Caught by the River

My Local River

Paul Scraton | 14th February 2012

Dear Jeff, Andrew and Robin,

I saw your post yesterday about local rivers, and although mine is in Germany I thought you might still be interested in it, especially as the way the local organisation made up entirely of volunteers has turned this waterway and its banks into a really positive “space” for the community who live alongside of it, some of whom live in the poorest and most deprived corners of the city.

As rivers go, the Panke is both short and not overly impressive. It rises in the town of Bernau, just north of Berlin, and runs through the north of the city to the point where it meets the canal network around the River Spree at the heart of the metropolis, not far from the main train station. For most of its length it is both narrow and shallow, including where it passes by my apartment building in the beat-up neighbourhood of Wedding.

Much of the length of the river, which once passed beneath the Berlin Wall, now features a walking/cycling route, which is sometimes paved for accessibility, and the Friends of the Panke organisation maintains a website that is packed with information, including history, photo galleries, wildlife, activities around the river, and much more (unfortunately only in German). They have also been involved in helping develop the river as a place for the community, including volunteer clean-up events, the maintenance of gardens and playgrounds along the length, and lobbying the city government for more substantial improvements to the river.

The Panke river may be short, narrow and shallow, but for those of us who live close to its banks it is a wonderful place to have on our doorsteps, part of what makes living in the middle of Germany’s largest city bearable, and a great place for morning runs, evening strolls, or to sit on a bench away from the hustle and bustle of the streets and just slow down a little from the pace of city life.

Best wishes from Berlin,

Paul Scraton