North Marsh, Brent Reservoir (Welsh Harp), January 2021

Our Vision For Welsh Harp

A plan for the future of Brent Reservoir by local campaigners

Background

Originally built in the 1830s to provide water for London’s canals, Brent Reservoir (Welsh Harp) is 170 hectares of open water, marshes, woodland and grasslands, and a 70 year-old Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) and Local Nature Reserve in North-West London. Part bird sanctuary, part recreational space, the reservoir and shoreline is now owned by Canal and River Trust, the open areas by Barnet Council and Brent Council. The two inflowing rivers are managed by the Environment Agency, which also oversees the reservoir’s flood control function. Natural England advises on the reservoir’s environmental issues and adjudicates on the SSSI status.

Who are we?

We are the key voices behind a sustained recent campaign to highlight decades of neglect at the Welsh Harp. We formed an alliance to push for change in January 2021 when the water level of the reservoir was temporarily lowered by one metre for dam repairs — a small drop, but one which starkly revealed the extent of a deep-rooted environmental crisis both offshore and onshore.

What do we want to see?

Shoreline litter and debris, East Marsh, January 2021
East Marsh wetlands with mixed waterside flora, 1999 (Photo: © Leo Batten)
Bed of the protected East Marsh revealed, January 2021
Young swans mistaking polystyrene for food, East Marsh shoreline, 2017. (Photo: © Daniella Levene)
Tufted Duck, plastic ring around its neck. Numbers are down 70% since 1995. (Photo: © Magnus Andersson)
Only one metre below the surface. Debris and contaminated alluvium build-up on the protected East Marsh, revealed during lowering of water levels, January 2021
Trash trap, River Brent (Dollis Brook), January 2021
Woodland above the North Marsh, February 2021
Tufted duck killed by discarded fishing tackle (Photo: © Leo Batten)
Volunteers picked litter every day for two months during dam repairs, collecting over 1,000 bags of rubbish
The start of something good? East Marsh after large debris removal and return of normal water level, March 2021.

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