Fascinating. I'd not heard of this before. But a quick Google turns up a few other New River sightings and tells us that what you saw probably an ex-pet terrapin.
I think that this is a yellow-bellied slider (Trachemys scripta scripta), and I fear, judging by the size of him, that he may have been living here for a while. In the 1980’s, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles started a craze for pet terrapins, which many parents found themselves unable (sadly) to resist. Unfortunately, most people didn’t realise that terrapins are messy eaters, can be smelly if not cleaned out often enough and, worst of all, they have the audacity to grow bigger every year. Many of the reptiles found themselves liberated into rivers and ponds once they were no longer small and cute, and were found, in fact, to be live animals, not toys, with a propensity for grumpiness and a rather sharp bite.
You can see the terrapins basking by the lake in Finsbury park on hot days.
There are terrapins in the pond at Lordship Rec too.
There were loads of them in Clissold Park. During the spring you'd quite often see them attack and kill, (and eat) young newly hatched water birds. They're a quite voracious and vicious predator and will clear a small pond of all normal pond life inc frogs and fish. They don't use twigs for a nest. They're like turtles and tortoises, they dig a nest on land to bury their eggs in, covering it up and leaving them for nature to take it's course. I use to have a terrapin and fed it on a variety of food including on occasions a piece of fruit cake. When she grew too big for her 12 X 24ins fish tank I didn't release her into the wild, I donated her to London Zoo as by then she was big enough to fend for herself against the other large terrapins that they had there. She could still be alive now.
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