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Hydro power: harnessing a river to build a community

Insights 21 July 2023

It is now more than five years since the redevelopment and construction of new buildings at Ram Quarter was completed, so it’s a good time to look back at the transformation of the site and the new community that’s thriving here today.  Hundreds of residents have made Ram Quarter their home and we’re thrilled to have witnessed it become part of Wandsworth life – from packed beer festivals, to outdoor yoga classes, riverside walks, and other community events such as outdoor markets architectural festivals, a Clean Air Day campaign and NHS networking and support events.

Establishing a strong sense of place is always fundamental to our development approach, and in this case in particular we always knew how important it would be to create for the site a shared identity that was rooted in the wider borough.  There was a lot for us to build on, not least Wandsworth and Ram Quarter’s special brewing heritage.  But there was also another unique natural resource that we wanted to be central to our plans: the River Wandle.

Flowing through the site, the Wandle has always played a leading role in Wandsworth’s story, where for a time it was known as one of Europe’s hardest working rivers for its part in the area’s industrial history.  However by the time the Ram site ceased to be a commercial brewery in 2006, the Wandle had long since stopped powering the local mills and breweries, and had become overgrown, underloved, and hidden – locked behind the walls of the Young’s Brewery for almost two centuries.

We put the river at the heart of Ram Quarter’s regeneration – establishing a clear link with its past but also more importantly creating a prominent and attractive focal point for the emerging new community.  Our redevelopment work has seen the waterway cleared and rewilded, transformed into a space that everyone can enjoy, with a beautiful public promenade and terrace filled with eateries, bars and local amenities.  We knew the value that this waterside asset could offer for our plan to make Ram Quarter a retail and leisure destination, and the benefits it could bring for residents too.

Since the pandemic, we’ve seen a significant increase in people wanting access to nature on their doorstep, both green spaces, and also ‘blue spaces’ like the river.  The reopened Wandle anchors the development, providing a stunning outlook for the waterside apartments and a place where people can meet and mingle.  We’re delighted to see that even nature agrees about the rewilded river’s value: look closely next time you’re in Wandsworth and you might just see an altogether different type of visitor or resident – such as the heron who comes for the fresh fish in our clean waters, and the many ducks, coots and moorhens, and even our local family of nesting swans, which have all chosen to make Ram Quarter their home.

authored by the Greenland team

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