26 Mile ‘Brentathon’ raises cash for the battle against pollution in the River Brent

A group of anti-pollution campaigners has walked the entire length of the River Brent to raise money for urgently needed scientific water quality testing. The 26-mile walk, dubbed ‘The Brentathon’, took the team from the river’s source in Barnet to where it joins the Thames at Brentford. 

The route took the campaigners through the woodlands, meadows and ponds of the Dollis valley, past Brent Cross shopping centre, under and over motorways and railways, to the Welsh Harp reservoir. Here they were joined by walkers who had followed the course of the Deans, Edgware and Burnt Oak brooks and then the Silk Stream. After a break at the Phoenix Canoe club the walkers continued to trace the river through parks, industrial areas and alongside dual carriageways before stopping at the world famous Ace Café. They continued through golf courses and the water meadows of the Brent River Park then past locks and weirs on the Grand Union Canal until they reached the Thames at Brentford more than 12 hours later.

The walkers at the Welsh Harp reservoir (Photo: Daniella Levine)

The walk was organised by campaign group Clean Up the River Brent (CURB) and the Brent River Park charity, working with the Dollis Brookers and Friends of the Welsh Harp. CURB has been leading the way in pollution monitoring. Its citizen scientists have developed low-cost devices for detecting pollution in the River Brent. The Brent Monitoring project was featured on the Sky News Climate Show in September 2023. This fundraising walk will enable CURB to build on this success and to continue its work with other environmental groups who share their concerns about the health of the river

The campaigners at Wembley (Photo: Charlie Henderson)

To hold the polluters to account the campaigners need hard evidence. Access to high quality, professional, laboratory testing will enable them to pinpoint the location and nature of the pollutants entering the river. These tests cost money. 

As with many of Britain’s water courses, pollution is now so serious in the Brent that it has been described as a ‘sick river’.  Road run-off, sewage overflows during heavy rain, and misconnections from homes and businesses get washed into the river’s vital ecosystem. 

Pollution outfall in Brent Lodge Park (Photo: Ben Morris)

Brent River Park trustee and CURB founder Ben Morris said:

“The Brent is beautiful but badly polluted, and we need your help to do something about it. We already have our pioneering homemade Brent Monitoring Network, providing live data on the state of the river. We already know there are several sewage outlets that dispose of waste directly into the water. But we want to know exactly what’s in the water and where it’s coming from. We are concerned that animals and humans who come into contact with the river are in danger.

“We want to break the silence around the true nature of what’s in the water, and the threat it poses to our environment. Most people would agree with the principle that the polluter should pay. The money raised from the Brentathon gives us the means to gather information and build our evidence base. We are asking people to help us stand up for this vital waterway and hold those who are damaging it to account.” 

Dianne Murphy of the Dollis Brookers added: 

“It is not acceptable to treat our waterways as part of our sewage system or as a convenient place to dispose of our waste. They are a vital backbone of the green and blue corridors that connect us all to nature. They should be valued and protected for the mental and physical health benefits they provide to people of all ages and the homes and nourishment they provide to our wildlife.”

The campaigners emphasised that, with government bodies now severely under resourced, it is increasingly left up to volunteers to monitor the state of the rivers. As Ben concluded:

“We are working together to bring the Brent back to good health. There are many challenges ahead of us, and we need and appreciate all the support we can get. Every £20 we raise helps us to help the river fight back.”  

So far, the appeal has raised over £2000. CURB is asking people to continue to donate via the JustGiving Page which remains open.  

CURB would like to thank the Ace Cafe and the Phoenix Canoe Club for their hospitality along the route and to fellow river groups for their support. We are delighted to work the Dollis Brookers, Local Action for Mutton Brook, Friends of the Silk Stream, Friends of the Welsh Harp, Friends of Wealdstone Brook, Friends of Woodcock Park and LAGER Can (Litter Action Group Ealing Residents). 

For more information on CURB, and to volunteer, visit our page on the Brent River Park website. Follow them on Twitter / X @BrentPollution, or join us on Facebook at CURB – Clean Up the River Brent. 

To become a free member of the Brent River Park charity, stay up-to-date and find out more about the Brent River Park please visit our About Page and Membership Page.