In Autumn 2019, a dedicated team of local volunteers transformed the Horton Brook in Crown Meadow, which lies in the South of the Colne Valley Regional Park.

Habitat improvements changed the brook dramatically in just 2 months. In September at the beginning of the project, the brook was over-shaded and hidden from view by trees and scrub, filled with fly-tipping and was dry for the first year on record.

Photo: What a difference - before and after the project

Volunteers began by removing the brambles, ivy and trees along the banks, exposing the brook to sunlight to encourage aquatic vegetation to grow. Woody materials were re-used to build brash berms and deflectors in the river. Pre-planted coir rolls were installed atop brushwood faggots to create new aquatic shelves. All of these structures will improve flow and provide new habitat in the riverbed for invertebrates and breeding fish.

Photo: Aquatic shelves provide habitat for fish and invertebrates

The core volunteer team were joined by local community group Goodgym Slough who proved to be super enthusiastic lumberjacks. The Eco Ambassadors from Churchmead School spent an afternoon battling the mountains of brambles that lined the riverbanks. We were also helped by volunteers from Upton Disability Care and local community group Wild About Datchet.

Stacks of fly tipping were removed from the river, including a leaking motorcycle, mattresses, sofas and doors. The previously stagnating water quickly began to flow again once the sunken mounds of waste were removed.

Photo: Goodgym Slough swap their running shoes for waders

By December, volunteers saw key freshwater species return to the brook including cased caddisflies, roach and waterfowl. Cased caddisflies are river invertebrates that are sensitive to pollution – their presence indicates good water quality. We were surprised to see them here (particularly given the amount of fuel leaking out of the motorcycle), however, their presence is certainly encouraging!

Photo: A cased caddisfly strolls along a mattress

Some passers-by reached out to the team to express their delight in the project, particularly the hard work put in by volunteers to clear vegetation along the bank. No longer blocked out by dense scrub, the Horton Brook is visible to Crown Meadow residents for the first time in many years.

Photo: Our volunteers saw the project through from start to finish

Overall, the project was a big success. Urban rivers such as the Horton Brook need a helping hand to stay in good condition as they don’t benefit from many natural processes such as grazing. However, a little help goes a long way – nature will fight back, and rivers will heal themselves when we give them a chance.

We thank our funders Grundon and the Environment Agency for their support, and Slough Borough Council, the landowner, and the Colnbrook Community Partnership for their assistance with the project.


Design by LTD Design Consultants and build by Garganey Consulting. From an original concept by the Herts and Middlesex Wildlife Trust.