Paddleboards & ANT poised for clean sweep of River Avon

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Paddleboarders are (not literally) pushing the boat out to help to keep the Avon riverbanks litter free and tidy.

Members of Bonkers Activities Paddleboarding School and Avon Navigation Trust’s ANT youth squad are on a plastic and rubbish clearing mission.

As soon as the last lockdown allowed, Bonkers’ Kim Bonk, in partnership with the Trust, organised a big clean up of the Pershore reach.

In May, a flotilla will launch a clear-up of Evesham’s award-winning Abbey Park.

“Paddleboards are the perfect platform for litter picking. You can ram them right into the bushes and get to the litter you can’t reach from the bank or from bigger boats,” explains Kim.

The vanguard of volunteers are a mix of Bonkers’ customers and members of the Trust’s youth squad, whose duties include keeping the Avon tidy.

ANT Squad founder members include Thomas Welland and Kai Mellor, both 18. They have already enjoyed British Canoe Rescue Training, a First Aid Course and Paddlesport Instructor schooling.

“They are a real asset to the Squad and passionate about the river,” says Trust Chief Executive Clive Matthews, who launched the youth group.

“The aim was to get the younger generation interested in the future of the river, and Thomas and Kai lead by example.”

An even younger chap enthusiastically joined in on board ANT’s River Rescue boat during the Pershore litter pick.

Six-year-old Arty Barkley, Bonkers’ mini mascot, is an avid paddleboarder alongside mum Hannah.  

“He already has a good understanding of how important it is that we help to keep our waters clean,” Hannah reports.

“He is always spotting plastics on the river and so was over the moon to be able to ride on a boat and to be able help.”

The Trust invites clubs to adopt sections of the river

Bonkers has also notched up a first by adopting the Pershore reach as part of local authority Wychavon’s Adopt a Street anti litter campaign  

Bonkers is part of the national campaign and monitors and records all the litter collected to help with the long term strategies and prevention.

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 Let me at that litter. Six-year-old Artey Barkley helped his mum Hannah on the big April Bonkers Paddleboard Club and ANT Squad spring clean in Pershore.

ANT project to make a mighty Worcestershire splash

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The river Avon

Public feedback is being sought for a momentous project that will rescue Evesham’s iconic former lock-keeper’s house, boost tourism and create a new riverside Volunteer Activity Centre close to the heart of the town.

Avon Navigation Trust’s (ANT) innovative plan will include the launch of a new ANT youth squad and aims to bring boat hire back to the park.

It will also provide an outdoor education area and nature trail on the wildlife haven lock island, plus deliver paddlesport tuition and boat handling courses for all ages.    

Evesham Town Council has enthusiastically endorsed The Evesham Lock House Volunteer Activity Centre scheme, which it has put forward for funding from Wychavon District Council’s Community Legacy Grant scheme, fuelled by the  New Homes Bonus payments. 

“We will be in competition with other projects across Wychavon and the more feedback we get from the public, the greater our case will be,” says Councillor Sue Amor, Mayor of Evesham.

“The scheme ticks a lot of the items on the Town Plan wish list: making more use of our river; providing health and wellbeing benefits for all ages and improving the local economy by attracting visitors, as well as protecting a landmark building.”

Councillor Mark Goodge, Chairman of the Town Council’s New Homes Bonus Working Group, is urging people to go to to have their say.

The Town Council will also distribute feedback leaflets at appropriate drop off points.

“Everyone on the panel agreed that this project, one of the best to come through the system since I started, has real potential to make a big difference,” adds Mark.

“My kids are already excited about being able to hire small boats and paddleboards on summer days.”

Wyre Piddle-based charity ANT, working in partnership with Stand Up Paddleboarding experts Bonkers Activities, has already turned the historic workboat Neptune into a unique mobile volunteering activity and teaching centre.

The 60-year-old vessel will be based at the island, where work is due to start this winter if the grant is approved.

“Wychavon will make a longterm dream happen with this amazing legacy funding,” says the Trust’s Recreation Project Development Manager, and Bonkers Activities co-owner, Alex Mellor.

The project will protect the famous landmark A-shaped former lock-keeper’s cottage on stilts, which is celebrated as a waterways’ icon.

Evesham Lockhouse2

Constructed in 1972 for £8,000, it was damaged and rendered unusable by two floods. 

“Renovating and repurposing the house as our centre for adult volunteering and the ANT youth squad will open up wide opportunities for people to learn new skills and make a big difference,” says ANT Chief Executive Clive Matthews.

“Using it as the Evesham base for paddlesports and small boat activity will also gift a new generation with the chance to enjoy the river and become involved with looking after our lovely waterway.

“To help make this vision a reality and add this great facility to the town, please visit the website and complete the short survey questions.”

ANT appoints Waterways Ombudsman to handle complaints

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New independent final level in the event of river user complaints

The Avon Navigation Trust (ANT) has joined The Waterways Ombudsman Scheme to give its river users an independent final third level for complaints.

The Scheme will provide independent dispute resolution for customers, from 1 January 2020, on top of the Trust’s current in-house complaints procedure. The move replaces the previous arrangement where an Independent Trustee/Director was the final escalation point for complaints.

Commenting on the news, Kevin Fitzgerald, Chair of the Waterways Ombudsman Committee, which oversees the independence and accessibility of the Ombudsman, said: “ANT is demonstrating its commitment to its customers with the appointment of the Waterways Ombudsman. Investing in complaints handling is a clear sign that they want to provide the level of service that their customers expect.”

ANT Chief Executive, Clive Matthews, commented: “We actively encourage feedback and make it as easy as possible for people to have their say. We get very few complaints but The Waterways Ombudsman Scheme provides a valued, independent system of adjudication if customers are not satisfied with the outcome of our own investigation.”

The Waterways Ombudsman Scheme provides an independent and impartial means of resolving disputes outside the courts at no cost to the complainant. It can investigate disputes between complainants and ANT that have been progressed through ANT’s internal complaint handling procedure, or those that have reached a deadlock stage. Complainants must contact ANT directly to seek a resolution to their complaint before they can escalate the complaint to the ombudsman.

Sarah Daniel, the Waterways Ombudsman, said: “I am delighted that ANT has joined the scheme. When I visited the office at Mill Wharf I was impressed with the commitment to providing a personal, effective and efficient service to customers.”

More details about the Waterways Ombudsman Scheme can be found at

Sneak preview of trailblazing River Avon projects

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Worcestershire and Warwickshire VIPs enjoyed a sneak preview of Avon Navigation Trust’s exciting plans in the pipeline, including an Evesham Lock Island initiative that will gift a big opportunity to local young people.

The long-term vision is to transform the island and the iconic triangular former lock-keeper’s house into the charity’s (ANT) second wildlife haven and a new riverside youth activity centre for the town.

Key members of local authorities, organisations and MPs were invited to the special presentation on ANT’s river pontoon at Stratford-upon-Avon to hear about the small charity’s big work to date and trailblazers to come.

Directors of the Trust detailed the success of the recent projects, including the first of its wildlife wonderlands at Pershore Lock Island.

ANT Chairman Jack Hegarty also unveiled plans for the launch of Project Neptune, which will also boost youth engagement up and down the Avon corridor.

Guests were treated to a trip on board ANT’s Eric the tugboat to enjoy the town’s river festival and to get up close to Dutch barge Neptune, which has been renovated with the support of Evesham Marina.

The historic vessel will be fitted out overwinter for its big 2020 launch as a Royal Yachting Association (RYA) training centre and mobile youth engagement hub, in partnership with Bonkers Activities, experts in Stand Up Paddleboarding and paddlesport provision on the river.

“In addition, Neptune will be the home of the ANT Squad of young volunteers, spearheading our initiative to future proof the Avon by encouraging young people on board to become our boaters and volunteers of the future,” explains Chief Executive Clive Matthews.

Evesham Lock Island’s condemned building can no longer be used as a dwelling because of access in the event of flooding.

ANT aims to submit plans to replace it with a similar strikingly shaped building for use as a fair-weather youth hub, with training facilities.

“Evesham will get a riverside youth activity centre on an island that will be transformed into a wildlife haven, also enabling young people to get involved in nature conservation.

“Protecting and encouraging wildlife is part of our ongoing drive as custodians of the river,” says Clive, who has added Consultant Ecologist Dr Fiona Sharpe MCIEEM to his expert team.

“As a life-long resident of Evesham, I think the project for the island and the iconic lock house would be a great asset to the area and one which I am really excited about. I am really pleased that the project has been identified during my year as Chairman of Wychavon,” adds Wychavon Chair, Councillor Frances Smith.

Plans will be drawn up to be shared with the public and for application for planning permission. 

The charity continues to be busy applying for grants and creating fundraising initiatives to fuel its work and enhancement plans.

“We also rely heavily on the support of our local authorities, organisations and businesses and this first major VIP event was our way of saying thank you and to showcase our future projects,” added Chairman Jack Hegarty.


Welcome to our Avon’s future: ANT Chairman Jack Hegarty is pictured third from right with some of the VIP guests (from left) Evesham Marina boss and Project Neptune supporter Steve Smith and partner Fran, Stratford Town Trust Chief Executive Sara Aspley, Stratford District Council Chairman Councillor Christopher Kettle, Worcestershire County Council Chairman Peter Tomlinson, Stratford Mayor Councillor Kate Rolfe, her husband Mike Rolfe and ANT External Funding Director Penny Clover.


NT Chairman Jack Hegarty is pictured (first left) with some of the VIP guests (from left): Stratford District Councillor John Feilding, Stratford Town Trust Trustee Lindsay MacDonald, ANT External Funding Director Penny Clover, Wychavon District Council Chair Frances Smith, Warwickshire County Council Chair Councillor Nicola Davies and Worcestershire County Councillor John Smith.