Brent River Park charity marks 50 years and vows to continue Luke FitzHerbert’s Regional Park vision

Kay FitzHerbert cuts the 50-year commemorative cake, assisted by BRCS President, Nic Ferriday and Laura Bacon, wildlife photographer and BRCS member [Photo: Richard Carter]

The Brent River & Canal Society (BRCS), which successfully campaigned for the creation of the Brent River Park in the 1970s, marked its 50th anniversary this week. Its AGM was held at Open Ealing, exactly 50 years after the adoption of its constitution in 1973.

The society was founded by two Hanwell residents, husband and wife, Luke and Kay FitzHerbert, with the objective of creating a linear park to follow the course of the River Brent. As press cuttings from the time show, in 1973, much of the parkland we now take for granted was fenced off, strewn with rubbish and inaccessible to the community. Luke had the vision and courage to change all of that. An ongoing BRCS campaign led to the inauguration of the Brent River Park by Ealing Council in 1975. Other green spaces were gradually added until it reached its current extent in 1985. On 13th September 2023 Ealing Council announced its intention to extend the Brent River Park as part of its Regional Park initiative, which has been welcomed by the BRCS but also left them somewhat baffled, as the park was already recognised as a Regional Park by Ealing Council in 2009. 

Sadly, Luke FitzHerbert was killed in a traffic accident in 2007, leaving behind an impressive legacy including his Brent River Park vision, with current trustees vowing to continue Luke’s work for the benefit of wildlife and community access and the enjoyment of Ealing’s regional park. Kay FitzHerbert, travelled from her home in Devon to attend the 50th anniversary AGM. 

Nic Ferriday, the BRCS Chair for the last 25 years, stood down and was elected as President. Phil Belman was elected as the new Chair. Kay FitzHerbert, and former Trustees Mary Hall and Jenny Valance were all recognised for their significant contributions and support for the BRCS over the years and were duly honoured by being elected as Vice Presidents. Ellie Lock, a teacher at Kew Royal Botanic Gardens, was elected as a new Trustee, and Wildlife Writer and Conservationist Kabir Kaul, was co-opted as Special Adviser to the charity.

BRCS President Nic Ferriday and BRCS Secretary, Katie Boyles [Photo: Richard Carter]

New BRCS Special Adviser, Kabir Kaul, and BRCS Trustee and organiser of Clean Up the River Brent (CURB), Ben Morris [Photo: Richard Carter]

The meeting reviewed its current campaigns, the three most prominent being the Warren Farm Nature Reserve campaign, Save Gurnell and Clean Up the River Brent (CURB). Thanks to the interest in these campaigns and to a rising public concern about environmental issues since the Covid pandemic, the BRCS has seen its membership almost double over the past year. As new President Nic Ferriday noted, “The society is on the up!” 

After the meeting, Kay FitzHerbert cut a commemorative cake, made in the triangular shape of the Brent River Park logo, created by local Ealing cake-maker, Pippa Martinson.

Phil Belman pledged to continue the campaign started by Luke FitzHerbert and to push for the expansion of the Brent River Park. 

“The BRCS has achieved much over the past 50 years. You only have to walk along the River Brent to see that. But there is still much more to do. We will continue to campaign against the scandalous pollution of the river and for the protection of the green spaces alongside it. The pandemic and the climate and ecological emergency have renewed people’s interest in the Brent River Park and our membership has increased as a result. I am looking forward to building on Nic’s work and continuing the momentum of our campaigns.” 

New BRCS Chair Phil Belman [Photo: Katie Boyles]

The BRCS plans a series of events leading up to the 50th anniversary of the Brent River Park’s inauguration, on 29 June 1975. There is a new website with free membership to join and find out more.