Exploring the wildlife of the Welsh Harp

Friday 2nd June 2017

Welsh Harp Brent Reservoir © Catherine CullenWelsh Harp Brent Reservoir © Catherine Cullen

Volunteers from London Wildlife Trust recently took to the water with members of Phoenix Canoe Club to explore the fabulous wildlife of the Welsh Harp (Brent) Reservoir. Using bell boats and canoes they enjoyed great views of the reservoir, while keeping a safe distance from nesting birds to avoid disturbing them.

It’s amazing to think that some of the birds that visit the reservoir have flown all the way from Africa to be here, but I guess that shows how special the Welsh Harp is!

Great crested grebe could be seen caring for their eggs, laid in nests constructed in the shallows of the reservoir. The birds perform a beautiful and elaborate courtship dance in early spring, before nest building and mating. Their eggs will hatch soon, and the young chicks will leave the nests within a few hours, hitching a lift on their parents’ backs until they’re strong enough to swim alongside them.

The group enjoyed watching common tern as they hovered gracefully over the reservoir, before plunging down to snatch small fish from the water. The birds will have flown up from Africa to spend summer at the reservoir and similar waterbodies. Although they have yet to nest at the Welsh Harp, the common tern were happily using the specially created ‘tern rafts’ that provide safe resting spots for them on the reservoir.

Cormorants were also plentiful, diving deep for fish, as were grey herons, stealthily stalking the shallows for fish, frogs, and practically anything else they can catch.

The Welsh Harp (Brent) Reservoir has been designated as a Site of Special Scientific Interest because of its wildlife value, and is one of only 37 such sites in all of Greater London.

London Wildlife Trust has been working with a dedicated team of volunteers to protect the wildlife value of the reservoir and surrounding landscape, clearing scrub from the meadows and reedbeds and collecting rubbish and litter.

Thames21, Friends of Welsh Harp and the Canal & River Trust also work with volunteers on site, and along with London Wildlife Trust provide a range of wildlife walks and wildlife themed events for people to enjoy.

Catherine Cullen, a Conservation Officer with London Wildlife Trust, said: “We’re used to seeing the wildlife from the banks of the reservoir, so it was great to get out on the water with Phoenix Canoe Club and see a different side of things. The Welsh Harp is a wonderful wildlife hotspot and it’s great that it can also offer healthy recreational opportunities, such as canoeing and sailing, which can be enjoyed by the local community.”

Phil Atkinson of Phoenix Canoe Club added: “We’re always happy to be out on the water, but this trip was made extra special by having some proper wildlife experts with us. It’s amazing to think that some of the birds that visit the reservoir have flown all the way from Africa to be here, but I guess that shows how special the Welsh Harp is!”

To learn more about volunteering opportunities at the Welsh Harp contact Catherine on ccullen@wildlondon.org.uk

Phoenix Canoe club offers lots of great ways to learn about canoeing at the Welsh Harp reservoir. To find out more see www.phoenixcanoeclub.co.uk


The Welsh Harp (Brent) Reservoir is owned and managed by the Canal & River Trust and was designated as a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) in 1950, one of the first such sites in London. The reservoir’s SSSI status is monitored by Natural England and is upheld mainly on account of the reservoir’s breeding wetland birds, particularly great crested grebe, along with the diversity of wintering waterfowl and the variety of plant species that grow along the water margin, which are of special note for London.

London Wildlife Trust’s work at the Welsh Harp (Brent) Reservoir has been funded by Section 106 funding provided through the West Hendon Regeneration Scheme, delivered by Barnet Council, Metropolitan Homes and Barratt Homes.