Restoration and reinstatement of the former pond at Branch Hill
This is an initiative from the Redington Frognal Association with support from the Corporation of London and a number of funding bodies to reinstate the pond made famous by Constable when he lived nearby between 1819-1822. The original pond was filled in about 1890.
The idea of reinstating the pond was first proposed by Dr. Adam Broadhead, Water Scientist at Arup. The design for the pond was developed by Jon Sheaff and Associates and HydreauConsulting Engineers, in association with the City of London Corporation, which manages Hampstead Heath (and other green spaces in London) from its own funds.
The pond’s reinstatement is part of a wider initiative to highlight the historical importance of ponds, wells and springs, which gave rise to historic rivers, such as the Westbourne and its tributaries in the Redington Frognal area. It is also intended to help reduce flooding in the area.
The area around Branch Hill pond, known as Judges’ Hollow, is one of the last remaining London sites of acid grassland, a UK Biodiversity Action Plan priority habitat. While the grassland and surrounding trees, brambles and nettles support some wildlife, the addition of a gently-sloping natural pond will provide considerable benefits for the wildlife that forages locally. Expected wildlife sightings include common toads, smooth newts, emperor dragonflies and several species of bats.
The pond had been an important part of Hampstead’s artistic and cultural heritage, having been painted many times by John Constable, while he lived at 2 Lower Terrace (from 1821 to 1822).
Paintings including Branch Hill Pond were included in the Late Constable exhibition at the Royal Academy of Arts, held from 30 October 2021 until 13 February 2022:
Recent publicity on the project includes coverage in the Evening Standard, from 9th February 2022:
The source of the River Westbourne
As a further stage, it is proposed to mark the historic route of the lost River Westbourne, which has its origins at Branch Hill. The river flowed through Kilburn and the Serpentine, beneath Knightsbridge and into the Thames by Chelsea Hospital. More on underground rivers and historic watercourses can be found here.