15 years of The Rivers Trust

Jayne Mann


It’s our birthday! This week marks 15 years of The Rivers Trust as a registered environmental charity and the umbrella body of the Rivers Trust movement, having gained charitable status in 2004. After the formation of Westcountry Rivers Trust (WRT) in 1994 (currently celebrating their 25th birthday), a number of other Rivers Trusts soon formed across the country, applying similar “catchment boundaries” and drawing on WRT’s charitable objects, applying the Ecosystem Approach at a catchment scale. By 2001 Westcountry Rivers Trust together with Eden Rivers Trust, Wye and Usk Foundation and the previously established Tweed Foundation (with its focus on salmon research) informally joined forces under the umbrella of what was then known as the Association of Rivers Trusts, led by Ian Gregg OBE as Chairman, with Arlin Rickard (then at WRT) as its Chief Executive. At the time, the group’s main objective was to freely share knowledge, develop policy and to help local communities form new Rivers Trusts, assisting them with small start up grants, and “off the peg” specimen legal documents, governance and charitable objects. Arlin Rickard, The Rivers Trust CEO, said: "The formation of Westcountry Rivers Trust in 1994 was the first step in an extraordinary journey that became the Rivers Trust Movement. There are now over 60 Rivers Trusts across England, Wales and Ireland with a further 25 rivers and fisheries trusts in Scotland. There are also many other community environmental organisations around the world, that have based themselves on the Rivers Trust model." Arlin has been with the movement from the start and was, in fact, the first Rivers Trust employee at Westcountry Rivers Trust, after initially working as a dedicated volunteer and setting up Westcountry Rivers Trust headquarters at his home in Cornwall. Arlin Rickard with Ted Hughes There are a number of triggers that brought about the formation of the movement. There were initial concerns and uncertainty over the privatisation of water, pollution issues, the drought of 1995, the intensification of farming including the erosion of soils and the decline in salmon and other species including river flies, water voles and otters. Following the banning of the chemicals Aldrin and Dieldrin, otters being the only species thus far to make a subsequent recovery. In the beginning, most Rivers Trusts were run entirely by volunteers and most new Trusts still begin this way. Today, the movement employs some 300 technical specialists but still relies on a growing network of dedicated volunteers. Rivers Trusts have always had a “delivery”, rather than a “campaigning” focus and have always put working closely with farmers, riparian owners and water companies at the heart of their work programmes. “It is heartening to see many more people and the young in particular, becoming aware of the importance of protecting our basic ecosystem services including water, soils and air. These are under serious threat from growing population, climate change and hitherto poor management of our resources, resulting in water scarcity, droughts, floods and an increase in invasive non-native species.” Arlin said. Although reducing green-house gasses will take a global effort, there is a great deal we can do locally to better manage our resources, reduce pollution, farm more sustainably and to build resilience in the system. Help us to continue what we started 15 years ago. Click here to donate to The Rivers Trust.
Back to top