7 October 2020

The Award winners were:


IWA’s premier award is given to an individual IWA member who has, in the opinion of the trustees, made an outstanding contribution to furthering the Association’s campaigns.

The trophy recipient in 2020 is John Pomfret.

John joined IWA in 1969 and was active in the North East Region in the early 1970s. Later in the 1970s he joined the Inland Shipping Committee for the North East and was soon invited to attend Inland Shipping Group meetings, becoming its chairman in 1988 and retaining that role for four years. In 1992 he took over the role of chairman of IWA’s former Conservation Committee. John has been a member of IWA’s Navigation Committee providing expertise on environmental and inland shipping issues almost continuously for over thirty years. His knowledge of VHF radio usage and potential problems arising between commercial and private boaters has been invaluable to the Association.

John was elected to IWA’s Trustee Board in September 2000 and has since spent over 14 years as a Trustee and Regional Chair. He is currently a member of IWA’s Northampton Branch committee and a member of the Board of Essex Waterways Ltd. His intimate knowledge of a very wide range of inland waterways, especially those less frequently travelled has also been an important resource for the Association. He is the author of IWA’s Waterways Directory, which currently lists over 650 individual waterways and is an asset which more than 1000 people have downloaded from the website. It is also printed on the back of IWA’s unique IMRAY map of the Waterways of Great Britain.

John’s formal qualifications and experience as an ecologist provided a valuable support for the Association regarding both navigational and the environmental matters. John was able to offer expertise and up to date knowledge regarding current and changing legislation. He was appointed by Government and served for the maximum term permissible on Defra’s Inland Waterways Amenity Advisory Council (latterly IWAC), but when his term of office expired his services were considered so valuable he was brought back as an advisor until the Council’s demise.

He authored a number of IWAC’s publications, including Britain’s Inland Waterways: Balancing the needs of navigation and aquatic wildlife, considered the standard work on the subject.

Audrey finished the tribute by saying “John’s dedicated work for the Inland Waterways Association over forty years, make him a most worthy recipient of the Cyril Styring Trophy.”


The Salver is awarded to an IWA member who, in the opinion of the trustees, has made an outstanding contribution to raising funds for the Association.

John Brice of IWA Chiltern Branch was named as the recipient, having been involved with his branch for at least 25 years and raised over £50,000 during this time. Fundraising activities have included annual lock‐wind weekends, day trips and boat cruises as well as branch jumble sales at Rickmansworth Festival. John was the Festival Waterspace Manager for many years and his focus on raising money through the event led to the branch one year raising in excess of £1200.

Funds raised by the branch have enabled the installation of benches on the Grand Union canal and are being put towards the construction of a new slipway on the Wendover Arm.

Dave Chapman, who nominated John Brice said: “John is one of those unique individuals who has ideas, can raise funds off the back of those ideas and then can see through the projects which have been made possible because of the money he has raised. The John Heap Salver would be a very appropriate recognition of the great service he has given IWA over a very long period!”


This prize is awarded to a person, society or trust who has made the most significant contribution to the restoration of an inland waterway.

The winner – Athina Beckett – was nominated by Chris Durham of IWA Milton Keynes Branch for her dedicated and enthusiastic contribution to the ongoing restoration of the Grand Union’s Buckingham Branch.

Athina joined Buckingham Canal Society in 1993 as a volunteer and as is so often the way, further roles soon followed. In 1997 she took on the job of work party leader, a role she continues to hold today, and has been particularly successful at encouraging corporate volunteering involvement with the restoration project. Athina is a Trustee of the Society and an ex – Chair of Trustees and through the years has been a volunteer with Waterway Recovery Group’s BITM group, getting hands-on involved across the country at a large number of restoration sites. Audrey said “I am delighted we have been able to recognise the work and success of such an extraordinary woman.” Athina receives the Christopher Power Prize and Buckingham Canal Society receives a cheque in the sum of £1000.

Richard Bird Medals

Received by volunteers nominated by their colleagues for the significant benefits they have brought to IWA over a sustained period.

David Venn: David caught the boating bug in 1989 after a hireboat holiday which led him to say to his wife “let’s get rid of the caravan and get a boat instead”. David has been a member of IWA for the best part of 25 years and on retiring to East Anglia became Chair of IWA Peterborough Branch where he kept up an almost constant pressure on Environment Agency to not only make sure that the Old Bedford River is navigable but also to make a symbolic point by leading campaign cruises along Horseways Channel to Welches Dam so that boats almost meet either side of the stanked off lock.

Throughout his years of involvement David also gave his expertise as an ex-fireman to advise the national festival teams on health and safety at events. The awards panel found “It would be hard to think of anybody more deserving of recognition and reward for the long term support of, and contributions to, IWA.”

Robin Bishop: Robin is Secretary of IWA West London Branch, a role he has carried out for many years, and is described by his colleague Roger Hazelgrove as “always first to volunteer to promote the work of IWA and of the branch at events and festivals where he is also pretty skilled at selling IWA merchandise.” Robin is well known across the waterways through his involvement with the Friends of Raymond, helping to take Raymond and Nutfield to waterways festivals and talking to visitors about the boat. He is dedicated to improving the canals and can often be found waterside on work parties repainting, clearing vegetation and other activities.

Adrian Sturgess: Adrian began volunteering with Waterway Recovery Group in 2005 and is now one of their most highly skilled excavator operators. He has volunteered on over 70 Waterway Recovery Group Canal Camps, training weekends and other WRG nationally organised events as well as at countless WRG regional group weekend digs.

However whilst Adrian has spent much of his time inside an excavator on site, carefully grading a slope or excavating a lock chamber, it is his time spent teaching over 200 new plant operators which means he thoroughly deserves to be recognised with a Richard Bird Medal. Presented with his award by Rick Barnes, IWA Deputy Chair, Adrian was described as “one of WRG’s main ‘go to’ plant instructors, and one of WRG’s unsung heroes, always happy to get his hands dirty in true WRG style!”

Jack Wootton: Jack joined IWA in 1979 and became Treasurer of IWA East Yorkshire Branch committee in 1993. For the next 27 years Jack remained in post, carrying out the role admirably and has now decided to take a very well-earned retirement. As well as being a dedicated supporter and valued committee member, Jack organised the all-important annual branch outings, giving supporters the opportunity to visit other waterways around the country by car and by boat and has been instrumental in the organisation of branch cruises. Helen Whitehouse, IWA Trustee described Jack’s contribution to IWA as “outstanding”.

Colin Bird: Colin joined IWA in October 1972 and joined IWA Chiltern Branch committee in 1995. Almost immediately he focused on organising trips, the first of which was to the Kennet & Avon which was so successful that they developed into annual weekends away. He has also utilised his comprehensive knowledge of not only UK waterways, but also his experiences holiday boating in Europe, to bring an interesting array of speakers to branch monthly social meetings and he has taken them online very successfully during the lockdown. Dave Chapman, IWA trustee and Chair of IWA Chiltern Branch said “Colin is the very essence of what makes IWA so good and is the reason why the branch has such a reputation for its excellent speaker programme.”

IWA’s Branch Achievement Award

Given annually to the Branch that has made the greatest progress in promoting the Association’s aims and objectives during the past year.

IWA West Country Branch is a unique combination of campaigning and practical hands-on waterside volunteer work. They bring the theme of one IWA to reality by assembling expertise from across the Association – engineers, planners and heritage advisors, WRG Forestry and WRG BITM volunteers – to advance the branch campaigning objectives. The branch also uses the advice of IWA experts to secure the greatest advantage when facing up to the giants that are Canal & River Trust and Environment Agency. The committee recognises the value of partnership and has forged excellent relationships with local planning and government authorities and both Bridgwater Town Council and Sedgemoor District Council count IWA West Country branch as their allies.

Their work is covered by local radio, TV and press and the team makes the most of social media too to raise awareness and whip up a storm when they have to.

Branch chair Ray Alexander and work party organiser Mike Slade have a motto: “There is no I in team” and the work of their branch committee; Maurice Pinner, Julian Gibson, Chris Jewell and Michael Aldridge was said by Sarah O’Grady, IWA’s Chief Executive to be “a lesson to us all in what you can achieve with a small team with big aspirations and good direction”.