Guest blogger Catherine Duigan shares her thoughts on judging this year's UK River Prize
Martin and I met on the platform in Crewe, we were heading north to Penrith to meet up with the other members of the prize judging panel. Working directly on river restoration projects throughout the UK means that Martin tends to orientate himself on the basis of the location of the nearest restoration project. He did not disappoint because he drew my attention to a restored Cumbrian river from the train!
Pam was our host in the Penrith Environment Agency Office, and Roger and Chris had already arrived; Kathy joined us by phone. We had our notes on the fabulous portfolio of river restoration projects we had been asked to assess. However, our meeting began with a reflection on the spirit of the prize; no doubt influenced by the copies of "Rivers" by Nigel Holmes and Paul Raven which sat on the table.
We were looking for projects which aimed " to restore the natural state and functioning of rivers and catchments providing environmental, societal and economic benefits." We tried to make our judgments as Pam said "with Nigel Holmes looking over our shoulders."
We wanted projects truly focused on the putting back the riverine hydromorphological processes, which allow the ecology to follow and function, while at the same time cultivating the special relationship between people and their local river. Applications needed to be more than fishery developments, flood alleviation schemes or water quality solutions.
I read the last chapter of Holmes & Raven on the train home. It is full of hope. The authors tell us that rivers "are naturally resilient, but also incredibly vulnerable; eye-catchingly beautiful, but easily disfigured; teeming with life, but quickly poisoned. Yet history proves they can and are being brought back to life."
The applications for the UK Rivers Prize and Nigel Holmes Trophy confirms there is a highly skilled community in the UK bringing rivers back to life. And people who love their rivers.
We are confident that Nigel would have supported our selection of the best.