River wardens win national award

Friday 18th November 2016

Essex Wildlife Trust’s volunteer river wardens have been recognised for their important contribution to biological recording with a prestigious national award.

The river wardens were announced as the winners of the inaugural Lynne Farrell Group Award for biological recording, at the National Biodiversity Network Awards for Biological Recording and Information Sharing. The awards have been developed by the National Biodiversity Network, in partnership with the Biological Records Centre and the National Forum for Biological Recording. The awards are presented annually to individuals or organisations that are making outstanding contributions to biological recording and improving our understanding of the natural world. This year an additional category to recognise groups of people that have contributed to biological recording was added.

Volunteer river wardens fulfil a hugely valuable role for Essex Wildlife Trust, monitoring and surveying hundreds of miles of rivers and streams, to benefit wildlife and to help ensure Essex’s wonderful waterways are valued and protected.

Mary Tayler, from Thaxted, is one of more than 150 Essex Wildlife Trust river wardens across the county. She and Laura Millar, from Clacton, travelled to Edinburgh yesterday to collect the award on behalf of all the wardens and the scheme’s coordinators, at a reception at National Museums Scotland. Mary, who ‘wardens’ the River Chelmer, said: “We are really pleased to be collecting this award on behalf of all our fellow river warden volunteers. The monitoring and recording allows us to contribute to a much larger national picture and, collectively, we have benefited from sharing individual skills and friendship.” Laura ‘wardens’ Holland Brook on Tendring – one of 16 river catchments covered across Essex, including the rivers Stour, Wid and Colne.

Andrew Impey, CEO of Essex Wildlife Trust, paid tribute to all the river wardens: “We are immensely grateful to - and proud of - our fabulous volunteer river wardens. They fulfil a vital role not just for Essex Wildlife Trust but the whole of the county. Our river wardens emphasise just how crucial volunteers are to Essex Wildlife Trust and epitomise our vision of landscape-scale conservation across Essex. This is a thoroughly deserved award.”

□ The River Wardens project was established in 2014 by the Essex Rivers Hub – an initiative hosted by Essex Wildlife Trust. The project is funded through the Combined Essex Catchment Partnership, with further funding from Essex & Suffolk Water and Essex Wildlife Trust’s Brentwood & Billericay Local Group. Essex River Wardens contributed 2,500 volunteer hours in 2015, and the scheme is continuing to grow, including expanding to ‘coastal wardens’.

The wardens monitor river quality via freshwater invertebrate sampling and take part in targeted invasive and protected species surveys, to fill in gaps in our existing knowledge of the distribution of these species in Essex. In addition, they patrol their stretch of river regularly and report problems or any unusual activity, acting as an early warning system for potential pollution incidents and highlighting areas of improvement. The wardens range widely in age and occupation and also in their means of transport along the riverside – while most assess rivers on foot, others do so while out running, cycling and even canoeing and angling!

More information about our river wardens scheme.

□ The National Biodiversity Network Awards are generously sponsored by Swarovski Optik UK. The prize for the Lynne Farrell group award for biological recording is kindly sponsored by the Field Studies Council. Lynne Farrell is a well-respected biological recorder and botanical tour, expedition and field meetings leader.