Volunteers boost efforts to restore the Silk Stream and Brent Reservoir in North London by ramping up clean-up activities

Action for Silk Stream

Volunteers in North London have been tackling litter from the Silk Stream to prevent these materials from entering the Brent Reservoir and to help restore the river.

The volunteers have been working in conjunction with the Action for Silk Stream project, which is a six-year project that works with nature to reduce the risk of flooding in the Silk Stream catchment and wider River Brent. It is led by Barnet Council and Harrow Council, with involvement from environmental charity Thames21. The project is funded by Defra and managed by the Environment Agency.

Since its launch in 2021, more than 2,816 people have engaged in the project and volunteers have contributed 1,761.50 hours to the initiative. They have also removed a variety of litter items from the Silk Stream, including e-bikes, carpet rugs, and a litany of plastic waste. For example, in the last, six months, they have removed 99 bags of litter.

The Silk Stream is a major tributary of the River Brent, rising on the Harrow Weald and Barnet Plateau and joining the Brent at the Brent Reservoir, also known as the Welsh Harp Reservoir.

The Silk Stream has recently been dubbed the ‘secret river’ by the press, following the recent news that the charity Canal and River Trust (CRT) had unveiled the downstream parts of it after draining the Brent Reservoir and removing rubbish from it. The CRT is doing this as part of a project to complete urgent repair works on the Reservoir.

Separately, Action for Silk Stream volunteers have helped to tackle tonnes of litter from the upstream part of the Silk Stream, which prevents it from moving downstream before entering the Brent Reservoir and helps the CRT’s clean-up efforts.

Sam Bentley-Toon, Thames21’s Engagement Manager, said: “The Silk Stream is a beautiful waterway and is an important resource for wildlife. However, like many London tributaries, it suffers from a variety of different pollutants, including litter. Not only are we working with our volunteers and our partners to blitz this litter via the project, but we are also aiming to tackle the effects of climate change by making space for water, reducing flooding, and improving water quality in the Silk Stream catchment for the benefit of communities and the environment.”

The Silk Stream connects to other waterways including Burnt Oak Brook and Edgware Brook and the Action for Silk Stream project aims to improve these rivers in the coming months.

The Edgware Brook, which currently runs along the edge of Chandos Park behind a fence, will be re-aligned, bringing it further into the park. Meanders (bends) will also be added to the Edgware Brook in order to boost the ecological value of the river and allow it to become a more integral part of the park.

The project also aims to add similar meanders to Burnt Oak Brook, which runs through Watling Park, and build a flood storage basin at the northern end of this park. Wetlands will also be created in the central area of the park. These wetlands will intercept a surface water drain, improving water quality and providing additional flood storage.

Cllr Anjana Patel, Cabinet Member for Highways, Infrastructure and Community safety said: “Our waterways are important for both wildlife and to help prevent flooding. Harrow’s waterways have not always had the care they deserve with it often being polluted with litter and hidden underground – and emerging above ground here and there. Thanks to funding and the dedication of volunteers, partners and our officers, this project has encouraged more collaborative work to help tackle littering in our rivers and improve water quality and biodiversity, which all supports our key aim of restoring pride in our borough.”

Ruchi Sayal, Project Lead and Senior Flood Risk Manager at Barnet Council, said: “The project has formed great partnerships with local friend groups and volunteers. We have undertaken extensive engagement to increase awareness of the flood risk and pollution of the watercourses in the Silk Stream catchment and are working collaboratively on it.”

About Thames21

Thames21 connects people with rivers by putting healthy rivers back at the heart of everyday life. We improve and restore rivers, educate and empower the community and campaign for positive change for the good of people and the environment. 

www.thames21.org.uk | Registered Charity No. 1103997

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Liz Gyekye

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