Having freshly taken over the reins as Chief Executive of Wessex Rivers Trust I can’t go any further without giving credit to Martijn, my predecessor, for the positive legacy he leaves to the Trust. He has helped us become more efficient by setting-up many of the business systems which often go unnoticed but make a huge difference. More prominently, however, he and the team have helped set the Trust onto a new footing with a portfolio of projects which will make a big difference to our precious rivers. So, I fill some big boots, but I relish the challenge of leading the Trust on the next stage of its journey.
What do I bring to the job? First and foremost, a love of the rivers which started early for me – some of my childhood memories include coming face to face with native crayfish in the Itchen and catching a stickleback in a New Forest stream. As a teenager I dabbled very unproductively in course fishing on the lower Avon but, inspired by old countrymen like Jack Hargreaves, I always fancied fly fishing (only getting as far as learning how to cast on the River Allen). While no fish were hooked, I was, and my enchantment by our region’s rivers and streams and their myriad wildlife has never left me.
Study took me around the country where I specialised in environmental biology and ecology, culminating in a PhD looking at some of the predicted effects of climate change on insect populations. Through study and subsequent lecturing I was immersed into what is now the established science of using aquatic invertebrates to indicate pollution and other river issues and I am now very encouraged that riverfly survey plays such a prominent part in the work of the Trust and its partners. I should declare, however, that my riverfly ID skills need a lot of work…
Following a sojourn to Papua New Guinea where I lived and worked alongside some of the planet’s most remarkable biodiversity, I returned to my native Hampshire where I worked for the Wildlife Trust for 16 years. In that time, I had the privilege of overseeing some major programmes of delivery on the Itchen, as well as helping to develop the so-called catchment-based approach in our region. I got involved in a lot of strategy and policy work, most recently promoting nature-based solutions to environmental problems such as nutrient pollution and flooding.
I come onboard keen to uphold the Trust’s very practical approach to river conservation, education and research, linking it with the wider landscape and the people who live and work here. I am excited about learning more and meeting the Trust’s supporters and partners, as well as landowners. Although in the short term we need to navigate a lot of change and uncertainty, I believe there is a stronger mandate than ever to deliver on our mission to help our rivers and place them firmly in the public consciousness.