IWA Awards reflect breadth of the charity’s work

By | October 3, 2018

Audry Smith OBE receives the Cyril Styring Award from Ivor Caplan 2018. Credit: Mike Gallagher, Cotswold Canals Trust

Restoration, community engagement, waterways partnerships and the passion and dedication of volunteers were the keywords at IWA’s Annual Awards 2018. The ceremony which took place at IWA’s Annual Members’ Meeting in Stonehouse, near Stroud on 29th September was attended by over 160 people.

IWA’s most prestigious award is the Cyril Styring Trophy which each year is given to an individual IWA member who has, in the opinion of the trustees, made an outstanding contribution to furthering IWA campaigns. This year’s recipient, Audrey Smith OBE, was a previous National Chairman (1994 – 1998) and the first IWA senior officer to receive an honour for work in that role. Audrey has been described as perhaps IWA’s “most eminent national chairman in recent years”. During her four years of chairmanship, she oversaw a revitalisation of the Association’s Head Office, much improved relations with navigation authorities and other waterways user groups and a more prominent campaigning role for the waterways with government. Over the past 20 years, Audrey has continued to serve in a variety of roles, including as vice president and currently as chairman of the Lancaster Canal Regeneration Partnership, giving it a new lease of life with just announced HLF lottery and other substantial grants.

Four IWA volunteers were awarded Richard Bird Medals, given to members whose effort and support are considered to have brought significant benefits to IWA over a sustained period.

Peter Bowers has been a member of IWA and a restoration volunteer since 1992 initially working with Ipswich Branch on the River Gipping at Bosmere Lock. Since that time he has continued to be at the forefront of restoration work there. His many years of brickwork, digger driving and much more make him an invaluable work party volunteer. He is not only a great asset to IWA Ipswich Branch, he has also given a great deal of time to IWA’s Waterway Recovery Group. Records show that in the last five years alone, Peter has attended 22 Canal Camps all over the country from the Chelmer & Blackwater Canal in Essex, to Chesterfield, and Inglesham in the Cotswolds. This equates to a total of 154 days spent sleeping in village halls, being knee deep in mud and restoring canals! Mike Palmer, Chairman of WRG and IWA Trustee said “If we had more volunteers like this it’s almost certain we would have run out of canals to restore“.

Lesley Taylor has been a branch committee member for decades and represents the very soul of what is best about IWA. She embodies the values of IWA volunteers – passionate, determined, dedicated and trustworthy. Over her years of involvement she has performed a number of roles including Sales, Events and currently Membership Officer. IWA Chester & Merseyside branch is very active in the organisation of events and festivals and Lesley is always the first to come forward when a festival is mentioned. She has developed an incredible rapport and relationship with traders garnering their ongoing support for our activities over the years. This in turn ensures IWA’s event income is as strong as it can possibly be. The branch is delighted for Lesley to receive the recognition she so richly deserves.

Roger Wilkinson has been one of IWA’s biggest volunteer fundraisers in recent years. In 2006 the group organising IWA’s London Canal Walks welcomed Roger as secretary. He took over the administration, guided some walks himself, and liaised with the broader London Walks team who provide publicity. When he had the ropes of being secretary pretty much under his belt, and with the departure of Peter Finch as chairman, Roger stepped up to the role and became Chairman of the IWA Towpath Walks Society. He developed a range of new walks and prepared the documentation for his team of volunteer guides. Since then he has coordinated 345 Towpath Walks, guided 5026 customers, and has brought £22,260 to support IWA’s campaign work. This money is shared between the London branches of IWA and through them is subsequently used to support their activities or is donated to waterway restoration projects.

Roger Mungham has been described as a “lifelong friend and ambassador for the Waterways”. He was unable to attend the meeting to receive his award and it will be presented to him at a later date. Prior to his retirement Roger was a River Inspector. Now operating in the essential role of treasurer of IWA Peterborough Branch he is also carrying out the same role for the Middle Level Watermens’ Club, and has only just stood down as treasurer of the Well Creek Trust. He is known to be unfailingly cheerful and helpful to other boaters.

Bernard Morton, Chairman of IWA Northampton Branch was welcomed to the stage to receive the IWA Branch Achievement Award, given annually to the branch that has made the greatest progress in promoting its aims and objectives.

In 2013 IWA Northampton Branch adopted the over 4 mile long Northampton Arm of the Grand Union Canal. Task parties are held regularly at different locations on the Arm and are so well attended and organised that they have attracted the attention of renowned businesses in the area such as Santander and Abbey National. Earlier this year the branch opened a mosaic trail along the Northampton Arm to great fanfare. The trail features 34 mosaic designs and was made possible by a legacy left to IWA by John Faulkner – a long-standing and active supporter of IWA. The Northampton branch team involved a mosaic expert, many local school children as well as their own volunteers in this project and their legacy is a feature which will attract visitors to the waterway and enhance the pleasure of visitors for many years to come.

But the team doesn’t rest there. 70 metres of Motorway Bridge on the Northampton Arm has been given a new lease of life. The bridge, which had been a focus for graffiti for a number of years now features a historic timeline of Northampton through the ages. IWA Northampton Branch is planning on continuing this project with artwork on the offside wall and is appealing for ideas and help from local artists.

The location of this year’s AGM, in Stonehouse gave a clue to the winner of the Christopher Power Prize, awarded to a person, society or trust who has made the most significant contribution to the restoration of an inland waterway. Cotswold Canals Trust is a restoration group that is perhaps achieving more just at the moment than any other restoration group in the UK. With the recent formal reopening of Wallbridge Lock in Stroud by Prince Charles, and the successful first round bid for the next tranche of substantial HLF funding, the Trust has enjoyed considerable recent success. The Trust received this same award ten years ago in 2008, but as so much has been achieved since then, renewed recognition from IWA seemed due. Jim White, Chairman of Cotswold Canals Trust collected the prize which features an impressive wood carving of an otter and an equally impressive cheque for £1,000.

Five members who had supported the charity for sixty consecutive years were named as Honorary Life Members. 2018 is the second year that this honour has been bestowed and it is intended to continue to award this honour in future years.

Nominations for national awards can be made by individual members and branch and region committees and should be submitted by 31st March each year.