, said: As a consequence of the stream becoming blocked, people couldn’t see that Eton was an island, so it is very special to have been able to recreate that.

“This is now a precious resource for the community, for residents, families and visitors, to be able to sit and enjoy the meadowland area and the pool is just incredible.

“Norman Grundon has been inspirational, his technical expertise has been fantastic and he has been so enthusiastic in all the support he has given, so we must say a special thank you to him and to all the many businesses who have been involved.”

Dr Rivaz, who also paid tribute to local councillors and The Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead for their support, says the scheme has been well supported by the local community and the many businesses that were involved.

A team of eco-squad pupils from nearby Eton Porny First School will be keeping a close eye on the waterborne fun, while A Level students at Eton College are designing both a new bench and refuse containers to fit into the natural landscape.