2020 River Champions

River Champions > 2020 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 2020 'River Champions'!

View the Press Release

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sharon Girardi

Sharon has worked tirelessly towards helping projects on the Afon Einion, as site manager for 10 years. The farmland was previously intensively farmed for sheep and the river was heavily poached. Sharon's enthusiastic, energetic, voluntary contribution has restored the entire ecosystem to a become a wetland and broadleaved habitat.This work included planting over 12,000 trees along the river, helping to restore and reshape the watercourse. Her efforts have helped restabilise groundwater resources, and develop biodiverse, productive, sustainable ecosystems.

Sharon also helps by giving tours of the Afon Einion site to visitors and local student groups, and is keen to share knowledge and inspire others. She carries out MoRPh surveys, kick sampling and river monitoring, which is vital for analysing a restoration project. With Sharon's help, beavers were reintroduced in Wales in 2011, and she still helps out by feeding beavers on the site.

 

Angela Gurnell

Now semi-retired, Angela dedicated 40+ years to her academic career, including seeking to understand and explain river processes and the interaction between flow, sediment, and plants. She has specialised in multi-disciplinary investigations to understand how we need to assess and restore rivers.

She was intrumental in the development of MoRPh survey, and still runs workshops to train surveyors and aid interpretation of survey outputs. Angela is tireless in her energy and enthusiasm to share her knowledge and experiences in the field and classroom. She is keen to expand her understanding of rivers and engage others in river monitoring and process-based restoration measures.  

Angela is former trustee of the Rivers Trust and an advisor to the Riverfly Partnership. In both roles she has promoted the need for effective assessment of rivers to identify where restoration is needed and to evaluate restoration activities, linking biological and physical considerations with social engagement and knowledge building. 

"Many, many thanks for this award, which I am both very surprised and extremely happy to receive. As an academic it is wonderful to know that I am being recognised for my contribution to the applied fields of river conservation and management, but such recognition reflects the inspiring people I have worked with. These include Judy England, Sarah Scott and Lucy Shuker from the practitioner community and also the numerous international academics who have opened my eyes to how rivers function in diverse environments, especially Walter Bertoldi, Nick Clifford, Peter Downs, Rob Francis, Bob Grabowski, Ken Gregory, Stan Gregory, Geoff Petts, Hervé Piégay, and Geraldene Wharton."

Angela Gurnell

 

Martyn Hale

Martyn is the Bristol Avon Rivers Trust's (BART) Anglers Riverfly Monitoring Initiative (ARMI) Co-ordinator. He has been volunteering with BART for 6 years, and gives his time every month for a variety of Riverfly Partnership Monitoring related work. Martyn is involved in training days, including delivering presentations, and helping with practical identification elements.

As Riverfly Co-ordinator Martyn is the link between the Environment Agency (EA) and all the BART riverfly monitors. He helps new volunteer monitors choose new sites, register these sites with the EA, and address potential issues when there has been a trigger level breach. Martyn deals with numerous riverfly related queries from both the general public, existing riverfly monitors and potential new monitors. He also coordinates all communications with the Riverfly Partnership.

BART would not have been able to undertake the amount of riverfly training that it has without Martyn's help and as a result far fewer people would be out looking after and caring for our rivers in the Bristol Avon Catchment.

Martyn's excellent presentation skills, patience with trainee monitors and enthusiasm to encourage the volunteers to get out and about in the rivers monitoring makes him a true river champion!

“As an ex Biology teacher and a lifelong angler I volunteered to help BART with it’s Riverfly training sessions simply to “give something back”. Anything we can all do for our under pressure rivers should be encouraged and BART and the Riverfly initiative they manage is such a great way of doing this and sharing the wonders of our waterways with the public. I love the enthusiasm of the volunteers who take part and the dedication of the BART team I work with – their energy makes it easy to give time and to share my experience. Long may it all continue.”

Martyn Hale

 

Michael Hughes

 

As a member of Friends of Apley Wood Group, Mike is the driving force who helped set up a second volunteer group, the Friends of Dothill Nature Reserve who hold weekly work parties to manage the reserve and enhance its watercourses and environment.

Since the inception in 2014 of the Love Your River Telford Project, a UK River Prize finalist in 2018, Mike has been a very active community member. He leads a volunteer group that regularly monitor water quality and control invasive species in the surrounding watercourses.

Mike’s energy and enthusiasm has driven forward water environment enhancement initiatives that otherwise wouldn’t have happened, such as:
  • Junior Friends of Dothill Nature Reserve, featured on BBC Countryfile
  • Environmental education programme at local primary school
  • Extra curricula group with local secondary school
  • Lead team of volunteers that monitored water quality and identified specific urban surface water drainage issues impacting a local brook. This led to the creation of a wetland habitat
  • Established community and biodiversity educational events
With the additional time allowed to him by retirement his enthusiasm, commitment and motivation to inspire the younger generation in protecting and enhancing the water environment has been inspiring.
 

"I am very honoured to receive this award for doing something I really enjoy. We the older generation and volunteers have a responsibility to pass on our knowledge and skills while involving young people.I regard this award as a recognition of the help and support by all the people I work with, local schools and other agencies, not just me."

Michael Hughes

 

Dave Jones (posthumously)

Known to some as the "Wandle Ranger", Dave was very actively involved with the South East Rivers Trust for 10 years, including attending monthly river cleanups, invasive species management, restoration works and maintenance days. He also led a team of volunteers to survey the river for invasive plants, and led monthly riverfly surveys.

As well as this, Dave helped design new monitoring equipment, followed up on pollution incidents, and raised awareness of river restoration in his local community. He inspired happiness and dedication in other volunteers through his work.

Dave led the Trust's Hit Squad, who were a team of volunteers working to tackle invasive species on the River Wandle. This involved organising volunteer attendance, working with landowners, and delivering the events. Dave continued to volunteer his time on this project even when the project funding ended. Dave's efforts helped eradicate Himayalan Balsam from the upper reaches of the river, and got floating pennywort down to a manageable level. He worked and advised partners to improve biosecurity in their INNS work and helped secure funds for the Trust to train more volunteers and run additional events.

Sadly, Dave passed away unexpectedly this January and already the volunteer team is not the same without him. He was bubbly, lovely, inspiring and will be greatly missed.

"On our late father’s behalf, we are immensely proud to accept this award. The environment and wildlife have always been something that he was very passionate about and instilled in all of us an innate respect. He lived near the Wandle all his life, boy, father and grandfather. We all had our fair share of fishing for sticklebacks and falling in it. So it was a very natural progression for him to become involved with the Wandle Trust. He then developed a deeper understanding and passion for what the river needed in order to become healthy again. He did not waste any opportunity to talk about his work like the riverfly count and the invasive species management. In fact, as non-members of the Wandle Trust, we can all spot Japanese Knotweed at 50 paces! His grandchildren refer to him as the ‘Wandle Ranger’ and loved his stories of what he found on the cleanups or while injecting the invasive species in his dingy. The Wandle Trust have enabled many great improvements to the river of which our father was an integral part. He made many friends through the Trust and we hope their great work will continue."

Dave's family

 

Angus Menzies

Angus has independently coordinated the Dorset Riverfly Monitoring Scheme, volunteering for over 10 years. He runs training days and guides over 40 monitors across 50 sites, to monitor the health of Dorset's rivers. Angus secures funds by applying for grants and approaching organisations for donations.

He organises all the training, including negotiating a venue, collecting equipment, delivering presentations, and designing a training pack including biosecurity information.

Angus has also spearheaded efforts to help native crayfish, with extensive surveying, including eDNA trials, and strongly promotes biosecurity as part of his work. He attends community events, such as part of the Gillingham Royal Forest project, to provide a taster of Riverfly monitoring and open people's eyes to "what lies beneath". He has also been instrumental in developing the new Extended Riverfly Scheme.

As well as organising training, Angus encourages people to engage with their local river. He inspires local communities like Winfrith Newburgh to monitor the health of their watercourse, resulting in riparian management sympathetic to wildlife. He has collaborated with multiple partners and landowners up the River Allen to enable a thorough survey for crayfish.

"What a complete surprise and an honour to be given this award! I am, of course, absolutely delighted, but I receive it on behalf of all the volunteer surveyors and behalf of the Dorset Wildlife Trust staff who have supported my work over the years."

Angus Menzies

Alan Mullinger

Alan volunteers his time towards working on chalk streams in Yorkshire. Along with fellow River Champion Jon Triall, Alan has been instrumental in delivering river restoration projects on the River Hull Headwaters SSSI and wider. Alan & Jon have run various events for the public including Trout in the Classroom for primary aged kids, and delivered over 50 projects and initiatives including reconnecting palaeochannels, creating weir bypass channels, monitoring water vole, and mink control.

As well as hands-on delivery, they encourage community engagement, including school children, landowners, angling clubs and statutory agencies. For over 20 years Alan and Jon have been beacons of enthusiasm, drive and advocacy for the rivers in East Yorkshire. They have both shown time and time again their strength of will to see a project delivered that some have called impossible. They have achieved this through a potent mix of inspiration, leading from the front, advocacy and their ability to show and communicate the wonder of our rivers to a wide variety of people. The respect they receive from across the community for their work is testament to this and a direct result of their proven track records.

Their understanding and love of the chalk streams and other rivers in East Yorkshire and further afield have made them vital champions of river restoration through practical work and wider engagement.

East Yorkshire Rivers Trust

Hull Headwaters SSSI
 

"Over the past 40 or so years I have had the pleasure of working with many learned river based experts.  Ian Cowx, Nigel Holmes and Vaughan Lewis among others. It has always been interesting in benefitting from a wider perspective on river management. I have enjoyed much of my time, both within my employment and subsequent retirement ‘mucking about mending rivers’ and would like to thank those who I have had the pleasure of sharing my experiences with. This nomination has certainly come as a surprise for which I am extremely greatful to the RRC and to those who have supported me."

Alan Mullinger

 

Tom Rawson

The Great Borders River Clean involves 30 towns, 453 volunteers and over 2000kgs of litter which has been collected, preventing it from entering the marine environment. Tom help set up this intiative, involving towns and villages on rivers and streams across the Scottish Borders. The aim is to engage riverside communities across the entire Tweed catchment in a synchronised river clean to highlight the issue of plastic pollution on our rivers and waterways.

Tom also set up a school conservation club, and is a Scout leader, helping scouts achieve their outdoor badges. Tom's primary school was the first in Scotland to successfully eliminate single-use plastics and the town is also making progress to becoming one of country’s first towns to be accredited as a 'Plastic Free Community' by the marine conservation charity Surfers Against Sewage.

Tom is constantly thinking of ways to involve communities and schools in environmental projects. He set up a tree nursery with the school children who plant thousands of native trees annually. Tom is truly passionate about the cause and hopes that it will inspire the younger generation to become more environmentally conscious.

“I am delighted to be nominated as a River Champion by Tweed Forum; an excellent charity that I have worked alongside since moving to the Scottish Borders in 2016. As a full-time primary school teacher at St. Mary’s School, Melrose, I have been able to marry my own conservation efforts to those of a small independent school at the centre of the large and vibrant Borders community. The two have worked together as hand-in-glove. I would not have been able to develop large-scale and successful projects such as the Great Borders River Clean and the Borders Primary Schools Birdbox Projects without the continued support of my employer. I am excited by the opportunities that the next year will bring to expand these (and other projects) across Scotland and look forward to updating you all with my progress.”

Tom Rawson

 

Jason Rennie

With his specialist trucking services, Jason is out and about in rivers multiple times a week. He volunteers the rest of his time to education or river monitoring/improvement tasks.

Jason gives his time to education projects (such as fish in the classroom) as well as physical works in the river such as helping to build a set of baffles. He's a keen angler and has helped out with projects on the ground such as river clean ups, community engagement and monitoring fish populations with electro-fishing surveys.

He's always keen to be engaged and help out, often bringing his own equipment and tools to help get the job done. His friendly and talkative persona engages people with the Forth Rivers Trust aims and objectives, without which they would struggle to have such a good reach into the communities that they work with. Jason's passion for freshwater ecology and fish is infectious and he actively encourages people in his local community of West Lothian, to get involved in the river environment.

 

 

Olly Southgate

Olly has been involved in a number of projects including:

  • River Irwell, Manchester
  • Swindale Beck remeandering, Haweswater
  • Ennerdale Mill Weir removal, Egremont
  • River Keekle, West Cumbria

Olly established and runs the Cumbria River Restoration Programme, one of the biggest portfolios of river restoration projects in the UK, working closely with 3 Rivers Trusts, the National Trust and the RSPB amongst other stakeholders. He secures funds for delivery; ensures processes are followed; coordinates information sharing through multiple networks; publicises and promotes; motivates and inspires. He also seeks input from groups like Dam Removal Europe and other relevant associations to further the cause of improving Britain’s rivers and habitats, encouraging everyone to work together and share ideas and best practice.

In addition to his professional role, he continually pushes for new projects and new initiatives to be started, encourages others to get involved, and looks for solutions to overcome barrriers. Olly is a ball of energy who goes above and beyond to improve the condition of our rivers.

 

Jonah Tosney

Jonah has been involved in several important conservation projects, including beaver and burbot release and the roll out of wetlands to clean sewage, and has tirelessly worked to communicate these with the general public.

Jonah has an ability to communicate with a wide range of people to inspire them to become involved in conservation projects. He consistently takes on evening talks to the general public and weekend guided walks to help spread awareness about the issues rivers are facing and what we can do about it. 

 

 

Jon Traill

As the Living Landscape Manager for YWT, Jon also volunteers his own time whenever he can. Along with fellow River Champion Alan Mullinger, Jon has been instrumental in delivering river restoration projects on the River Hull Headwaters SSSI and wider. Alan & Jon have run various events for the public including Trout in the Classroom for primary aged kids.

They work to encourage local community involvement, including communicating with schools, landowners, government agencies, and fishing clubs. For over 20 years Alan and Jon have been beacons of enthusiasm, drive and advocacy for the rivers in East Yorkshire. They have both shown time and time again their strength of will to see a project delivered that some have called impossible. They have achieved this through a potent mix of inspiration, leading from the front, advocacy and their ability to show and communicate the wonder of our rivers to a wide variety of people. The respect they receive from across the community for their work is testament to this and a direct result of their proven track records.

Their understanding and love of the chalk streams and other rivers in East Yorkshire and further afield have made them vital champions of river restoration through practical work and wider engagement.

East Yorkshire Rivers Trust

Hull Headwaters SSSI

"I was pleasantly surprised to be nominated and [possibly for the first time] slightly lost for words. The time we spend restoring and enhancing sections of watercourse, working with many partners, volunteers and landowners is very rewarding and seeing the improvements with wildlife re-colonising or thriving is what makes it all worthwhile. Massive thanks to the many people who I have met and worked with over the years and a special thanks to Chris for nominating me."

Jon Traill

 

 
Previous winners:
2019
 
2018
 
2017