Crane Valley Project - restoring west London's wild river

Crane Park IslandCrane Park Island

A little known valley in west London has been the focus of an exciting scheme to breathe life into a neglected river, one whose waters are rich in history and a precious home for wildlife.

The Crane Valley Project aimed to restore habitats and improve accessibility along the River Crane. This 66km Thames tributary rises in Harrow as the Yeading Brook and flows through Ealing, Hillingdon (where it becomes the Crane), Hounslow and Richmond where it flows into the Thames at Isleworth.

Mills have existed on the River Crane since at least 1066, with flour, oil and even gunpowder being milled on the river at various times. Indeed, it was known by some as the Powder Mill River.

Crane Valley Project workday

Some stretches of the River Crane and Yeading Brook are cared for and appreciated by local communities and teem with colourful dragonflies and plants - such as the vibrant purple loosestrife. But while kingfishers make the most of this rich habitat, much of the river can't be seen - let alone appreciated - by people.

London Wildlife Trust has been working on the Crane as part of the Crane Valley Partnership, which includes the five London boroughs, public, voluntary and private stakeholders. All are working towards a shared vision: a well-managed and high quality river corridor which is accessible to all, in which wildlife can thrive and local people can take pride and ownership.

The Crane Valley Project received initial funding from Heritage Lottery Fund in 2007 and was later funded by Thames Water and Heathrow Community Fund. Work completed along the river includes:

The Hounslow Crane Community Project

Volunteers in Hounslow undertook a range of maintenance activities such as invasive species removal, scrub clearance and reed bed management and also participated in large-scale river and floodplain enhancement works.

Aquatic Refuge Project, Brazil Mill Woods

The Trust produced designs for the creation of a backwater at Brazil Mill Wood. It will occupy the wet channel near the sleeper foot bridge and mill race.

Aquatic Refuge Project, Green Lane

A large area of scrub along the riverbank at Green Lane was cleared, increasing light levels and encouraging aquatic plant species to encroach from the Green Lane water meadows on to the banks of the Crane. This work also removed a physical barrier to the flood plain.

Creating a brash berm in the Yeading Brook

Aquatic Refuge Project, Causeway Road

A backwater was installed, the largest in the river catchment so far. It offers fish a place to shelter from disturbances such as pollution and provides ideal habitat for juvenile coarse fish. 

Aquatic Refuge Project, Huckerby's Meadows

Two historic meanders were brought back into the river and another backwater area was created at Huckerby's Meadows nature reserve. Three meanders were connected previously by Hounslow Council and the Environment Agency.

The Crane Channel Rehabilitation Project, Huckerby's Meadows

Volunteers installed five brash berms and two flow deflectors to improve riverflow at Huckerby's Meadows. They also undertook scrub clearance to improve light levels so aquatic plants can flourish. 

The Crane Channel Rehabilitation Project, Gutteridge Wood

Volunteers installed four brash berms and 11 flow deflectors at Gutteridge Wood nature reserve in Hillingdon, and also cleared scrub.

Crane Fish Passage Assessment

The Trust produced a report detailing all barriers to fish migration in the catchment including a full assessment of their passability for coarse fish and eels.


Video: Creating a brash berm in west London's Yeading Brook


Crane Valley Catchment Plan

In 2013 a Crane Valley Catchment Plan was produced by London Wildlife Trust for the Crane Valley Partnership, with direct funding from the Department for Environment, Food, and Rural Affairs (Defra) and through the Royal Society of Wildlife Trusts.

The seven objectives set out by the plan are to create:

  1. A river rich and diverse in habitats and native wildlife
  2. Clean clear water
  3. A natural looking and functioning river with sustainable flow
  4. Reduced risk of flooding in built-up areas
  5. Collaboration and engagement
  6. Awareness, access and appreciation
  7. A celebration of the Crane's heritage

Click here to download the Crane Valley Catchment Plan.


Visiting the Crane Valley

The Crane ValleyThe River Crane is a lowland river flowing through west London. Rising at Yeading Brook West, from nine springs in the low hills of west Harrow, it flows south before converging with its first tributary in north Hillingdon, Yeading Brook East. The river briefly enters Ealing borough before re-entering Hillingdon and, after passing Minet Country Park, becomes formally known as the River Crane.

The Crane then flows through Hounslow, where it is joined by the Duke of Northumberland's River, man-made from the River Colne. Finally, the Crane flows through the borough of Richmond-upon-Thames, where the Duke of Northumberland branches away before both arms reach their confluence with the River Thames at Isleworth.

London Wildlife Trust reserves on and by the Crane:

Other wildlife sites to visit along the river:

Walking routes:

London's Living Waterways

The Crane Valley Project is one part of a large body of London Wildlife Trust work based around London's waterways, looking at them from a joined-up (Living Landscape) perspective.