THE restoration of Red Lion Lawn in Henley started on Monday.
Watch our video of the first day of work and interview with the team behind the facelift here
Town council contractor Riverworks has driven protective sheet piling into the banks of the Thames at the riverside landmark. The metal reinforcements have been sunk 6.5ft into the riverbed in front of the old river wall, which is at risk of collapsing.
Riverworks’ four-man team is now tearing out the old wall and removing surrounding block paving, which will be replaced. The work is expected to take six to eight weeks and will cost more than £24,000.
To minimise traffic disruption, the 36ft sheeting was towed upstream from Riverworks’ Shepperton headquarters on a barge. It took a week to prepare for the trip and load the boat and two more days for it to reach Henley. Other materials, such as sand and timber for repaving the lawn, were driven to the site in vans. The barge is equipped with a crane to help the men load and unload. On its return journey, it will take the remains of the old river wall.
Riverworks managing director Steve Hathaway said: “It’s a straightforward job as sheet piling goes. There are a few complications — obviously there’s the bridge and we can’t get too close to that. There are also some big tree roots at the bottom end but they’re more of an inconvenience than anything. Luckily, we haven’t hit any yet.”
Red Lion Lawn, which is owned by the town council, has been closed to the public since August last year on health and safety grounds.
It was deemed unsafe after an underwater survey found it was being eroded by the river and tree roots. The sheet pile system is expected to protect the site from further erosion for the next 30 years. The exposed metal will be covered with hardwood cladding.
Once the new paving has settled in, the council will invite volunteers to help restore the dilapidated shelter next to the bridge. This will be carried out as part of the Britain in Bloom competition, in which Henley won a regional gold award this year.
Town clerk Mike Kennedy said: “The whole area will be landscaped and the flowerbeds will be replanted so it will become a really attractive area for visitors and the townspeople to enjoy.”