Hurst Meadows protecting Molesey in 2014
Flooding 2014 Walton Road, Molesey in 1968 Floods Molesey Floods 1951 border= Floods approaching Rivermead in 2014 Hurst Park Floodplain in 2014 Walton Road in 1968 floods Hurst Park flooded 2014

Click photos to enlarge


We are all experiencing climate change, and government warns us that greater and more frequent flooding events along the Thames are very likely. Molesey has suffered serious flooding in the past, the most memorable in living memory probably being 1947, 1951, 1968, 2001, 2003 and 2014.

Some of the incidents were caused by the Mole and Ember rivers bursting their banks, a situation now largely remedied by flood works on those rivers. However the Thames still presents a major flood threat to Molesey and other Thames-side communities.


The best protection against flooding is the natural floodplain, which not only fills up with surface floodwater but also allows the ground to absorb and store huge volumes of floodwater.

Buildings in the floodplain are obviously at most risk, but it is the continuing loss of natural river floodplain, due to building development, which reduces the storage capacity of the ground and increases the overall levels of water in the river. This heightens the risks of flooding to property. Locally, natural floodplain helps protect properties in the flood warning zones in a safer way than man-made defences, which can always fail.

There were high river levels at Molesey in 2001 and 2003, and in the winter of 2013/14 the Thames remained close to record levels for over two months. Here in Molesey flooding was held in check as the natural flood plain (Hurst Park) did its job with the help of the Thames Barrier at Woolwich.

See: About the Thames Barrier

From 1982 to 1990 the Thames Barrier was used only four times, but since 1990 it has been used 82 times; 41 of these uses were in 2014, specifically to alleviate flooding in upstream areas such as Molesey. Although the Thames here is not tidal, by closing the Barrier at low tide floodwater from non-tidal areas, such as Molesey, can drain out freely, lowering river levels here and reducing the risk of local flooding.

See: Barrier closures through the years

But this is not the primary purpose of the Thames Barrier, which is to prevent tidal flooding of London. Its use to alleviate flooding of upstream areas such as Molesey (fluvial flooding) is set to decrease under new Environment Agency flood management plans. This is to retain the "high level of reliability to prevent tidal flooding of London". There is a limit to the number of times the Barrier can be deployed in a year which is about 50, so it seems likely we may not continue to be protected by the Barrier here - making it even more vital that we retain our remaining natural floodplain intact.

See also: The Thames Barrier's Future

EA Flood Warning Area
Much of Molesey lies within the Environment Agency flood warning area.

In 2014 the Environment Agency issued River Thames flood warnings for Molesey to 1,736 registered property owners in January and 1,770 in February.

We are one of the few communities along the London Thames to have retained our floodplain - the 80 acres of Hurst Park. All natural flood plains along the Thames once helped to reduce river levels during flood events, but there are very few that have not been built upon and the river edge embanked.

Hurst Park and Hurst Meadows are not only our natural flood plain, but they are also Public Open Space for everyone to enjoy. Over the years the area has become a special enviroment for wildlife. A remarkable number of native species - some of them very rare - flourish on what is, still, a broad area of traditional flood meadow.


The Meadows and the Thames riverbank are designated sites of nature importance (SNCI) by Natural England, and the Meadows is also a Local Nature Reserve. Approximately 275 species of flora have been recorded in Hurst Meadows and along Hurst Park riverbank; 14 of them are nationally scarce. To have so many of the native species indicates a good quality habitat.

See: Species Surveys

Hurst Park and Meadows has been public open space for many years, with universal access for everyone. The range of activities taking place on the Hurst is wide: walking, running, cycling, informal sport, angling, family picnics, family outings, bird watching, bird feeding, dog-walking, rambling, community and charity events, quiet enjoyment, just sitting, and much more. Visitors to Hurst Park enjoy it in their own way.

On the water we have regular regattas, as well as rowing, canoeing, paddleboarders, yacht sailing, pleasure boating and hire boats.

The Friends of Hurst Park believe we must resist all attempts to appropriate any part of Hurst Park open space for any single interest group, and we must strongly oppose building development proposals of any sort. This would set a precedent to build more in the floodplain in the future.

If we allow our effective floodplain to be compromised, we will make Molesey more vulnerable to future flooding and leave a legacy of greater flood risk for our descendants.

Hurst Park and Meadows should be Public Open Space for EVERYONE