2019 River Champions

River Champions > 2019 River Champions

The success of projects aiming to improve rivers for wildlife and people is largely influenced by the involvement of volunteers. The River Restoration Centre understands the importance of this contribution and wishes to acknowledge those that may otherwise not get recognition.

‘River Champions’ seeks to recognise and celebrate the outstanding efforts of individuals contributing to improving rivers for wildlife and people outside of their day-to-day roles.

Congratulations to the 2019 'River Champions'!

View the Press Release

Below briefly details how the 2019 River Champions have contributed to river improvement in their area.  RRC will be individually featuring each River Champion on social media and in our monthly bulletin throughout the year.










Jon Bass

Jon has been volunteering with Wessex Chalk Stream and Rivers Trust as Voluntary Scientific Officer for ten years. He helps set up and manage monitoring programmes, through installing and maintaining water temperature loggers, which provide invaluable datasets for academics, NGOs and regulatory bodies. On a voluntary basis, Jon helps out at educational events, surveying and sampling, as well as data interpretation. He is also keen to help out anyone interested in rivers, including fisherman and students. Jon’s unwavering commitment to supporting the conservation of chalk streams is invaluable and has had a great impact on the rivers in Wessex.

"I was pleasantly surprised and a little shocked to hear I'd been proposed as a River Champion. Being lucky to have worked as a freshwater ecologist and now in 'retirement' I enjoy linking new initiatives with the often forgotten (but still relevant!) pre-internet information and helping highly motivated staff in my local Rivers Trust (WCSRT)."
- Jon Bass


Rachel Graham

Volunteering for the Lincolnshire Chalk Streams Project, Rachel has helped deliver a number of projects through surveying for the Riverfly Partnership initiative and helping deliver community events such as stream dipping, walks and sharing experiences. She regularly volunteers at shows around Lincolnshire to help promote the project including volunteering at the Lincolnshire County Show and Open Farm Sunday. Rachel has researched and designed an in depth photographic guide to invertebrates for a surveying project that has been piloted in Lincolnshire, and will hopefully be adopted nationally. She also collected and filmed aquatic invertebrates to create an identification resource for volunteers. Rachel is also an active leader for the local Wildlife Watch Group, involving organising stream dipping events.


Simon Mckelvey (posthumously)

Simon volunteered over 30 years to improving rivers in Scotland. Simon considered that time was always available to improve the health and wildlife of rivers - and people’s enjoyment of them. He made no distinction between work and volunteering. As well as carrying out physical work, Simon would engage, motivate and coordinate others to act to benefit rivers, as well as establishing a junior angling club.

For the last 18 years Simon chaired the Scottish Branch of the Institute of Fisheries Management encouraging training initiatives for fisheries enforcement. He also chaired the Scottish Fisheries Co-ordination Centre, and volunteered for the Dingwall Environment Group. He promoted the importance of research, sharing and contributing information. Simon was a passionate environmentalist with an infectious energy and endless enthusiasm, and will be greatly missed by all his river colleagues.

Howard Stevens

For over 30 years Howard has been volunteering to help protect and improve riparian habitats, thanks to his passion for nature and fish. As well as practical involvement, he contributes to numerous groups including the Local Fisheries Advisory Groups (LFAG). Howard also researches how to improve the river and has delivered individual projects presenting ideas and solutions for the River Alyn, North East Wales. He also helps Natural Resources Wales identify and facilitate landowner consents for habitat restoration schemes, as well as delivering fish passage solutions, tree planting projects and facilitating community involvement. Howard encourages a holistic perspective and understanding of the river, and communicates with many stakeholders to ensure widespread involvement.

Gordon Swindells

Gordon is very active in the community as Flood Warden Coordinator for Martock. He works with FWAG SW on the Hills to Levels project to help identify, promote and deliver natural flood management (NFM) and floodwater storage schemes. Gordon helps out with catchment walkovers, meets landowners and residents, and finds opportunities to address issues using NFM techniques. He has in-depth knowledge of the catchment and is eager to share this with everyone, encouraging others to be involved. He attends site visits and meets with landowners, contractors and third parties to set up schemes to help FWAG SW’s delivery, with 47 NFM structures within the Wellhams Brook catchment to date and more being installed.

"Before retiring my employment involved helping to make communities safer, something which I have carried on with the help of other community volunteers and the professionals at FWAG SW. The Award which was a pleasant surprise,  reflects all our efforts in using NFM structures to minimise the impact of flooding from the Martock catchment, downstream to the Somerset Levels."
- Gordon Swindells


Giséle Verniers

Gisele has supervised and mentored many students studying river ecology and biodiversity. She often gives lectures to students from under-developed countries on biomonitoring of rivers and hydromorphological monitoring, encouraging students to study rivers and work towards restoring them. Gisele supervised many Master’s thesis linked to riverine topics, giving the opportunity for students to go into the field and embrace freshwater science. She communicates her passion for freshwater ecosystems while teaching or supervising, and the river restoration project WALPHY would not have been the same without her. Following her retirement, she continues to help students in the field for PhD research. Gisele volunteers her time to lecture at various universities and conferences, and is knowledgeable in a range of topics including freshwater ecosystem management, bank management, and environmental politics.

Lauren Vickers

Lauren co-founded the Lincolnshire Rivers Trust (LRT) and has volunteered with the trust for 7 years. As the trust was becoming established, Lauren designed the first website, kept social media up to date, brought together project ideas and met with stakeholders. She continues to dedicate time every week to LRT, from practical work, funding applications, inspiring volunteers, organising events, line managing and supporting employees, chairing the trustees, and taking responsibility for trust operations alongside attending events and volunteer days. This has enabled LRT to be an active contributor to the health of Lincolnshire's Rivers.

"I am very grateful to be nominated as a River Champion by one of my employees. i co-founded the LRT 7 years ago and although I didn't do it for the recognition, it is very much appreciated that my hard work is being recognised.

When I worked as an Aquatic Ecologist at the EA in Lincolnshire, I attended many river restoration/fisheries events and it was apparent to me that Lincolnshire was neglected when it came to River Trust representation, this was one of my motives for starting the Trust. The main reason though, is my passion for the freshwater environment. The marine environment attracts a large audience on a global scale, yet most of us are more likely to be influenced by the freshwater environment on a day-to-day basis. Unfortunately, if you ask a child to name a fish that lived in a lake or river near you they would most likely say shark or dolphin, the humble ruffe, gudgeon and other freshwater species are largely ignored. I feel very privileged that not only can I protect the freshwater environment in my day job, but also in my spare time, protecting, enhancing and restoring freshwater habitats for people and wildlife for generations to come." 

- Lauren Vickers


Jeff Woodhouse

Responsible for starting the Thames Valley Angling Association (TVAA) more than 20 years ago, and as Secretary ever since, Jeff has been involved in many projects on the River Thames. Jeff has actively expanded the membership from 10 to 20 clubs and from a few hundred to several thousand anglers. He has also been involved in raising money, lobbying, as well as organising and implementing river habitat rehabilitation projects on various streams in the catchment. Jeff has also championed affordable angling access for all abilities on many sites on the Thames and Jubilee River. He was initially focused on opening up new angling opportunities, however through research and contacts, his passion developed into habitat improvement and increased resilience as drivers for improving the aquatic environment.

"Delighted to be nominated as a River Champion, but I would like to thank many friends without whose help and that of colleagues in the TVAA, EA and others who have kindly provided finance, all of my efforts would have come to nothing."
- Jeff Woodhouse


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