Introducing Will, our new Local Engagement and Communications Officer

There has been a recent addition to our team at the RRC as part of a new initiative. Will Barber has joined us as our Local Engagement and Communications Officer. New funding from Esmée Fairbairn will allow the RRC to engage and provide technical support and advice specifically for third sector groups involved in river restoration.  This is an exciting time for RRC since being able to provide advice to this group has, to date, been limited by resources. A large proportion of Will’s time will be spent delivering this, whilst he will also manage many of our communications channels. To introduce Will to you, we asked him to a few questions:

Will, where have you come from and what brought you to the RRC?

Originally from Bath, I completed (and enjoyed!) an undergraduate degree in Geography at Coventry University in May.  I then went on to work with the University for two months with the aim of publishing and disseminating my final year project. Joining the RRC has been an exciting move. I’m passionate about conservation and restoration of the UK environment, and understand the benefits nature restoration provides for both people and wildlife.

What do you know about river restoration?

My course covered the ecology, hydrology and geomorphology of UK Rivers in depth.  I have a good understanding of the stressors upon UK Rivers, and the legislation and schemes which are in place to restore them to more natural forms.  I also wrote relevant pieces on: conservation of freshwater pearl mussels; beaver reintroductions in the UK; and methods for forecasting the effects of dam removal. I’m eager to learn more, particularly from local and third sector groups on the challenges they encounter, so we can tailor our new guidance to these specific needs.

Your favourite rivers?

There’s a restored area of land in Coventry called Canley Ford, a small river surrounded by woodlands and natural meadows. I often go running or walking with friends there. It used to be a rubbish tip but was restored 15 years ago, with a focus on creating habitats suitable for water voles. A journey up the River Kinglass South of Glencoe on a wild camping trip has always stuck in my mind. The River Esk below Scafell and the surrounding peaks in the Lake District is also stunning.

What experience do you have of engaging with local and community groups?

As part of my degree, I spent a year on placement at The Countryside and Community Research Institute in Gloucester. Much of my time was spent interviewing farmers on various subjects, including bovine TB and management of upland landscapes. For my final year research project I talked to Cornish inshore fishers about how they were being impacted by climate change, and how they were adapting.

What are you looking forward to in your new role?

I think firstly meeting new people who are passionate and proactive about restoring rivers and the wider UK landscape. Then providing training and guidance to help local and community groups complete projects. Finally, learning from the existing staff at the RRC and those I will meet from other organisations in the coming months.

What do you do outside of the office?

A lot of sport! I play football for a team and enjoy running on trails and through green spaces. I love all outdoor sports (although opportunities have been limited since moving to Coventry), and having cycled Lands’ End to John O’ Groats a couple of years ago, I’d love to do some travelling abroad by bike if I get the time.  Plenty of reading as well; I have an eclectic book shelf!

Will and the rest of the team are now in the process of developing our plans for third sector training, advice and guidance. As part of this we are seeking input from local and community groups as to how we can best meet their needs. Plans currently include webinars, regional workshops and a new series of RRC factsheets. A survey is due to be released in the autumn; in the meantime please contact us if there is anything you need help with, and watch out for further updates on all our communication channels.

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