Cleaning up our local streams

Alison Archer co-founded a voluntary group to help reduce pollution and improve water quality

Alison Archer pictured at Broomfield Park where she was one of the volunteers who helped create a new wetlands (credit Vinnie Lo)
Alison Archer pictured at Broomfield Park where she was one of the volunteers who helped create a new wetlands (credit Vinnie Lo)

Cleaning up a heavily polluted stream running beside a busy dual carriageway might not sound like everyone’s idea of fun, but for Alison Archer, it’s been a life-affirming experience.

Three years ago Alison, from Bowes Park, started organising a group of volunteers whose mission was to improve water quality and reduce pollution in Pymmes Brook, a tributary of the River Lea that flows east through Barnet and Enfield boroughs.

For much of its length, the stream runs along or underneath the North Circular, attracting a lot of litter. Undeterred by these challenges, Alison and the other volunteers have helped spark a big improvement in the Pymmes.

“I didn’t know the river that well but it was obvious that it wasn’t being well looked after,” she told the Dispatch. “We realised how poor the water quality was, it was one of the worst in the UK, and we decided we couldn’t keep walking past, the river needed our help!”

A water quality modelling project had originally been run by environmental charity Thames 21, but after it ended the volunteers took it upon themselves to take action. Alison had no prior knowledge of working with rivers, but said: “We are trained by Thames21 so that we’re proficient and we can go in ourselves and pull out old bikes and whatever else we find.

“We have grown amazingly well and new people are always welcome at our clean-ups. The thing about rivers is that you are learning all the time and you are all learning together.”

The group is officially called ‘Pymmes and Salmons Brookers’ because the volunteers have also carried out work along the Salmons Brook, which merges with the Pymmes in Edmonton. They also organise walking tours and sometimes get involved with the creation of wetland areas in green spaces such as Broomfield Park, helping to create new habitats for wildlife as well as cleaning streams and reducing flood risk.

“It’s impossible to describe the feeling you get after a day working in a river, and that sense of achievement,” added Alison. “It’s extraordinary.”

To get involved with Pymmes and Salmons Brookers:
[email protected]

Enfield Community Heroes

This article is the latest in our ‘Enfield Community Heroes’ series, sponsored by Edmonton Green Shopping Centre. Dispatch readers are welcome to nominate their own local hero – someone who has gone above and beyond to help support the local community. Simply email your nomination to [email protected].