2024 River Champions

River Champions > 2024 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 2024 'River Champions'!

View the Press Release








Derrick Guy

Derrick is a full time, passionate River Champion and makes a difference to the River Rib chalk stream every day. Derrick coordinates a River Watch Group of 50+ local people now involved in 'love your chalk stream' activities. He leads monthly monitoring activities, including 6 Riverfly sites, 6 water quality testing sites and regular litter picking.

Derrick also established a research project investigating how effective citizen science kits are at water quality testing, benchmarked against lab analysis. He leads on eradicating INNS from the catchment. Through this he has developed relationships with 5 landowners, generated £7,000 of funding, and delivered three annual "bashing" days for corporate and community volunteers.

He supported delivery of 500m chalk stream restoration, including establishing a community plant growing nursery. Derrick also delivers regular "River School" sessions to primary pupils, and led on a "River Info Hub" at the Town Arts Festival (2022), engaging local people with their river through the restoration project

The Rib had little community activity until Derrick got involved in 2019. His genuine interest in his local environment and quietly engaging leadership style has solidified a partnership involving the Town Council, major landowners, local residents, water companies and the EA to deliver catchment objectives - INNS, river restoration, water quality monitoring, public and schools engagement, to name a few.

Derrick's patch is not a usual chalk stream. The Rib flows through a town in a concrete open culver, but despite these environmental challenges, he has garnered genuine interest and buy-in from a group of 50+ (and growing) River Watch champions, involved in all sorts from growing plants in a community river-nursery, to planting riparian trees and creating a social media storm around "Bernard the Bizarre Blonde Mallard".

Without Derrick's tireless, systematic approach genuinely involving cautious landowners and volunteers over 3 years, INNS would still plague the top of this catchment!

James Pugh

James has volunteered as a Welsh Dee Trust citizen scientist sampling for phosphate pollution across the Dee catchment for nearly two years. In that time, he has conducted 270 pollution monitoring surveys (nearly a quarter of all surveys taken by over 40 citizen scientists) on five tributaries of the Dee including the Alyn, the Clywedog and the Gwenfro.

James also leads Wrexham litter pickers group on a voluntary basis. Their Facebook group has over 2200 members and have collected thousands bags of litter since beginning in 2020 in the Wrexham area, including regular river cleans of the river Gwenfro and Clywedog in Wrexham.

James’s monitoring has provided new and valuable water quality data for tributaries of the Dee. He has identified and reported a number of sources of water pollution to regulators, some of which have been fixed and others are under ongoing investigation. He has proactively written to decision makers to lobby for action and better protection of the river Gwenfro from chronic pollution. Welsh Dee Trust are also working proactively around fixing water quality issues in areas he has identified through his monitoring.  

His role leading Wrexham Litter Pickers has made a huge difference to the health of the river Gwenfro and Clywedog. The Gwenfro particularly is an urban river that massively suffers from fly tipping and pollution, and without Wrexham litter pickers the river would be in a much worse state than it was previously.


James Robinson

James is a well known farmer, conservationist and all round great guy, and is also the chairman of Nature Friendly farming UK who has recently even presented to parliament. Not only is James a trusted well known successful farmer within the vast UK farming networks, but also a massive conservationist and proves farming and conservation can actually work together, without either negatively impacting on the other.

James is an excellent example of how we can farm with nature and has multiple improvements on his farm that he openly demonstrates to other farmers. He farms organically, lays the entire hedgerow network rotationally to improve improve biodiversity and maintain their health, has created large wetland and ponded areas, created riparian strips to remove livestock from the watercourse and tried to improve all river habitat on the farm through restoration work, even creating very rare wet woodland habitat.

Having James promoting river restoration and conservation work helps public organisations such as the Environment Agency and Natural England considerably to reach out to farmers and associated groups that historically would be difficult to engage with. The ability to mediate between farmers and government organisations is a vital skill that needs to be celebrated, as without that trusted figure we are unlikely to be able to deliver on the targets around biodiversity decline and and natural flood management that we need to reach. When we learn to work with and access farms for river restoration work, then we unlock vast tracts of land that may have previously been un accessible. James is an awesome ambassador for exactly this.

Without James invaluable advice and work, there are literally hundreds of other farms, and farmers, who would not be aware that it is possible to incorporate this kind of conservation work into farming.


John (Philip) Lord

Philip has been instrumental in the development and success of Ribble Rivers Trust (RRT) since it was established in 1998. As a founding Trustee and Chairman, Philip set the Trust’s key priorities for: a healthier river environment, people having a better understanding and appreciation of rivers, and all of our work underpinned by science. Three aims which remain to this day.

Philip's extensive business and people management skills have guided the growth of RRT and helped build relationships with other organisations such as the Environment Agency and the Ribble Fisheries Consultative Association (an active group of angling clubs and riparian owners). In 2010 the Trust’s Fisheries Scientist became the first Chief Executive, and with Philip's training, mentoring and support, the Trust has grown to an organisation which employ 26 skilled professionals and has a turnover of £2million, but which is still focused on the environment, people and science.

Philip was a key to the formation of the Ribble Life Catchment Partnership in 2011, one of the pilot CaBA partnerships, and a founder member and Trustee of The Rivers Trust, where he was active for 10 years and retired as Vice-Chair. Philip has overseen hundreds of hectares of peat restoration, the planting of over 200,000 trees with volunteers, and thousands of young people through our education programme. He was essential to the development of the 2022 UK River Prize winning Ribble Life Together programme, helping to secure significant financial support from the Environment Agency which enabled the successful National Lottery Heritage Fund bid. His dedication has aided countless projects, but can be summed up through the completion of Primrose Nature Reserve in Clitheroe, where a neglected, polluted and overgrown site has been transformed by the Trust into a place for local people to enjoy, and learn about rivers.


Russ Hatchett

Russ has been closely involved with projects for the Swallowfield Fishing Club (SFC), that have promoted habitat development and the study of fish populations in the club waters. He has run the websites both for the SFC and the Loddon Fisheries and Conservation Consultative (LFCC), and has recently taken a close interest and actively encouraged the establishment of the Angling Trust Water Quality Monitoring within the Loddon catchment. He is a crucial member of the LFCC team, planning and participating practically in projects around the catchment including habitat restorations, fish surveys, invasive species control and public engagement events. He has provided valuable support to the Loddon Catchment Partnership and the Loddon Observatory project run by the University of Reading. Some of this work has also assisted the development of NFM initiatives in the catchment. He consistently brings a resourceful and enthusiastic contribution to any event, often utilizing his engineering background.

It is highly unlikely that the creation of two backwaters on the River Loddon and a gravel riffle on the lower River Blackwater would have occurred without Russ's drive and vision. In addition the development of a project to monitor the barbel population in SFC fisheries has been fully co-ordinated by Russ and has developed into a wider effort to assess the success of barbel stocked into the Loddon catchment from the EAs Calverton fish farm. He has also been instrumental in designing and running both the LFCC and SFC websites. His valuable input and support has been vital in continuing the work of the LFCC, and maintains the motivation of many others to continue caring for the nature based management of local rivers.


Shane Thomas

Shane is constantly striving for best practice in river restoration, especially in addressing in-stream barriers in his voluntary role with Carmarthenshire Fisheries Federation (CFF) which he held for a number of years. In this role, Shane has helped CFF to identify and deliver many environmental improvements, particularly weir removal and fish passage schemes to address declining salmonid populations in West Wales. Since taking on paid employment as an Environment Officer with NRW, Shane's enthusiasm has not waned and he still spends much of his free time identifying fish passage improvement opportunities as a volunteer for West Wales Rivers Trust.

Shane has pushed for multiple schemes to be delivered and progressed these years before they would otherwise have been addressed. He has also directly been involved in delivering weir removal projects also in his voluntary role. Shane's level of enthusiasm and dedication is relentless and this has shown through the numbers of landowners and stakeholders he has managed to engage in fish passage improvements.



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