Two paddleboarders, Tim Wakefield and Ben Covey who are raising awareness of the high levels of pollution in rivers stopped off in Henley on Saturday on their expedition down the Thames which started in Lechlade on 12 September and ending in Westminster on Thursday (21 September).
Throughout the ten days they are aiming to raise awareness for UK charity River Action and its ‘Rescue Our Rivers’ campaign. The end of the expedition coincides with the ‘hand in’ of River Action’s petition signed by over 100,000 people backing the Charter for Rivers that calls upon political leaders to protect and restore our rivers by 2030.
On Saturday the duo set off from Henley Bridge, joined by the local Henley Mermaids and swam down to Embers Camping where they were joined by supporters and citizen scientist Dave Wallace who has been testing the Henley stretch of the river Thames for high levels of pollutants. Tim and Ben then set off on the next leg of their journey, a 28km paddleboard to Bray.
Tim Wakefield said “I hope that the ‘Rescue Our Rivers’ expedition will help push River Action’s Charter for Rivers up the political agenda so that political parties will commit to concrete actions to make our rivers healthy for nature and people by 2030. I’ve lived within a stone’s throw of the River Thames all my life and I want my children, and their children, to enjoy the river in the same way I have without the risk of getting sick.”
Ben added, “I have three children who have inherited my love of water, but the cleanliness of our waterways is something that I am increasingly worried about. I’ve witnessed firsthand where things are going wrong and I’m pleased to support organisations like River Action and to show political leaders that the solutions do exist, we now just need them to support and implement them”.
James Wallace, CEO at River Action commented, “We are hugely grateful to Ben and Tim for working so hard to raise awareness of our campaign and the plight facing our rivers. The public are rightly outraged about the dire state of our rivers. Over 100,000 people come together to give rivers their voice through the Rescue Our Rivers petition calling for action. We are in a freshwater emergency, and this is a crisis, and one which the UK public wants to see resolved as a matter of urgency. It’s time that our political leaders listen to the public and make healthy rivers a top priority”.
Henley Mermaid Laura said, “We had a fantastic morning with Team Water UK. It was a beautiful morning to be swimming the Henley Mile while giving our poor, unhealthy river a voice. The water has dramatically changed in the last few years, since we began swimming together. It has gone from clear and sparkling with lovely green plant life to murky, grey, brown coated plants. We have to keep educating, and informing everyone of the facts in order to respectfully force change. So we are always happy to support fellow campaigners.”
On Thursday last week, members of the Henley WI, joined citizen scientist, Dave Wallace to carry out some testing. They helped him test for phosphates and nitrates as a marker for water pollution from sewage. Nicola Taylor, President of Henley WI said, “The levels were better than earlier in the summer. We were very impressed with Dave’s commitment over the past few months taking samples and monitoring the pollution levels. We do hope Thames Water take on the challenge of upgrading the local sewage works to a higher standard and use the evidence collected as a benchmark from where to start. It’s great to hear of so many people actively involved in trying to improve our river for swimmers and wildlife.”
Photo credit (above) Ed Hill