Marsh Charitable Trust Awards

Together with the Marsh Charitable Trust, we will be celebrating volunteering excellence along our nation's waterways, by recognising those who have been nominated for having such a huge impact over the past year.

This year we are giving an award to either a team of volunteers or an individual who has had a significant impact in the past 12 months. 

We are delighted that we’ve had 58 nominations for the six regional awards, with a total of 282 individuals nominated, and volunteers have been recognised across the country, and for a variety of roles. 

Watch this space as we announce those with awards over the coming weeks. 

Yorkshire & North East – Cath Munn

Cath Munn, volunteerCath is involved in a number of roles including lock keeping, towpath taskforce, boat master and guide, tunnel boat chaperone, Explorers volunteer. Cath has been volunteering for over eight years.

Over the last year she has made quite a few media appearances for us on screen, radio and podcasts and has always come over as so enthusiastic, warm and friendly, a really great ambassador for the organisation.

North West - Active Waterways Cheshire

Active Cheshire winners Marsh Trust volunteer award Nov 2021The Active Waterways volunteers adapted rapidly to changes forced on the programme by COVID-19, supporting the Active Waterways team to deliver online programmes during the lockdown periods. Since the easing of lockdown restrictions, the volunteers guided 12-week walking programmes returned to Chester, Ellesmere Port, Nantwich, Northwich and Macclesfield. For many participants that were socially isolated during lockdown, this was their first time socialising and participating in group activities again.

Active Waterways volunteers share their enthusiasm of the canal and river networks and their knowledge of the local history, heritage, flora and fauna. They often integrate mindfulness activities into the walks, and invite participants to socialise further after the walk over a coffee. Many have now been volunteering for multiple 12-week programmes, their retention revealing the enjoyment they find and their dedication to the project.

The team are Keith Pickton, Stuart Goode, David Hall, Janet Pitwell, Jacqui Dunbavin, Lynn Johnson, Steven Tideswell, Tom Dawson, Catherine Golightly, Malcolm Craig, Christopher Evans, Rosemary Smith, Paula Ford, John Brighouse, Kath Ward, Eileen Room, Karen Waters, Tim Purrier, Wendy Thomas, Jim Robertson, Beverley Moore, William Taylor, John Goodman, Kathryn Broad, Graham Percival, Jeff Fairweather, Jennifer Budworth.

Wales & South West - Thelma Edwards

Thelma Edwards, volunteer

Thelma started as a lock keeper assisting boats through the 29 Caen Hill Locks in 2012. In 2014 we acquired a new ‘Welcome Station Boat’ at Caen Hill and Thelma stepped up to become the lead volunteer for the welcome boat and greeter volunteers.

She then spent a huge amount of time developing the welcome boat’s attractions. Thelma created lots of children’s craft activities. She also created a nature trail in the adjoining Jubilee Woodland. Thelma has also been part of our lead volunteer group for a six years. This team meets up to discuss volunteering at a regional level, topics such as health and safety, volunteering priorities and planning.

Thelma has always been an important contributor to these meetings and has also trained, mentored and coordinated all the greeter volunteers for the welcome boat since it opened. Most recently we have reopened the boat to the public and Thelma is in the process of relaunching it as a visitor centre/ small museum.

West Midlands: Volunteer expenses champions

L to R: Adnad, Andy Walker, Alan Barton, Mike Groves, Annie McCarthy

L to R: Adnad, Andy Walker, Alan Barton, Mike Groves, Annie McCarthy

The expenses champions team provide an exceptional service to all volunteers and task managers at the Trust wanting guidance in using and navigating the online expenses claim system. They provide an invaluable coaching and troubleshooting service by phone and email, dramatically extending our availability to assist volunteers. To our knowledge they are our only helpdesk-type volunteers.

In 2021, we implemented a new expense claim system for volunteers as part of the wider overhaul of our customer relationship management system (also used to manage volunteers). The champions really stepped up to the challenge of changing expenses systems, helping us at all stages, from design & development, to testing, to roll out, to bedding in. We simply could not have managed it without them.

The team are Andy Walker and Mikes Groves.

East Midlands: Barbara Hillier

Woman holding nestDuring her time with us, Barbara has been involved with over 20 volunteering opportunities, and currently acts as our lead volunteer on the Nottingham Towpath Taskforce planning and leading all the sessions and under her guidance we have gone from two volunteers to 15. She has been a driving force on the Nottingham Canal Improvement Partnership, and has been able to generate a lot of support from the local community for the Improvement Partnership. 

Her drive and commitment to improving the local environment has seen her support a number of local volunteers from the marina to create upcycled bird nesting platforms out of decommissioned flotation rings – a project she appeared on ITV news to promote. 

Barbara also acts as a ranger on both the Notts Beeston and the Erewash, has supported the signage audit, supported the wildflower installation, and supported the ops team in the northern region.

London & South East: Richard Elkan

Richard volunteers at part of Aiden’s ‘wonder team’ supporting operatives in many aspects of work on and alongside the water as well as as a boat mover across the region and as a volunteer ranger.

In 2019 Richard also trained as a volunteer walk leader before Covid and after the first lockdown led the London & South East’s pilot Let’s Walk in Hackney. The weekly walks were halted during second lockdown and Richard ensured that contact was maintained during this time of isolation for the walkers by setting up a What’s app group. 

Due to covid restrictions the walks started with five walkers and were only meant to be for six weeks initially. The walkers all wanted to continue the walks after the first six weeks so Richard has continued to run the walks (for a year now) on a weekly basis. Through word of mouth the group now has doubled in size. This pilot has informed and shaped the way we have set up the Let’s Walk programme in London & SE.

Richard is always the first walk leader we contact when running one off walks and has recently run heritage walks at our Islington Canal Festival. Richard has also volunteered to become one of our volunteer Let’s Paddle leaders which will mean he will be able to support The Trust to get more diverse communities out on our waterways for enjoyment but also for pick and paddle events to keep our waterways clean and free of litter and unwanted vegetation.

 If Richard can provide support to The Trust he always does.

Significant contributions

Christine Mellor, our head of volunteering at the Trust, said: "Volunteers are incredibly important to the Trust. The past 18 months have been challenging, with the coronavirus pandemic affecting volunteering, and I was so thankful to see our volunteers back in force as the restrictions eased. We are reaching out to communities to act now for canals and have this opportunity to recognise some of our volunteers who have made such a significant contribution in maintaining the beauty of our waterways.

"I'd encourage anyone who is interested in volunteering for the Trust to get in touch, there are so many opportunities on our website in your local area. Come along and get involved!"  

Brian Marsh OBE, chair at the Marsh Charitable Trust, said: "We are pleased to be able to work with the Canal & River Trust once again to deliver these awards, recognising those who give their time to volunteer on our nation’s waterways, enhancing their heritage and supporting the wellbeing of those that use them.

"This year we have been able to celebrate the achievements of more volunteers, both individuals and teams, across six regions of the UK and we hope to continue to highlight these invaluable commitments in years to come."

Last date edited: 22 December 2021