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Local Waterloo resident and community activist John Hearn MBE (known as Ernie) has a stretch of the river foreshore named after him this week in recognition of his work gaining appreciation of the Thames as an asset and amenity for London.
From his daily walks with his dog along the foreshore in the 1960s and 70s, Ernie became an expert in the archaeology and history of the river. He also became a tireless campaigner against the “reclamation” of the foreshore as property developments replaced former dock activity.
“I was born in Wapping Hospital in 1931, yards from the river, to the sounds of the tide, barges clinking and the smell of the spices” says Ernie. Ernie and his brother spent time on the foreshore as kids and remember swimming in the river by Tower Bridge. “I moved from the east end to Waterloo and was looking for somewhere to walk my dog. There were no parks but there was access to the foreshore. Slowly more of the foreshore was being reclaimed by developers and public access removed. People had turned their backs on the river.”
In the late 1970s as a Waterloo resident, Ernie joined the Coin Street Action Group campaigning for affordable housing, open space and leisure uses for this part of London’s South Bank. He was also involved in the public inquiry for Hay’s Wharf by London Bridge. “I told the inquiry the river should for leisure and pleasure.”
Thanks to Ernie Coin Street Action Group campaigned to save the existing river wall and beach and persuaded the Greater London Council to drop its requirement to build out to ‘the Port of London Authority line’. This has resulted in the sandy ‘bay’ that can be seen today and has now been named Ernie’s Beach.
“Not many people can truly say ‘I changed the course of events’ but this beach is a living testament to Ernie’s efforts over many years” says George Nicholson, Treasurer, Coin Street Community Builders and Chair, London Rivers Association 1987-2007.
Ernie’s Beach is surrounded by a hub of shops, cafes and restaurants perfect for a fun family day out. Visit the nearby Gabriel’s Wharf and get to know your river by taking part in events and activities as part of Totally Thames.