Friends turn out in force for Chris Stafford Memorial Day

Friends and family gather in memory of Chris Stafford. In the front are his sisters Mandy and Alison and (centre) mum Marion
Friends and family gather in memory of Chris Stafford. In the front are his sisters Mandy (left) and Alison, with Chris’s mum Marion in the centre

  Chris Stafford Memorial Day

A bench plaque was unveiled and tree planted in memory of Chris Stafford, river volunteer extraordinaire and the mainstay of much habitat management work along the river Ravensbourne in South East London.

This took place in Ladywell Fields on Tuesday, 27th March, where some of Chris’s ashes were also placed under the Hornbeam tree that was donated and planted by Jordan, Jess and Judith of the London Borough of Lewisham.

The memorial bench in memory of Christ Stafford
The memorial bench in memory of Christ Stafford

Chris died in May last year after a short illness and, while some of us were able to make the funeral in his native North East, many were not and so the idea of a memorial along the Ravensbourne was hatched.

Many of his friends contributed to the crowdfunding appeal that turned this idea into reality. Chris’s mum Marion and his sisters Mandy and Alison journeyed south from the North East for the day, while many of the Lewisham, River Pool and Thames21 volunteers whom Chris worked with were there to greet them.

There were also representatives from Thames21 with whom Chris worked tirelessly along the Thames and its tributaries.

A tree is planted in memory of Chris Stafford
A tree is planted in memory of Chris Stafford

Mandy presented a cheque from Chris’s estate to Chris Coode, Deputy Chief Executive of Thames21, who expressed his thanks and noted that while a bench memorial was a perfect remembrance for Chris Stafford “he would never have sat down on it as he was constantly on the move both working and helping others”.

Chris’s diving buddies were also there, sharing their memories or Chris. His tales of diving around the world often kept river volunteers entertained while they toiled by the river.

Other groups represented by those present included the Friends of Sutcliffe Park, the Friends of Chinbrook Meadows and the Quaggy Waterways Action Group.

Many tears were shed at the unveiling of the plaque and many hugs exchanged throughout the day. The lively conversation about Chris and the contribution he made as a volunteer continued at the Ladywell Tavern, where lunch was laid on.

Many river volunteers said how much the day meant to them and this sentiment was shared by Mandy, Ali and Marion.

It was a perfect day for everyone to remember their friend Chris Stafford.

Lawrence Beale Collins