How Thames21 has helped me share my passion

My name is Sam Tonge and I am the Project Leader for Royal Holloway University’s ‘Thames Improvement Team’, a volunteer group that runs in partnership with Thames21.

I have been volunteering with Thames21 for more than a year now, testing water quality for the Thames River Watch project, as well as helping at public clean up events as a member of the Event Support Team.

During this time I have really enjoyed the rewarding feeling of making a difference to such an iconic river, as well as meeting lots of new people at events.

Wtraining1hen I saw that my university, based in Egham, was running a Community Action scheme in partnership with Thames21, I jumped at the chance to lead this project. I saw it as an exciting opportunity to share my passion for improving our local stretch of waterway with as many people as possible.


Pictured: A great turnout for our first event

My role as a project leader is to organise and run local clean-up events, the first of which took place on the riverside path of the Thames passing through Staines on the afternoon of Wednesday November 9.

The initial aim of the session was to manage bank-side vegetation by cutting back overgrown areas, creating a pleasant open space overlooking the river. However, our great turnout of 13 volunteers allowed us to achieve much more by removing litter from the site as well as testing river water quality.

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Above: Volunteers enhancing the view of the river from the seating area

Ahead of the event, I wasn’t sure what to expect, having never been responsible for leading a group of volunteers before.

It felt really satisfying to see my initial ideas and aims become reality, with putting techniques learnt in Thames21’s ‘Leading a Waterway Cleanup’ course into practice being a rewarding and valuable experience.

Thtraining5etraining4 event was a great success, thanks to positive attitude and willingness shown by all of our volunteers, who went the extra mile by removing hard-to-find litter, making the afternoon an enjoyable and rewarding one. Everyone worked really well together as part of a team in achieving our goal of improving the open space for those within the community.

I would also like to thank everyone at Thames21 for helping to support me in evtraining6ery step of planning and organising my event.

One volunteer said: “Thank you for the volunteering opportunity, had a great time cleaning up the Thames.”

Keep up to date with our progress at by joining our Facebook Group.


Pictured: volunteers cleaning up the paths

  • Would you love to join Sam and the hundreds of others who have been trained in Leading a Waterway Cleanup? Read more about it on our training page and then register for coursesOur two-day training courses, which have national accreditation, take place throughout the year in three areas: east, west and central London.
  • After completing the Leading a Waterway Cleanup course, you can register with our Event Support Team (EST)taking on the role of assistant to our Project Officers during their events.  As an EST member, you will be helping us to run safe, effective and fun events in a variety of settings. 
  • You can also decide to run your own volunteer clean-up events as one of Thames21’s Badged Leaders.
  • Why not progress to our newest course – Vegetation Management In Your River Catchment? Learn about this on our training page as well as our Thames River Watch training, which engages volunteers, known as citizen scientists, to monitor the health of London’s iconic river.

2017 course dates:

Leading a Waterway Cleanup Day 1, February 8
Leading a Waterway Cleanup Day 2, February

Leading a Waterway Cleanup Day 1, March 4
Leading a Waterway Cleanup Day 2, March 19

Leading a Waterway Cleanup Day 1, April 9
Leading a Waterway Cleanup Day 2, April 22

Vegetation Management in Your River Catchment, March 2
Vegetation Management in Your River Catchment, April 4

For more details about any aspect of our training, email  – and keep an eye on our events calendar for more courses.