By hook or by brook

Volunteers retrieving litter and other pollution from the Dagenham Brook
Volunteers have been retrieving litter and other pollution from the Dagenham Brook in Walthamstow and Leyton

Ben Martin is part of a group of residents committed to cleaning up their local stream

A group of neighbours from Lea Bridge have come together to start cleaning up the polluted Dagenham Brook.

The brook, which runs from Walthamstow Wetlands through Leyton Jubilee Park and down to Hackney Marshes, is a designated site of local conservation importance, and in recent years kingfishers have been seen on its banks.

Unfortunately the waterway, which has long been nicknamed ‘the ditch’, has also attracted its share of litter, fly-tipping and pollution. During the pandemic lockdown, we residents decided we wanted to help turn the tide and restore the brook to life.

So far, our group has organised four community clean-up days, where volunteers can put on their waders and rubber gloves and get clearing – fishing out rubbish, cutting back invasive plants, clearing blockages, and having a good time too!

We’ve also been gathering water samples from the brook as part of ‘WaterBlitz’, a crowd-sourced citizen science initiative, to measure levels of water pollution and chemical waste. Alice Harrison, one of the co-founders of our group, says: “Coming together to help clear up the brook has really helped us to get through lockdown.

“Lots of people have found themselves with a bit of extra time on their hands, unfortunately, but doing stuff with the community like this has been great. We can meet new people, feel part of a team and hopefully help transform the brook into an asset for our community, where nature can thrive.”

With more than 40 local residents involved so far, and more clean-up days scheduled for the autumn, the group is currently putting together a funding proposal to help support their clean-up efforts and expand their impact.

The next Dagenham Brook clear-up day is scheduled for Saturday 21st November, meeting in Leyton Jubilee Park. If you’re interested in coming along or finding out more, email dagenhambrook@gmail.com for more details.