Caught on the Map

By chance I came across this recent and detailed map of the River Brent on the brentcatchmentrivers website and, for the first time, felt more able to visualise the river in all its sinuous complexity.

The narrative potential is huge. Looking at the tributaries and reading their names made me determined to pack a bag with maps and camera and notebook, and get out there.

I’ve a feeling there are a load of stories to be uncovered along the backwaters of this half-hidden and oft-neglected river.


Dollis-Mutton-Stamp no border

Harp Island – a photo story

More about this series of posts on the River Brent, London can be read HERE.

Hot on the heels of succeeding/failing to find the ghost hole… I felt another quest was in order. This time for something that self evidently was still there. In fact the very existence of the reservoir, quite literally, depended upon it.

It seemed a simple goal after the hole, to find the dam wall.

Continue reading “Harp Island – a photo story”


More about this series of posts on the River Brent, London HERE.



“It comes to this: the use of a man, by himself and thus by others, lies in how he conceives his relation to nature, that force to which he owes his somewhat small existence. If he sprawl, he shall find little to sing but himself, and shall sing, nature has such paradoxical ways, by way of artificial forms outside himself. But if he stays inside himself, if he is contained within his nature as he is participant in the larger force, he will be able to listen, and his hearing through himself will give him secrets [that] objects share.”

From the essay Projective Verse by Charles Olson


The Harp is a slippery place of shifting signifiers. Not even it’s name is stable. The Kingbury, the Brent or the Welsh Harp? It attracts birders to the migrating birds, dog walkers to the open spaces and lone drifters to heaven-knows-what nirvana. It’s a green&blue pleasant land. An open space. A lighter, brighter, breathing space, an antidote to urban sprawl. Or seemingly so.

It has a darker side, and in the quieter sections, away from well-trod, dog-shitty paths, the unheimlich Harp surfaces.

A submerged underside of tension, ambiguity, even threat.

I went looking for the undersong of The Harp.

Continue reading “Undersong”

The 1930 Sun-bathing Riot

Details of LSC
The London Sunbathing Club, 1920

Campaigns for a return-to-nature, for health & fitness and for social nudity or naturism arose in Northern Europe in the later part of the 19thC and were gradually adopted by other European countries after the First World War.

Semi-clad in Croydon…

The Hyde Park Lido built in 1930 was a concrete expression of the outcome of the movements. It gave people somewhere to sunbathe legally, as it was illegal to strip to sunbathe unless on specially designated beaches.

In North London, from 1921, people gathered at the Welsh Harp to bathe and expose their bodies to the sun.

Continue reading “The 1930 Sun-bathing Riot”

About The Harp


The Dollis-Mutton-Brent story is turning to one of it’s historically richest points.

This imperfect ‘telegraphese’ is About The Harp.

Britannica_Harp_Welsh_Triple_HarpThe Roman Watling Street now Edgware Road, a road crossing a shallow valley. Isolated farmland. A treacherous journey to London. From 1751 a coaching inn a welcome sight. The Harp & Horn standing at the Brent river crossing.

The thirsty Camden level of the Regents Canal seeking a water source from Silk Stream and dammed Brent. 3 million baths full. 6,700 lb of roach. Fishing prohibited. Dam, dam, dam. A contractor called Hoof creating a reservoir named, but rarely called Kingsbury or later Brent  between Old Kingsbury Church and Edgware Road for a little under £3000,00.

It was always the Welsh Harp.

(The likeness of the outline of the reservoir to an actual Welsh Harp being purely coincidental.)

Continue reading “About The Harp”