A group of conservationists and experts held a press conference Tuesday at a house at the end of the London River, the sprawling coastal regeneration area once known as Silvertown, to praise an enduring, five-year effort to preserve one of the last places in Britain home to the lone female kingfisher.
The house where the bird of prey roosts is officially known as the water house, but a lesser-known name might be the Great River Waterhouse, because of its role in the effort to save the kingfisher.
In the early 1970s, a local contractor began renovating the water house, erecting walled gardens and other conservation projects. It soon became known among local residents and conservationists as the Great River Waterhouse, to honor one of the area’s first inhabitants — a river house.
Paul Freeman, the waterhouse’s current owner, restored and updated the dilapidated 17th-century property, when it was seen as a big step toward preserving the remaining waterhouse as a working house. He refurbished a dated kitchen, installed a new concrete basement for storage and hired a builder to install the house’s first gas fire.
While some old roofs had collapsed, Mr. Freeman added new shingles and new cabinets for his kitchen. He and his assistant stayed awake at night for months sandblasting the exposed cedar frames, which had been weakened by leaks.
The waterhouse became a center for environmental education and project management for design and planning expert Ed Llewellyn. Mr. Llewellyn helped Mr. Freeman organize visits by tourists from around the world and advise him on things such as how to define the house’s boundaries to conserve natural light and vegetation.
As a reward for his input, Mr. Freeman and others set aside 25 acres of the waterhouse grounds for a science museum project that will span three decades and include what they hope will be a new resident: the official kingfisher.
B, e, , n, , , and l note that kingfishers are rare and endangered worldwide; e, , and l note that they are listed as “critically endangered” in Europe.
The waterhouse, found on Long Beach Road, once hosted a large number of waterfowl and was chosen by Londoners because of its tranquility, outdoor fires and with a natural waterside view.
Flushing of water from the Brize Norton reservoir had broken up the waterway that formed the West Pier in the 18th century, turning it into a ditch and threatening to worsen the decline of London’s waterfowl populations. Mr. Freeman and Mr. Llewellyn both describe their efforts to rehabilitate the waterhouse as an attempt to reverse the waterpowl’s decline.
They explained that such a recovery effort is not unusual in Britain: In the 1980s, people in the Cotswolds tried to reforest an area to protect its wildlife; there were plans for a town park in Bradford, England, to preserve birds and other wildlife; and a garden in Cambridge, which preserves birds, flowers and plants, dates back to the 18th century.
“We’re hoping that people will look at our site and say, ‘This is another example of a really brilliant conservation project,’ ” Mr. Freeman said.
The Great River Waterhouse’s website notes that little is known about the water house’s past, except that it is well-known among Londoners for the 17th-century dock workers who used it as a landing site and for the Kingfisher Society, the ornithological organization that was founded on the waterhouse grounds in the late 1960s to support and promote kingfishers, especially one of the few kingfishers in the United Kingdom.
Mr. Freeman’s house is now not open to the public, but you can visit the waterhouse on the website.
The following article has been updated to note that the Great River Waterhouse is connected to the Brize Norton reservoir, and the Thames River from London, by tributaries.