Marsh Volunteer Award with the Canal & River Trust

This Award is run in partnership with the Canal and River Trust.

The Award recognises 6 volunteers throughout the UK who have made a valuable contribution to the Canal and River Trust and is an opportunity to thank outstanding volunteers. These volunteers contribute their time and skills which are a huge asset to the organisation.

Nominations for the Award are submitted to the Canal and River Trust and are judged by a panel consisting of Canal and River Trust and MCT representatives.


Tommy Higson, David Wadsworth, Jules Hall, Lawrence Rakic, Trevor Hunt and Frank Stimpson 2022


Tommy Higson

Tommy has been volunteering for 11 months and has developed into a passionate and dedicated volunteer. He suffers from social anxiety and, before volunteering, could go weeks without leaving his house. He joined Canal and River Trust as a volunteer on the Rochdale Green Recovery Project and his confidence grew day by day as he took on more volunteering responsibilities. Tommy interacts well with other volunteers and the public, often sharing his story about how the Trust has supported his journey as a volunteer and how this has in turn improved his wellbeing. Tommy is now a volunteer on the Kickstart project, supporting 8 young people to develop workplace skills and also assisting with the administration of the project. He has shown passion and commitment to his role and continues to go from strength to strength. Tommy is now working towards becoming a lead volunteer and lock keeper. Tommy’s passion for the Trust shines through daily, he likes to get the message out there of how life is really better by the water and his support to the North West team has been outstanding.


David Wadsworth

David is a man of infectious enthusiasm, encouragement and humour. He is passionate about heritage and keeping craft skills alive and takes on a number of roles for the Trust including Lead Volunteer, Dry Stone Waller, Blacksmith and Beekeeper. He has consistently volunteered at the Trust for over 8 years and demonstrates enormous generosity in sharing his array of heritage skills in his roles. David has a steady and relaxed approach to volunteering which is naturally welcoming and encouraging to others. He has built a valuable rapport with local people and uses his array of contacts to bring like-minded people to the canals to volunteer. David embodies the Trust’s values to the core and is a credit to the team in Yorkshire. He keeps the Leeds/Liverpool Canal prominent by repairing and re-building the famous drystone walls along the canal that the area is internationally known for. He is encouraging of others who wish to learn these skills and has fostered a real community of local volunteers to be passionate about maintaining the canal.


Jules Hall

Jules has been a volunteer with the Trust for 2 years, initially starting as a Lock Keeper before also moving in to the Community Engagement Team. She has committed over 1,300 hours of volunteering and has given over 100 hours to her administration role in the Community Engagement Team. Jules goes above and beyond to provide support wherever she can and, in her administration role, quickly got to grips with the processes and systems, undertaking additional training to fill any gaps in her knowledge. She gives excellent customer care to individuals who enquire about volunteering with the Trust which helps provide an excellent first impression to potential new volunteers. Her administration work provides additional resources and capacity for staff which has enabled a smooth and effective recruitment process for new volunteers. Jules is passionate about volunteering and brings years of experience with her from her previous employment in administration. She is always willing to take on additional tasks and uses her initiatives to complete tasks without being asked. Every task Jules completes is done with a positive attitude and a smile on her face.


Lawrence Rakic

Lawrence began volunteering in 2013 at Bratch Locks before moving to be a basin volunteer at Stourport and volunteers for 5 days a week, which he has now been doing for 2 years. He is a volunteer leader (although he refuses to accept the title!) and organises the rota and roles for other volunteers and has helped them form into a strong team. He supports new volunteers on taster days, showing them around and making them feel comfortable. Lawrence is a great communicator with the public and has a great relationship with local businesses. He has effectively trained volunteers in a variety of skills and has a great relationship with the local management team at the Trust. Lawrence is caring, has a friendly attitude and is open and inclusive to other volunteers. He is tireless in his efforts to improve the area around Stourport and interacts with other parties who have involvement with the canals to ensure that everyone works together towards the same goal. Lawrence is a natural leader and encourages and motivates his team of volunteers without looking for further recognition or titles.


Trevor Hunt

Trevor is a Volunteer Museum Assistant at the National Waterways Museum in Gloucester. He has been volunteering for 4 years, sometimes as often as 5 days a week, and began his role thanks to his interest in local history and British waterways. He is one of the most dedicated volunteers at the museum and has become an integral part of the museum team, bringing with him unwavering enthusiasm and commitment. Trevor supports the team day-to-day, engaging visitors, providing guided tours and helps with general operations and has also worked on a number of projects including working in the archives. His knowledge of local history is amazing and he shares this with both staff and visitors to the museum. He is inventive and always thinks of new ways that the museum can engage with visitors, particularly with young people thanks to his background in education. Trevor has also helped to train new volunteers and staff members, while also learning new skills himself. He is an invaluable member of the team and is always ready to support the team with a smile, even in the most challenging of situations.


Frank Stimpson

Frank began volunteering with the Trust in 2018, as a roving Lock Keeper on the River Lee, where he greeted all navigation and towpath users with a smile and a joke or two. He quickly became interesting in water management and control and suggested that he help maintain the weir at Cathegna Lock which had become badly overgrown. Frank set about clearing the floating rubbish as soon as possible and continues to regularly visit the weir to make sure it stays clear and maintained. He was integral to the refit of a volunteer work boat that the Trust acquired and now leads a volunteer work party on the boat once a week to tackle fly tipping, lock painting and towpath repairs. Frank is constantly looking for new ways to help the Trust and have an impact on the waterway. He is a friendly and welcome face to all and goes out of his way to assist the public in enjoying their visit. Frank goes out of his way to complete any task needed and has saved the Trust a considerable amount on contractor fees thanks to his dedication.


Marsh 10-Year Volunteer Award with the Canal and River Trust

  • East Midlands – John Carvell
  • London & South East – Dick Pilkinton
  • North West – Jon Stopp
  • Wales & South West – Ron Matthews
  • West Midlands – Carol Nicholson
  • Yorkshire & North East – Marcus Topham

Previous Winners

Cath Munn, Barbarda Hillier, Thelma Edwardsand Richard Elkan

Yorkshire & North East 

Cath Munn – Explorers Education Programme 

Cath takes on a number of volunteering roles, including lock-keeping, towpath taskforce, boat master, tunnel boat chaperone and Explorers Education Programme volunteer. She has been volunteering for over 8 years and, in the past year, she has made a number of media appearances where she has proved herself to be a great ambassador for the Canal and River Trust. As a volunteer with the Explorers Education Programme, Cath has assisted in workshops with over 5000 pupils in April-July 2021, sometimes taking part in 4 workshops a day on a number of online platforms and facing all of the technical challenges that comes with that. Her can-do attitude and willingness to give things a go was a great support to staff who, like Cath as a volunteer, were experiencing delivering sessions online for the first time. She has received wonderful feedback about the sessions she has run, and she gives her time to help other volunteers with adapting to the online programmes. Cath repeatedly goes above and beyond in her volunteering roles, she is selfless, committed, dependable, warm and friendly. She is passionate about the waterways and boating and wants to share that passion and enthusiasm with others.  


East Midlands 

Barbara Hillier – Lead Volunteer, Nottingham 

Barbara has been volunteering with the Canal and River Trust for a number of years, but during the past 12 months she has really stepped up in her contributions to the Trust. She is a well-known face in the local area and can often be found on the towpaths supporting the Trust in one way or another. She has been involved with over 20 volunteering opportunities and is currently the lead volunteer on the Nottingham Towpath Taskforce, planning and leading all the sessions for the volunteers and increasing the number of volunteers involved. Barbara has been a driving force on the Nottingham Canal Improvement Partnership and has been able to generate a great deal of community support for the scheme. Her drive and commitment to improving the local environment has seen her encourage volunteers to create bird nesting platforms out of decommissioned floatation rings, a project she appeared on the local news to promote. Barbara’s dedication to her volunteering and the crucial roles she has played are outstanding. She is a well-known and positive face, and without her drive and support over the past 12 months, the Trust would not have the level of volunteering activity that they do. Barbara embodies the values of the Canal and River Trust, she is committed to their work and dedicated to helping the Trust to achieve their goals.  


Wales & South West 

Thelma Edwards – Lead Volunteer, Greeter and Welcome Boat Team, Caen Hill 

Thelma has been a volunteer at the Canal and River Trust since 2012 and has given over 2,500 hours across a number of volunteering roles. She started as a Lock Keeper but, when the opportunity arose, Thelma soon became the Lead Volunteer for the Welcome Boat and Volunteer Greeters. She spent time developing the Welcome Boat’s attractions, creating craft activities for children, a nature trail and ensuring that there was always information readily available about the Canal and River Trust and the local area. Thelma has been a Lead Volunteer for 6 years and is an important contributor in planning meetings. She has also trained, mentored and coordinated all of the Volunteer Greeters on the Welcome Boat. Her dedication is amazing, and she has a passion for canals and the environment, which she loves to share with others. Thelma is a fantastic ambassador for the Canal and River Trust, being able to inform the public both about the local history of the canals and the work of the Trust. She is a retired teacher who loves the opportunity to give something back to the local community. She is passionate about educating young people about canals and wants to ensure the continuation of this knowledge for generations to come. 


London & South East 

Richard Elkan – Walk Leader and Operations Team Volunteer 

As a volunteer, Richard supports projects in many aspects of work on and alongside the water. He also volunteers as a ‘boat mover’ across the region and volunteers as a ranger. So far this year, he has contributed over 200 volunteer hours to the Canal and River Trust. Richard trained as a volunteer walk leader and led the first walk in Hackney after lockdown. When walks were halted during the second lockdown, Richard ensured that everyone stayed in touch and, when they were allowed to resume, he oversaw the running of the walks on a weekly basis. The group taking part in the walks has doubled in size and has informed and shaped the way that the canal walks programme has been rolled out across London and the South East. Richard has also volunteered to become a leader with the Let’s Paddle programme, encouraging more diverse communities out on the waterways for enjoyment and wellbeing. He is a man of many talents, offering up his time to support the Trust and share his knowledge with the public. He is a great communicator and listens carefully to his group of walkers to ensure that they get the most out of their time on the canal walks. The canal walks support the participants’ physical and mental wellbeing, and it is thanks to Richard that they are able to continue. 

Ted Thompson, Ian Kelshaw, Ralph Gaskin, Neil Page, Robin Jones, Jennifer Martin

North West – Ted Thompson

Ted has been a volunteer for 35 years, living and breathing the Canal & River Trust values the whole way through. Ted and his wife Christine Thompson campaigned tirelessly to secure funding to restore the Anderton Boat Lift to full working order in 2003. He continues to enthuse and engage visitors with facts and memories of the lift’s life.

Yorkshire and North East – Ian Kelshaw

Throughout 2019, Ian has led a team of volunteer lock keepers in Sowerby Bridge to cover the entire season in a self-sufficient manner with minimal involvement and oversight from the area team. Ian is greatly appreciated for his commitment, going over and above what is required from a volunteer and for his innovation and excellence. He is a great support for other volunteers and for upholding Trust values. Ian is a seasoned volunteer having worked with the Canal and River Trust since 2015, mainly on the Rochdale canal during the summer months. His commitment continues through the winter months when he volunteers his time to move workboats around the network on behalf of Direct Services.

West Midlands  – Ralph Gaskin (Lead Volunteer)

Ralph has been volunteering for the Canal and River Trust since 2012 and is respected by colleagues and fellow volunteers all over the West Midlands due to his involvement with so many different teams. He is a qualified Lock Keeper, Helmsman & CAATS (Competency and Assessment Training Scheme) assessor and more recently has started assisting with administrative tasks, including using the Trust’s national volunteering database. He regularly leads practical volunteering events, joins in at festivals and gives talks to community groups, portraying the Trust in a positive light. Ralph is the complete all-rounder and you will regularly see Ralph on social media promoting and supporting the Trust.

East Midlands  – Neil Page

Neil has shown strong demonstration of going above and beyond his role as a Volunteer Lock Keeper, one example of this was when he helped stranded boaters to attend local shops in order to gain supplies. Neil is clearly valued by colleagues and waterway users and has a great impact in his role as a Volunteer Lock Keeper.

Wales and South West – Robin Jones

Robin has been running along the Gloucester & Sharpness canal in his lunch break (he works next door to the canal at the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust, Slimbridge) and spotted the invasive species, Himalayan and Orange Balsam popping up along the banks. Robin is a keen naturalist and when he realised the balsam was spreading, he took action and started to pull up as many of the plants as he could every day

Robin is driven to stop the spread of this invasive species because he is aware of the damage it can do when left unchecked. He also wants to protect the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust reserve next door as these habitats are home to the over wintering birds which make the Severn Estuary internationally important.

London and South East – Jennifer Martin

Jenny’s sincere dedication to volunteering with the Canal and River Trust has been proven time and again. Her capability to be warm and welcoming to the public makes her a remarkable ambassador for the Trust. She is a breath of fresh air and it is impossible to not have your wellbeing improved if she is at your side.