27 September 2023

At its AGM on Saturday 23rd September, IWA presented a number of awards to individuals and groups, celebrating their contributions to the Association and to the waterways. The Vivian Bulkeley-Johnson Salt prize, recognising an outstanding contribution to waterways freight, was awarded this year for the first time in a decade.


Richard Bird Medals are awarded to members of the Association whose efforts and support are considered to have brought significant benefit to the Association over a sustained period.

There were two recipients this year: Alan Smith and Dave Pearson.

Alan was nominated for his quiet background support for the vast amount of IWA work carried out by Christine Smith. Whilst that has been very important, it understates Alan’s contribution to IWA and the inland waterways. At Cavalcade he can always be found working on an information stand or some other part of the background work. He is also very knowledgeable about the inland waterways and is a regular contributor to the waterways press, often writing to correct errors that have appeared in print.

Dave Pearson has served on the Birmingham Black Country & Worcestershire Branch for over 10 years, with 4 years as chairman. He has supported many local and national events, enthusiastically acting as harbourmaster, a challenging job, on many occasions. He has been instrumental in developing and maintaining good relations between IWA and local waterways organisations such as the BCN Society and Coombeswood Canal Trust.

Dave largely initiated the Bradley Canal Restoration, acting as chairman during its recent phase and driving it forward. He also actively supports the Lapal Canal Restoration. He has a vast knowledge of waterways and other forms of transport which has been very beneficial to the branch and to IWA in general.

The Christopher Power Prize

The Christopher Power Prize is awarded to a person, society or trust who has made the most significant contribution to the restoration of an inland waterway.

There is a cash prize associated with this award, which is given to a waterway restoration group associated with the winner, where the winner is a named individual. The aims and objectives of the group must be consistent with IWA’s aims and objectives. The trophy, a carved wooden otter, was presented to the Association by Volvo Penta.

This prize was awarded to John Dodwell who has nominated the Montgomery Waterway Restoration Trust to receive the cash prize.

Both the Trust and John are very deserving of this award.

John is Chair of the Montgomery Canal Partnership which brings together various groups interested in completing the restoration of the Canal, including the Montgomery Waterway Restoration Trust.

The Trust’s record for accessing substantial new sources of funding is outstanding, largely thanks to John’s in-depth knowledge of funders coupled with his skill in preparing bids. Funding the restoration of a canal that runs through 2 different countries – each with its own unique legislation and grant regimes – is a unique challenge.

The combination of contractors working alongside volunteers to ensure speedy delivery of new build and sympathetic restoration has proved highly effective.

The pace of progress over the past 5 years gives hope that we will see the full restoration of the Montgomery Canal achieved in the coming 5 years. As a result of his skilled leadership, the reputation of the Montgomery Waterway Restoration Trust is at an all-time high.

Other major restoration groups are quick to praise John’s willingness to share his deep knowledge of SSSI’s and offer support in a discreet way. John is a highly effective ambassador for the wider inland waterways restoration movement. 

The Branch Achievement Award

The Branch Achievement Award goes to the IWA branch which, in the opinion of a panel consisting of the National Chairman, Deputy National Chairmen and Chief Executive, has made the greatest progress and achievement in promoting the Association’s aims and objectives during the past year. 

The award this year goes to the Birmingham, Black Country & Worcestershire Branch. Not only have they carried out all their regular activities in terms of work parties and monitoring planning activities, but has also through its members been highly active in promoting the Fund Britain’s Waterways aspects of IWA’s Protect Our Waterways campaign, ensuring the success of the Birmingham Campaign Cruise in August, and also in the gaining of Heritage Inland Port status for Stourport.

The Vivian Bulkeley-Johnson Salt

The Vivian Bulkeley-Johnson Salt prize is awarded this year for the first time since 2013. It is awarded to the person or organisation who, in the opinion of Trustees, upon a recommendation from IWA’s Inland Waterways Freight Group, has made an outstanding contribution to the furtherance of commercial waterways transport in the United Kingdom. The trophy is a hall-marked solid silver salt, presented by Vivian Bulkeley-Johnson, a former IWA Treasurer from the 1950s and member of the Rothschild banking family, who financed the Willow Wren carrying operation.

This year it goes to John Spencer who runs GPS Marine, a successful family firm engaged in a wide range of inland waterways activities (based on the Thames and Medway).

John has been running a lobbying campaign to promote inland waterways freight across the board, certainly not limiting himself to GPS’s sphere of operation. He is largely responsible for the fact that pretty well all the commercial operators on the Thames are now running on HVO with the very substantial savings in emissions and particulates this represents.

Over the past couple of years, he has been extremely helpful in guiding the IWA Sustainable Boating Group with its trial work with HVO for use in inland waterways craft, and has won a wide range of freight, logistics and sustainability awards. 

Subsequent to his nomination for the Salt, John has taken over as Chair of the Inland Waterways Freight Group and will be leading an active campaign to increase the use of the waterways for freight.

The Cyril Styring Trophy

The Cyril Styring trophy is the Association’s premier award and goes to an IWA member who has, in the opinion of Trustees, made an outstanding contribution in furthering the Association’s campaign. 

This year it is awarded to Christine Smith.

Christine has worked in many roles in IWA and to all of them she has brought boundless quantities of enthusiasm and efficiency.

Christine was not only Deputy Chairman, but also Publicity Manager and Liaison Officer for Canalway Cavalcade for a number of years. Her devotion to her various roles within the Cavalcade team has meant that she has had more or less a full-time job for months at a time, but she has still found time to encourage others and has shown determination and resilience in the face of obstacles placed by statutory bodies. Christine has ensured the success of Canalway Cavalcade and has been largely responsible for it becoming such a major event.

In addition to Cavalcade, Christine was also Publicity Manager for the Festival of Water and, before moving out of London, served on the South London branch committee, helping to ensure the high quality of social events they run.

Christine has made an outstanding contribution to IWA and is a thoroughly deserved winner of IWA’s most prestigious award.