Six months to remember – the journey so far.

Ben Fenton with the Olympic Torch in Brixton

Ben Fenton
Big Waterways Clean Up 2012 Coordinator

What a fantastic six months, I have met so many great people. It has been by far my busiest time at Thames21 and I have enjoyed every minute of it.

From the first events in snowy February to the recent summer events, I have been continually impressed by the generosity of local people who volunteer their time to enhance their local waterways. I think that spending time on the waterways can provide a much needed escape from the excitement of London, and I am glad that so many others agree.

In case it has passed you by, the Big Waterways Clean Up 2012 is a campaign to enhance the waterways of London in preparation for, and as a legacy of, the London 2012 Olympic Games. The calendar of events began in February and we have ran an exciting range of events every week since.  Over 1000 volunteers have gotten involved in the Olympic host boroughs alone, with many more coming from all over London.

The BWCU2012 is supported by a steering group, this is a group of representatives from partner organisations who meet once a month at City Hall to discuss the campaign. Chaired by Assembly Member Murad Qureshi, this group has been highly supportive of the project and has come up with some great suggestions how to promote, deliver and improve the campaign.

In the early stages of planning, we decided to introduce some new, innovative events to the Thames21 calendar. I had trialled canoe clean-ups before as part of the Inclusive Volunteering project, but with the support of Laburnum Boat Club and the Leaside Trust, we have been able to make these events a regular occurrence.  A big thank you to all at Laburnum and Leaside for their involvement thus far, I am sure this is just the beginning of our work together.

A highlight of BWCU2012 has been working with the Mad about Meadows project.  In partnership, our projects have created 12 wildflower meadows adjacent to waterways in East London. It took us a while to find suitable sites for planting, but we were surprised and delighted to witness the vibrant and colourful meadows that flourished from our lack of wildflower know-how. The seed mix was designed to provide a special bloom ready for this summer’s games, but then to come back year after year as a legacy of this project. Well done to all those who helped contribute to this lovely addition to our city’s spaces.

And finally, the Torch! What a way to finish phase 1 of the campaign. I was lucky enough to be selected to carry the Olympic torch through Brixton on the penultimate day before the official opening of the London 2012 Olympic Games. I felt very honoured to be nominated by my colleagues at Thames21 to represent them and all the work we do and humbled to to be among so many truly amazing and inspiring people on the day. This is an experience that I will never forget.

While the Games are nearing to a close, our efforts to ensure London’s waterways receive a lasting benefit are ongoing, and over the next few weeks we will be developing phase 2 of the Big Waterways Clean Up 2012 campaign. We will have more of the same and hope to bring in some new events that volunteers will find fun and enjoyable. I am keen to hear your thoughts and ideas on how we can improve and develop the campaign; please send any suggestions to

We hope to carry out more education work in the next stage of BWCU2012. Supporters will all know the importance of caring for our waterways, but we hope to inspire the next generation to be able to see our rivers and canals as places to be enjoyed and cared for. Our River and Canals Rescuers Guide, to help students and young people take action on their waterways, is available for download here, and we will have opportunities for schools to participate in waterway discovery days.

I would like to thank all the Big Waterways Clean Up 2012 volunteers and the staff who have supported the events, and also our excellent interns Isabel and Sam. An extra special thank you to those volunteers who have come out time after time and given me all the extra help. We look forward to the next phase of the Big Waterways Clean Up 2012, and seeing you all again.