Ladywell Pool was at the centre of the last local elections and rightly so. However if all goes to plan then it seems quite right that we start thinking carefully about future plans for this site. An orchard is taking shape on Breakspears Road and others are planned, but whilst many enjoy a vegetarian diet some like fish. Only a mad person would suggest using the old pools at Ladywell as a fish farm, which is why I am suggesting a far more practical use - for crayfish. Removing the tiles and introducing reed beds would allow for a series of natural seeming pools and an innovative environment perfectly suited for the growing the cuddly crustacea. If we chose to farm the native species, the white-clawed crayfish, we could be supporting the re-establishment of this species in areas currently afflicted by the rampant expansion of the freshwater equivalent of the grey squirrel, the American crayfish introduced in the 1970s (Pacifastacus leniusculus) with disastrous results. However this would not provide much in the way of locally-produced food.
Lewisham, by virtue of being within an area with extensive populations of signal crayfish, would not require a licence to farm biggger American signal crayfish and this could provide a good source of locally produced food. The signal crayfish that can crawl overland would be in a suitably enclosed space and retaining the outdoor waterslide could provide a useful distraction for the animals combating the boredom observed in some captive animals. The flowing hard water for the farm could be provided by one of the naturally occurring springs found in the local area.
By bringing fresh crayfish back to the heart of city life and marketing them under the 'Produce of Lewisham' brand they could be used as a healthy addition to the menu in local schools - supplemented with wild rocket grown on Hilly Fields or fresh watercress from the Ravensbourne in Ladywell Fields, it would make the basis of a truly wonderful locally sourced sandwich and could be a useful weapon in combating the high levels of childhood obesity in Lewisham.
The scheme would literally put Lewisham on the map as I am sure there would be many restaurants across London willing to put the fishy delights from Ladywell on their menus emphasising the locally-sourced credentials and low-impact living.
In practical terms the Mayor could support such a venture not only by finding sources of funding or providing the land and buildings for free but also by working with our partners to introduce relevant training courses at Lewisham College and also to make proposals in the Local Development Framework that introduce a fish-farming zone in the Ladywell area thereby securing this as a food production area with the same level of protections as allottments and metropolitan open land.
By installing suitable solar panels and other low-carbon technologies I believe we could make the farm carbon-neutral too. A real first in London.