Oliver’s Ait is a small island on the River Thames owned by the Port of London Authority. It is located in the London Borough of Hounslow near Kew Bridge and has an area of just 0.5 hectares. The Ait was created by the deposition of sediment by the river, it is a long, thin island with a dense canopy mainly consisting of sycamore trees. It is thought by some that Oliver Cromwell once took refugee on it during the Civil War, although there is no evidence to support this, this is thought the reason as to how the island got its name.
- In 1777 a tollbooth in the shape of a small castle was placed on the Ait to collect money from passing boats to fund improvement in the rivers navigation.
- In 1857 Thames Conservancy took control of the Ait and they built a smithy in 1865 for building and repairing barges. Some of the building remains are still found on the Island.
- In 1909 the Ait was assigned to the Port of London Authority. It was used as a storage depot and an area for vessels to be kept .
- In 2011 the PLA drew up a ecological management plan, based on recent surveys of the animals and plants that lived on the island, with the local residents. Major repairs were required to the revetments and tree’s that hadn’t not been managed for sometime.
The Ait has a variety of wildlife inhabitants including many bird species including mallard, cormorant, Black-headed gull, Canada goose, Egyptian goose, mute swan, magpie and robin. The Thames door snail (Alinda biplicata) and the Swollen spire snail (Mercuria confuse) have been recorded as present on the island. These species favour the damp shaded conditions the Ait offers.
In 2014 11 mollusc species and 35 species of vegetation were recorded. Bats are commonly seen on the Ait as it is a popular foraging ground. The common and soprano pipistrelle are the main species found on the island. The bat species of Nathusius Pipistrelle is also present on the Ait. The most common vegetation found included the sycamore tree, Elder tree, the common nettle and Ivy.
The Port of London Authority is responsible for the management of Oliver’s Ait.
Regular ecological and tree surveys are carried out on the Ait so that populations can be monitored and management strategies can be put in place. In 2012 a ecological management plan was created to help assist with the management of the island. The management plan suggests Canada geese control, which damage the ground vegetation and leave the ground sparse. The management plan also aims to conserve and enhance the Aits ecology.
In 2012 the PLA spent £30,000 on protecting and restoring the Ait revetments from erosion. Tree roots had disturbed the original revetment leaving it unstable, some were removed and the revetments rebuilt. The PLA are looking to continue ecological and management improvements of the ait in the form of ongoing projects.
(Page last updated October 2015)