There was some good coverage of the Crane Valley Project on ITV London News recently.
I worked on the Crane Valley Project with London Wildlife Trust over the winter of 2016/17 at Hayes and Northolt, re-naturalising three different sections of the Yeading Brook, a tributary of the River Crane. At each of the sites, years of vegetation and scrub growth had almost completely screened the brook from view and thick sediment had accumulated in the base of the river channel, which flowed sluggishly after having been artifically widened (much of the River Crane, like many rivers elsewhere, has been widened and ‘canalised’ or straightened to reduce flood risk). At Brookside Open Space, the only people venturing into the thick undergrowth around the brook appeared to be drug users leaving needles, litter and excrement. There was litter everywhere, some of which had been in the river channel or around the banks for years.
London Wildlife Trust Senior Conservation Officer Tom White has been running projects to restore and re-naturalise sections of the River Crane in West London for around the past five years. I had a great winter working with Tom and some fantastic volunteers to deliver work that has had a dramatic impact on some sections of the Yeading Brook, opening up access to beautiful river bank, creating new habitat, removing litter and encouraging the growth of marginal plants and flowers.
Starting upstream at Brookside Open Space we cleared thick vegetation, trees and ivy using cut hawthorn and blackthorn to build brash berms and flow deflectors, structures built within the river channel that are designed to improve flow diversity and create additional habitat for wildlife and fish. After completing work in each area and burning huge amounts of cut material, teams scoured the river banks and channel for litter, removing tonnes of plastic, metal, car parts, bicycles, mattresses, food containers and other rubbish.
At the final site at Gutteridge I worked alongside another contractor with a chainsaw to clear a long stretch of river bank of thick blackthorn, hawthorn and ash – hard physical work, but we managed to open a section of riverbank that locals had not been able to walk along for years.