Like many urban waterways, Harrow’s Yeading Brook has been encased in concrete and is now not only troubled by pollution but also poses a flood risk. The brook, a headwater of the river Crane, rises near Headstone Manor, a 23-hectare historic green space and feeds the moat of the medieval manor house at its heart.
Thames21 and Harrow Council are now collaborating on an exciting Heritage lottery-funded river restoration project to restore the river and its park for both people and wildlife – while tackling some of these issues.
The restored manor house, farm buildings and moat are what remains of what was a large working farm for over 1000 years. The partially culverted Yeading brook poses a serious flood risk to the museum site, itself a Scheduled Ancient Monument. When rivers are encased in culverts (concrete channels), this makes them more prone to flash flooding, as the flood water has nowhere to go but downstream. A concrete environment also makes it very difficult for plants and wildlife to gain a foothold. Not only that, but pollution enters the brook from misconnected plumbing in the area, and road run-off from nearby roads – toxic chemicals from vehicles build up in dry weather and are then washed into rivers when it rains.
By breaking the river out of concrete, allowing it to flow more naturally and planting up the riverbank, the Yeading brook will become more resilient. A new wetland full of reedbeds will help soak up the pollution and provide spaces of refuge for wildlife during pollution incidents. The rewilded landscape will also provide an attractive nature oasis for the local urban community. Thames21 has already engaged local people and set up a Friends group by running clean-up days in the park.
The new wetland design is modelled on a river system. The water channel will include an acute meander to slow down the water so that it drops the polluted sediment before moving into the reedbed. The bacteria on the roots of the reedbeds will feed on the pollutants, and as a result pollutants will be removed from the water. Clean water will then flow into the moat and the Yeading brook from the wetland. Periodically, sediment will be removed and safely disposed of so that the river can keep flowing through the wetland.
The capital project began in summer 2019. Managed by Harrow’s infrastructure team, the new wetland will be completed by autumn 2020, and the brook is being realigned and broken out of concrete.
Vicky Duxbury is Thames21’s onsite outdoor learning officer on the project. Her role is to engage the community, enhance volunteer skills and devise a year-round activity programme. Vicky is creating a schools programme, nature walks, conservation days, wild family fun, an environmental fair, wildlife surveys and training in waterway management and monitoring.
There are many opportunities to get involved, not withstanding the restrictions posed by COVID-19. Contact Vicky via email or phone and follow the project on Twitter
Headstone Manor Park is in north-west Harrow. The park is on many public transport routes, accessible at all hours and free parking is available.
The project exists thanks to significant awards from the National Lottery Heritage Fund, the National Lottery Community Fund and the Greater London Authority’s Green Capital grant.