A team of volunteers have pulled nearly 100 bags of litter from a North London river as part of a project to reduce the risk of flooding in the area. Done to stop the waste from entering the reservoir, the team has so far pulled out an assortment of discarded items including e-bikes, carpets, and plastic waste.
The Silk Stream is a four-kilometre-long brook in the London borough of Barnet, which flows into the River Brent at Brent Reservoir. Action For Silk Stream, a six-year project led by Barnet and Harrow Council and alongside environmental charity Thames21, aims to work with nature to reduce flood risk.
Funded by the Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) and managed by the environment agency, nearly 3,000 volunteers have gotten involved in the scheme since it launched in 2021 – collectively putting in more than 1,700 hours to the project.
A variety of litter items have already been removed from the Silk Stream, including e-bikes, carpet rugs, and a litany of plastic waste, to help restore the river. In the last six months alone, the team has removed 99 bags of rubbish.
Thames21’s Engagement Manager, Sam Bentley-Toon, called the Silk Stream a ‘beautiful waterway’ and an important resource for local wildlife. However, he stressed that it ‘suffers from a variety of different pollutants’, including litter.
Mr Bentley-Toon said: “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 downstream parts of the Silk Stream were recently revealed after Brent Reservoir – often referred to as Welsh Harp – was drained as part of a project by the Canal and River Trust (CRT) to complete urgent repair work and remove litter. Action for Silk Stream’s volunteers have tackled tonnes of litter from the upstream part of the waterway, preventing it from moving downstream before entering the reservoir.
The Silk Stream connects to other waterways including Burnt Oak Brook and Edgware Brook, the project aims to improve these rivers in the coming months. The Edgware Brook, which currently runs along the edge of Chandos Park, will be realigned, bringing it further into the park. Curves 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. Harrow Council claims the wetlands will ‘intercept a surface water drain, improving water quality and providing additional flood storage’.
Cabinet Member for Highways, Infrastructure and Community Safety, Cllr Anjana Patel, 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.”
She added: “[…] 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.”