THREE Devon-based volunteers with Westcountry Rivers Trust (WRT) have been recognised for their freshwater habitat conservation efforts in a national nomination scheme.
Vicky Whitworth, Mike Kent and Hannah Pearson, who are part of the environmental charity’s flagship Westcountry Citizen Science Investigations (CSI) project, have gained River Champions status from the UK’s River Restoration Centre, which provides information and advice on best practice restoration and management of rivers and their catchments.
Jack Middleton, WRT’s CSI coordinator said: 'We are delighted our volunteers have had their dedication to looking after their local waterways recognised.
'They are a shining example of all our river champions from across the region and we are very proud of them.'
The RRC’s River Champions accolade celebrates the outstanding efforts of individuals contributing to river restoration in their area and dedicating time outside of their day-to-day lives to improving rivers for wildlife and people.
Vicky monitors and surveys sites in the Chardstock area and encourages the community to do the same by recruiting other volunteers in her catchment, while also organising events, training workshops, and fundraising for CSI equipment.
She said: 'When I heard, I was so astounded I shed a tear - and I still haven’t quite got my head around it as I have never been nominated for anything in my life.
'This is for everyone involved in the Kit Brook River Restoration project too, which is funded by the Environment Agency and Blackdown Hills AONB, as my Westcountry CSI water quality monitoring feeds into this.'
Along with CSI monitoring of the River Dart, Hannah, who said she is “delighted” to have been nominated, is aiming to secure the river’s place as one of a few designated bathing water sites nationwide by working with the community, NGOs, related water organisations, landowners, and farmers.
Hannah added: 'It is a real honour to have our work recognised and is a win for the whole Friends of the Dart team.'
Mike acts as a catchment coordinator across the Axe catchment identifying potential sample points, with a vision to see people water sampling from source to sea for maximum coverage and understanding.
He said: “This vision is also shared by the Axe Vale Rivers Association and is becoming a reality in the area due to the commitment of the citizen science volunteers and the support from the Environment Agency, Blackdown Hills, East Devon and Dorset AONBs.”
Jack added: “It’s important for us to share how vital our volunteers’ support is and we hope these accolades will do just that, inspiring everyone to carry on bringing rivers to life with us and encouraging others to take part too.”
To celebrate, the River Champions will attend the RRC’s 2023 UK River Prize Awards dinner on Wednesday 19 April online and in Birmingham.