Floods and mud: what's happening with Verulamium Lake?

Cllr Aaron Jacob by a cordoned off area of Verulamium Lake.

Cllr Aaron Jacob by a cordoned off area of Verulamium Lake. - Credit: Aaron Jacob

What's happening with Verulamium Lake? That's the question being asked by a local councillor unhappy with the state of the district landmark.

Cllr Aaron Jacob, who represents St Stephen's ward, believes the jewel in St Albans' crown is being neglected, and said residents have been raising their concerns with him.

"There seem to be persistent issues with the lake in Verulamium Park. On a walk this morning, I saw that one area has been sectioned off due to slippery paths.

A heron sits in a flooded area of Verulamium Lake.

A heron sits in a flooded area of Verulamium Lake. - Credit: Aaron Jacob

"On walks to the park during the second and third lockdowns, the flooding of the lake prevented everyone from using the paths and they clearly were not accessible to everyone. The council doesn't seem to be able to get on top of the flooding afflicting the park. 

"Verulamium Park is an amazing community asset which we should all treasure. I want to see more action here to ensure that the pathways remain open and accessible to everyone in our community.

"The Environment Agency doesn't seem to do much and sectioning areas off is merely a sticking plaster. This, of course, is when we've had weather that hasn't been terrible. By winter, we could be in a situation where the majority of the pathway is simply unusable. Not acceptable."

He is demanding the district council communicates what they are doing about the flooding to local residents, and outlines what action it will take ahead of the winter months to prevent the pathway from being completely inaccessible if the flooding gets worse.

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SADC head of community services Joe Tavernier said: “The recent flooding at Verulamium Park was due to exceptionally high rainfall and was outside of our control.

“The Environment Agency, which has responsibility for managing flood risk on the River Ver, has classified part of the park as a flood plain and so unfortunately this sort of flooding can be expected from time to time.

“We took action over the winter and spring to ensure the safety of visitors by closing some footpaths and placing raised wooden platforms over affected sections.

“Only a small section of the footpaths, around 30 metres long by the boating lake, remains closed because it is still flooded and there is also some subsidence. We are continuing to monitor this section.

“The footpath in front of the toilets by the larger lake was heavily flooded and this left algae deposits which can be slippery. Our contractor has been sanding and scrubbing this area to keep it open and safe.

“A structural survey was carried out on the toilets which were flooded and the building remains sound. They will reopen shortly after they have been cleaned."

A multi-million pound project known as Revitalising the RiVer is being spearheaded by the Environment Agency alongside Affinity Water, Herts county council, SADC and Thames Water.

Proposals include reshaping the main lake and reducing it by a third in order to make room for a new stream flowing through the park.

The two heron islands would be enlarged and raised using silt drudged from the bottom of the lake.

Concrete lining would be replaced with vegetative banks and some wetlands would be installed in the south west corner, with board walks across the marsh area.

Gravel beaches would provide access onto the current river, which will be narrowed to increase the water surge. The stronger current the River Ver can sustain, the more water will feed into the lake, keeping it clean in the long term.

These measures aim to discourage the current insurgence of Canada geese, in turn reducing the silt levels and allowing a more diverse range of plants to thrive.

Joe added: "This project will have many benefits including improvements to the natural environment and infrastructure of the park as well as the water quality of the lakes.

“Outline designs are being finalised and we are hoping to share this with residents within the next few weeks before submitting a planning application.”