River Brent

Confluence - Mutton Brook (left) and Dollis Brook (right), forming River Brent
Confluence – Mutton Brook (left) and Dollis Brook (right), forming River Brent


The name ‘Brent’ is apparently derived from Celtic and Old English, meaning ‘sacred waters’, which is rather sad given the river running through areas of West London has long been regarded, by many, as an inconvenience and just in the way. It has been channelled around Brent Cross shopping centre, straightened and contained by the North Circular Road, built over and diverted through a tunnel near Wembley Stadium and generally used as a tip or dump for anything from cars to chemical waste. And it’s only 16 miles long.

The name reflects the Celts’ belief that all rivers (and wells) were sacred. A belief which saw them throw valued items such as swords or shields into them as tributes to spirits. This practice has long disappeared in West London, unless you venerate the humble shopping trolley.

My interest in the Brent started with urban walks along the Grand Union Canal at Brentford, which itself is now part of the river. Some stretches, like this one, are green corridors which are so important for wildlife in cities. Other parts are included in The Dollis Valley Greenwalk, from Barnet to Brent Cross and which connects with the London Loop walk. Over the years some money has been available for work on London’s waterways and much has been done by volunteers, particularly on the canal networks, but a lot more needs to be done.


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