A Londesborough environmentalist has won a prestigious award for his river restoration work in the Lake District.
Environment Agency manager Oliver Southgate has spent the past five years delivering 30 ‘re-wiggling’ projects for three River Trusts in Cumbria in partnership with Natural England.
He was tasked with slowing the flow of flood-prone rivers, making more space for water by restoring natural bends and meanders. As well as its flood prevention benefits, the scheme also encouraged wildlife such as salmon, otters and kingfishers to make their homes in the waterways.
The former Market Weighton School and Bishop Burton College student was handed the UK River Prize and a cheque for £5,000, and his projects will be entered into the European and international stages of the competition, held in Vienna and New Delhi.
His achievements were up against major schemes in the Cairngorms, London and Exeter, and the award has vindicated his decision to take on a two-hour commute.
“People think I’m crazy living in Londesborough but working in the Lake District, but receiving recognition like this makes it more than worthwhile. Seeing a real difference on the ground for both people and wildlife is my personal drive. Within weeks of the big diggers leaving the site, huge numbers of salmon where already spawning on the new river sections. This is a good indication that we have done the right thing!” said Oliver, 37.