‘Rescue’ of fish from Brent Reservoir ahead of winter maintenance works


When: 10 am to midday, Friday 22 December 2023

Where:Brent Reservoir, Welsh Harp Sailing Club entrance, Birchen Grove, London NW9 8SA

What: What could be the Canal & River Trust’s biggest ever fish rescue has begun ahead of the full draining of Brent Reservoir (also known as the Welsh Harp) for statutory winter maintenance works. Canal & River Trust ecologists, fisheries managers and project managers will be available for interviews. The use of drone cameras is advised to get the best images.  

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Brent reservoir

National canal charity Canal & River Trust has started draining the Brent Reservoir, also known as the Welsh Harp, as part of a five-month £ 2 million programme of essential maintenance work over the winter months.

As well as being a place for sailing, watersports and walking, the reservoir is protected as a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) for the rich diversity of wildlife, including water birds and 16 protected plant species. 

The reservoir works, which players of People’s Postcode Lottery support, will include repairs to the chains and rods that operate the reservoir’s sluices and repainting the Valve House Tower from where the sluice gates that control the reservoir’s water levels are operated.

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To complete the statutory works, which are required under the Reservoir Act 1975 and were identified during an inspection, the reservoir needs to be fully drained.

Canal & River Trust National Fisheries & Angling Manager John Ellis explains: “Before the reservoir is fully drained, we’re carrying out a fish rescue, employing specialist contractors. The fish will be caught in nets and then placed in large containers of oxygenated water to recover for a few minutes before being rehomed at various locations on the Trust’s network.

“We expect to rescue thousands of fish from Brent Reservoir, including roach, perch, bream, carp and pike. When the reservoir has been re-filled with water, we plan to re-stock it with native fish species, including roach and perch, beginning in the spring and completing next autumn and winter.

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“Whilst the reservoir is drained, we will take the opportunity to carry out a series of improvements to enhance the SSSI. As well as using specialist contractors to remove rubbish, we’ll carry out vegetation management and install 14 new tern rafts to provide island habitats for common terns, one of the species of water bird that lives on the reservoir.”

Ros Daniels, the Canal & River Trust’s director for London & South East, adds: “The Welsh Harp, with Brent Reservoir at its heart, is one of London’s most significant urban wild spaces.  We’re carrying out these essential statutory repairs to the reservoir’s structures over the winter months so as not to impact nesting birds, including great crested grebes. 

“Sadly, local wildlife is fighting a constant battle against plastic pollution and fly-tipping. Over the years, our reservoir has filled with rubbish, threatening the health of water birds and all the wildlife that makes its home here.  But now we have a unique opportunity to clear up the reservoir for nature and people while the reservoir is drained for maintenance work.

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“As well as organising volunteer events with local partners to remove rubbish from the land surrounding the reservoir, we’re employing a specialist contractor to remove debris from the drained reservoir.  However, the scale of the work we hope to carry out is way more than the available funds, so we’ve launched a Crowd Funding campaign to help support it.”

The Welsh Harp, Brent Reservoir was built in 1835 to supply water to the Grand Union Canal.  Today, surrounded by buildings and fast roads, it provides valuable green open space for people and wildlife.

The reservoir will remain open to the public throughout the works, but signs warn visitors not to walk on the reservoir’s drained area and mud for their safety.

To donate to the Trust’s Welsh Harp (Brent) Reservoir clean-up crowd funding campaign, go to


To find out more about the plans for the Welsh Harp (Brent) Reservoir, go to https://canalrivertrust.org.uk/brent-reservoir-winter-maintenance call the Canal & River Trust on 03030 404040 or email [email protected].  

For more information about the People’s Postcode Lottery go to www.postcodelottery.co.uk

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