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Ernie Hearn

Reclaimimg the beaches


Ernie Hearn MBE is a long time pioneer of protecting the Thames from reclamation of the foreshore and loss of access to the foreshore. Since the 1970s, he's seen chunks of the river foreshore being taken away by developers for new developments. Thirty five years ago nobody was very interested in the River Thames. The docks had closed down and the land was up for grabs. At public inquiries in the 1970s, Ernie was going along as a loner giving evidence on behalf of the river. Many of those in opposition were not agreeing with what Ernie had to say: that by reclaiming the foreshore the channel is narrowed and it becomes dangerous with the water running much faster and at increasing height. When the Environment Agency was formed, it came to same conclusion as Ernie's concerns, a decade earlier. Ernie was very fortunate in the 1970s that the Greater London Council [GLC] understood what he was saying and agreed. The GLC introduced policies regarding the River Thames which included ensuring that the foreshore was safeguarded against future developments and improving, wherever possible, access to the foreshore.

What about the future? Now we enjoy riverside walkways [not everywhere, there are still places where you cannot walk directly along the river, especially on the north bank east of London], Ernie hopes this can be resolved. With all the families enjoying the riverside Ernie would like to see, every half a mile along the river, something for the children. It doesn't have to be a recreation park like Jubilee Gardens which Ernie was involved in creating, but something nautical like there is at Shad Thames where there is a large anchor and a ship's chain. There is a site proposed on the riverside at Coin Street. There are some funds but there is a shortfall to bring the plans to fruition.

This project may be entitled "Dark Waters", but the Thames is the cleanest industrial river in the world. For over forty years, one of Ernie's hobbies has been going onto the foreshore looking for relics of the past. He has witnessed the transformation of the River Thames, from an undesirable muddy foreshore to a much improved sandy environment enjoyed by everyone, even the cormorants have returned to live off the fish in the river.