2022 River Champions

River Champions > 2022 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 2022 'River Champions'!

View the Press Release

Watch the recording of the Awards Dinner











Alan Winstone

Alan retired after 35 years working as a Fisheries Scientist and Environment Manager with Natural Resources Wales and its predecessor organisations. During this time he witnessed big changes in the aquatic environment many for the better, including improved river water quality and the restoration of habitats and fish passage. However many challenges remained and he used his knowledge and experience to help the Trust to work with others to continue to improve rivers and wildlife on a voluntary basis for another decade after retirement.

He is the North Wales Rivers Trust Chairman, involved from delivering projects to the strategic direction of the organisation.

There is rarely a day goes by when I do not receive at least one and usually several Trust project related e-mails from him and can only assume that he must be working at the very least many hours each day. This is a truly outstanding effort on a purely voluntary basis.

"I am very pleased, and surprised, to be given this Rivers Champion award. I have been fascinated by rivers since an early age spent fishing the rivers on the Somerset Levels and have been lucky to work on rivers as a career. I now volunteer with a fantastic Team of  Project Officers, volunteers and partners with the North Wales Rivers Trust (North Wales Rivers Trust | Creating a better environment). We have made good progress in recent years to protect and improve our rivers and the wildlife and communities they support but there are still many challenges and much more that we need to do."

Alan Winstone


Andrew Shaw


Andrew has been part of the local community-led Loweswater Care Programme, aiming to improve the water quality of Loweswater lake for over 10 years. 2021 saw his 10th anniversary of complex algal monitoring - species ID and counts - which he undertakes voluntarily on a monthly basis without fail, having learnt to do this in his retirement. This informs the water quality and recovery of the lake on a long-term basis, particularly with respect to blue-green algae (cyanobacteria). Andrew has worked with the local community to lead a number of studies and work streams to improve Loweswater’s water quality, before the joining forces with West Cumbria Rivers Trust (WCRT) in 2012-2015 to lead a Catchment Restoration Fund project and investigate the lake’s response to the large-scale improvement works since then. Andrew’s results are written into yearly reports with other data, and available to partners including WCRT, EA, FBA and CEH.

Without Andrew’s work there would have been little to no algal data for Loweswater so we wouldn’t have been able to understand the impacts of nutrients and other factors on algal numbers and species. His data gave a baseline to work towards improvements, including a trail of ultrasound techniques to control algae, and in the long-term, to monitor the lake’s response following catchment-based measures to reduce nutrient inputs.  Andrew, working alongside other members of the local community, was instrumental in securing significant funding to improve the lake in the past. 


Arved Schwendel

Arved works as a lecturer at one of the local universities in York, and in his spare time manages to attend meetings with stakeholders, project board meetings, site visits and volunteer sessions, often helping during gaps in his working day.

Arved has supported the Hull Road Park Beck Restoration project. Before his involvement, the partnership of the local council, Environment Agency and St Nicks was ready to proceed with an uninformed, high risk plan to restore the beck by creating a new beck channel without really understanding what the river wanted to do. There was pressure to deliver the restoration quickly. Arved got in touch after seeing local publicity. He now sits on the project board as a member of the local community (his garden backs on to the beck!) after being instrumental in how the project has developed. He has given up his free time to conduct River Habitat Surveys, fixed-point photography, take UAV images. Arved collected lots of data prior to initial engineering works, and continues to monitor the changes throughout the project. His continued involvement ensures the project is well planned and informed by data and modelling.

After one initial meeting with Arved it was clear that our approach to the restoration project was lacking. One project board meeting later Arved had convinced everyone that a better method for the restoration was needed. This method was to partially remove three weirs across the beck to release the river as planned, followed by a period of intensive monitoring of how the river naturally changes and restores over time to better inform the restoration options. Once this approach had been adopted the project has not looked back. Without his intervention the project could have been a failure. Brash berms and new meanders being created in the wrong place for the river and potentially washed away. This would have been a huge waste of public money, community goodwill and involvement and valuable time.

Arved has inspired St Nicks staff and volunteers, council and Environment Agency officers, and wider members of the community to think differently about river restoration. There is a much greater understanding of the need to work with rivers and not against them. The project area is classed as one of deprivation, and engaging the community in the project has been challenging at times. Arved is equally good at explaining what we are doing and why it needs to happen with Councillors as he is with users of the park and residents who live close by. He can often be found investigating the beck while out running, cycling or with his son and dog. Arved has inspired St Nicks to have a bigger and more considered impact on our local rivers. Thanks to him we have a more complete restoration plan for the wider river catchment to build towards in future years.


"The nomination as a river champion came as a very pleasant surprise to me and I am humbled by how my contribution to the Osbaldwick Beck restoration scheme is perceived. As an academic I am pleased to see how research can translate into improved practice and understanding of the functioning of rivers by stakeholders. Many thanks to all the volunteers, project partners and the dedicated team at St. Nicks Environment Centre for listening to suggestions and implementing them."

Arved Schwendel

Becky Malby

Becky set up the Ilkley Clean River Group about 3 years ago and dedicates significant amounts of her time to the cause, including engaging in meetings with the relevant authorities, and arranging community events (e.g. town hall meetings, Rights of the River reading).

Becky leads the Ilkley Clean River Group, which has successfully achieved the first river Bathing Water Designation in England. Becky's tireless efforts have raised the profile of sewage pollution in the media, and she has held the local authority, MP, water company, and the EA to their word in order to deliver the required improvements to the River Wharfe. Becky also supports numerous other groups across the UK who are working towards submitting their own Bathing Water Designation applications.

Becky is an inspiring person, who donates her spare time to improve our rivers (both locally and nationally) for both ecology and human health. She engages volunteers to get actively involved in the group, and leads strategy and decision-making to hold the relevant authorities to their word to deliver the required improvements. Becky also inspires a wider group of local people to become members of the ICRG, providing a stronger driving force behind the group.

"I was delighted to be nominated to be a River Champion because it came from local people who care about the state of pollution in our rivers. We have been campaigning for 3 years to get the water companies to stop the excessive sewage pollution in our rivers, to get the regulators to act and to secure political oversight. The regulators and government departments are stepping up at last, and the public is now much better informed. Slowly we are seeing the tide turning on the excessive abuse of our rivers".

Becky Malby


Bruce Durham

Bruce tirelessly campaigns for river improvement and flood prevention in the Harborough District including the weekends. Bruce is a Flood Warden, Tree Warden and Chair of the local Harborough Woodland Community Volunteers. He brings people together to plant trees, investigate and improve flood prevention and obtain feedback from the local community. He is a conduit between the volunteers and the bodies, groups and companies that can instigate the changes required. He works with the Welland Valley Partnership, Natural Flood Management UK and among many others.

The Harborough community is very fortunate to have Bruce. His knowledge (from his experience in his career in the water industry) and reputation help him approach potential stakeholders and land owners in order to discuss how collectively they can improve the local river environment.

He leads numerous active groups, motivates them to take action, inspires volunteers to contribute to the causes and engages with the necessary bodies to achieve results. He truly is our local rivers and environment hero.


"Thank you for this important national award. It's a privilege to work with our wonderful volunteers with river, flood and tree wardens who provide skilled capacity and who's friends build desperately needed landowner trust by planting free trees and hedges. This trust initiates opportunities for large scale natural flood management (NFM) supported by our professional specialists and now includes a Stage zero and an 18 hectare confluence opportunity with 8 other potential schemes after just two years.

The upper Welland is in a clay basin with the second lowest woodland cover in the UK and we flood. All our rivers are poor or bad status and we do not benefit from large landowners such as the National Trust or RSPB. We're determined to make our Welland a priority using experience from other community groups in the UK as water shortage will make the Welland strategically important and widespread NFM will help protect our biodiversity and communities from the 30 to 50% increase in peak flow (EA). We're empowered by our children's future and trained by our heroes such as slowtheflow.net as innovation comes from communities and business."

Harborough Woodland website

Bruce Durham

John Wollaston


John volunteers with Tyne Rivers Trust, carrying out practical conservation tasks and specialised surveys.

John has wonderful knowledge about rivers and wildlife which has been helping when planning new and more complicated practical tasks. His knowledge and willingness to learn more means we can undertake more specialised surveys and monitoring.

Johns knowledge and passion for wildlife always contributes to our practical tasks , providing further information about why we are doing the work and improving others knowledge and value for nature. John's past experiences means we can undertake more specialised surveys. He is also keen to learn more and does so well, meaning we are able to undertake more specialised surveys. John also leads practical tasks for us which has increased our delivery capacity with volunteers.


Mike Farrell

Mike goes above and beyond his day job to help restore the rivers of North and West Cumbria. He has played such an important role with local organisations and groups when delivering projects such as Ennerdale Mill Dam removal, Keekle Restoration, Cumbria River Restoration Strategy and delivering numerous projects with the Derwent Rivers Corridor Group. Mike has untaken hundreds of river restoration projects, planted tens of thousands of trees, engaged hundreds of children and families to enjoy and appreciate the environment. He really is the linchpin that drives delivery on the ground, not just for the Environment Agency but for the wider environmental community. As well as delivery, Mike is the person who can bring partners together. Many projects would not have got off the ground without Mike’s help.  He is the trusted voice for the environment and respected by many.

Mike has made hundreds of projects possible due to his knowledge, experience, hard work and ability to communicate well with others. He is such a great ambassador for the environment by being able to engage the public sector organisations with the NGO’s, angling clubs and the local community. He has worked for many years with the Derwent Rivers Corridor Group delivering great projects in the catchment to improve the river system. He has been the Environment Agency’s ‘Man on the Ground’ for over 25 years.

Mike is a very active member of the River Derwent Rivers Corridor Group which is a partnership group with members from Natural England, West Cumbria Rivers Trust, Lake District National Park Authority, Woodland Trust, Derwent Owners Association etc. The Group has been carrying out  improvement projects to improve in-river and river bank habitats for fish, insect life etc. Funding comes from a variety of Environment Agency grants (Mike has been a major champion in getting these) as well as matching funding (both in cash and in kind) from volunteer groups like the Derwent Owners' Association, riparian owners and local angling associations. Mike is very actively involved in the delivery of these improvement projects and since 2005 we have completed over 200 individual projects.

Mike's professionalism, dedication and enthusiasm has been key to the delivery of these habitat improvement projects. He has been involved from the concept stage, agreeing what could be done with landowners etc,. Then working up the detail design of the job, helping to source funding from a variety of sources and then through to the delivery of the project. Mike has played an integral part in the delivery of over 200 individual improvement projects over about a 15 year period.


Uy Hoang

Uy Hoang is an enthusiastic Google mapper! He uploads panoramas around waterways to Google in areas they don't map and he has now mapped 90% of the Thames, or around 150,000 photgraphs!

In doing so his photographs have been used by the Canal and Rivers Trust to find old assets and act as a database. He is also in talks with robotics labs in generating a 3D model of the Thames.

His mapping is not done for personal gain, he seeks to document these areas because he wants people to have information to explore rivers and canals and grow to love these spaces themselves before these areas are flooded or damaged by climate change.


"I am honoured to be nominated for this award and humbled to be named as a 2022 River Champion by the River Restoration Centre for my work documenting the rivers and waterways of the UK in 360 photographs.

I hope that my work encourages people to explore the waterways and unloved spaces, maybe first virtually and then in person. When they do, I am sure they will grow to love the waterways as much as your members and volunteers do."

Uy Hoang

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