Angling Trust thanks volunteers with Excellence Awards to mark National Volunteers’ Week

The Angling Trust is marking this year’s National Volunteers’ Week (June 1-7) by acknowledging the fantastic contribution to our work made by volunteers. This year, 18 volunteers have been nominated to receive Volunteering Excellence Awards in recognition of their continued commitment.

The volunteers, members of the Angling Trust’s Voluntary Bailiff Service (VBS) and Building Bridges Project, have shown outstanding dedication to protecting fish and fisheries and educating and integrating migrant anglers.

Among those who will receive an award is Stuart Crookshank, a retired customs investigator and highly active member of the VBS in Kent since 2014. Stuart, now a VBS Phase 2 volunteer in the South East region, was commended by a magistrate earlier this year after appearing in court with an Environment Agency colleague to give evidence which led to the prosecution of an abusive angler. It was the first time a volunteer bailiff has given evidence in court – an excellent example of how volunteering can make a positive difference, assisting and supporting a multi-agency response to fisheries crime.

Another of our recipients is Anthony Wilson, the VBS Area Coordinator for Worcestershire and Herefordshire. Anthony inspires others with his enthusiasm and professional approach to his role, building strong working relationships with the Environment Agency and local Police. He is described by his Regional Enforcement Manager as a “fine ambassador for the VBS, Angling Trust and angling.”

Leva Breiteryte became one of 12 Building Bridges Project Key Volunteers across the country – essential to help build and develop relationships with local angling communities, accelerating the education and integration of migrant anglers and increasing lawfulness on our waterways.

Jamie Cook, Chief Executive of the Angling Trust & Fish Legal, said: “Volunteers are vital to the work of the Angling Trust and give up many hours of their precious time to benefit angling and society in general. This year’s Volunteering Excellence Awards winners have shown outstanding commitment and I congratulate them all on their achievements. Indeed, I want to thank all our volunteers for the work you have carried out for the Angling Trust. It is very much appreciated.”

Angling Trust Volunteering Best Practice Guide

There are many opportunities to volunteer in angling, whether through the Angling Trust or with local clubs, fisheries and projects. The Angling Trust is committed to working with clubs, fisheries, angling projects and individuals who give up their time to work within the sport of angling.

The Angling Trust has produced a Volunteering Best Practice Guide in partnership with the Environment Agency and funded by fishing licence income. The guide is essential for clubs and fisheries who work with volunteers and is available as a free download from the Angling Trust website - www.anglingtrust.net/volunteerguide

National Volunteers’ Week 2020 takes place from June 1st - 7th. More information here

The Voluntary Bailiff Service and Building Bridges Project are part of the Angling Trust’s Fisheries Enforcement Support Service which operates in partnership with the Environment Agency and is funded from fishing licence income.

Full list of Angling Trust Volunteering Excellence Award Winners by region:

North East Region

George Watts, Volunteer Bailiff, North East

George is a long-standing member of the Voluntary Bailiff Service who patrols his local stretch of the Warping Drain on a daily basis. The Warping Drain is a truly wild mixed fishery offering fabulous sport for tench, bream and pike, an unusual venue that is controlled by Scunthorpe Amalgamated Anglers. George ventures out every day be it foul weather or fair. Over the years he has contributed massively to the oversight of the fishery and protecting its stocks, maintaining his patrols and reporting numerous incidences of fly tipping and anglers fishing in contravention of the close season. In short, a first-class volunteer bailiff and a marvellous asset to the controlling club.

North West Region

Eoin McDonagh, Volunteer Bailiff, North West

Since his induction as a volunteer bailiff in May 2019, Eoin has become a highly valued member of the Cheshire VBS team, and in that short time has made a huge contribution to the protection of fish and fisheries in the area. Through his love of fishing, Eoin has developed a solid knowledge of the River Dee, the large canal network around Chester and many of its stillwaters, making many key angling contacts at local fisheries, clubs and tackle shops. Eoin also brings vast experience in the military and police. He is an excellent communicator and uses his combined skills, knowledge and contacts to build trust and confidence in the local angling community. The end product of this is numerous invaluable intelligence submissions. Eoin has developed a strong working relationship with other VBS members and Cheshire Police Rural Crime Team, helping the VBS establish a strong reputation in the Cheshire area. In addition to all of this, Eoin recently took on the extra responsibility of becoming a Key Volunteer for the Angling Trust Building Bridges Project, helping to educate and integrate foreign anglers.

David Wright, Volunteer Bailiff, North West

Based in Leyland, Preston, David is a keen angler with an extensive knowledge of his local fisheries. In the 12 months that David has been a member of the VBS, he has posted many patrols and submitted a great deal of valuable intelligence, all of which has helped to highlight and combat fisheries related crime and rural crime in the area. Alongside his role in the VBS, David is also an Angling Trust Building Bridges Project Key Volunteer, playing an essential part in helping migrant anglers build and develop relationships with local angling communities, accelerating education, integration and increasing lawfulness on our waterways. David is the Water Keeper at a small commercial fishery, ensuring that the fishery rules are adhered to and in particular making sure that every angler has an EA rod licence before they can fish. He gives any angler who turns up without a rod licence the option of purchasing one via their smart phone and because of his excellent communications skills, more often than not, persuades them to do so.

Midlands Region

Chris Wood, Area Coordinator, Shropshire

Chris has been an Area Coordinator for the VBS in Shropshire for around three years now and has combined his role with that of chair of the more recently formed Shrewsbury Anglers’ Club, which has brought about positive changes to club angling in North Shropshire and built up a number of VBS members. He takes every opportunity at local club meetings, fishery visits and through his involvement in organising joint patrols with the Police and EA in Shropshire, to spread the word about the fisheries enforcement campaign. He is a reliable person to trust with that message, and as a result of his work around Shrewsbury, he has directly raised awareness and confidence amongst anglers to report incidents, share information and to support fisheries enforcement in the area, which has consequently resulted in a number of incidents being dealt with by the authorities leading to positive results. Chris is a very pro-active volunteer and is always putting forward new ideas on how to improve the flow of information from angling clubs, one in particular being the use of a WhatsApp reporting system taken up by many fisheries and clubs in the area which has since proved very popular amongst local bailiffs. Its success has been featured in the angling press. Chris has recently forged new working partnerships with local Police Rural and Wildlife Crime Officers which will clearly benefit the work of VBS, angling clubs and fisheries in the county. This has assisted regional management of the VBS greatly and through this work Chris has shown himself to be a most able coordinator.

Anthony Wilson, Area Coordinator, Worcestershire & Herefordshire

Anthony has been a VBS Area Coordinator for a couple of years now and goes about his role with great enthusiasm, inspiring others to play their part in local patrols and working in partnership with the EA and police. He is a highly trusted VBS member and can be relied upon to use his initiative to organise joint patrols with partners at any time, using his experience and local knowledge to great effect in tackling current and relevant fisheries issues. This has resulted in several excellent results arising from incidents of illegal fishing on the River Avon in Worcestershire that Anthony has reported. His patient observations and careful evidence gathering have contributed to the effective handling of the incidents by EA Fisheries Enforcement Officers despatched to the scene. Anthony is a fine ambassador for the VBS, Angling Trust and angling, liked and respected by partners in the EA and West Mercia Police for his helpfulness, unquestionable support and integrity at all times. He will always be one of the first to put himself forward to attend training days, meetings, AT forums, inductions, workshops and events despite him having many work and family commitments. Nothing is ever too much trouble, and he always finds time to support the Regional Enforcement Manager and his fellow volunteer bailiffs when called upon.

Eastern Region

David McCreath, Volunteer Bailiff, East of England

David joined the VBS as a valued volunteer in May 2017 and has, since induction, patrolled and reported onto the VBS site almost every day. It is these regular short patrols along his local tidal stretch of the River Nene that make David stand out within the ranks of the East of England VBS, with his consistent reports adding innumerable hours of volunteer effort into the process. When anglers like David actively patrol their local waters, it provides vital intelligence to support the EA and police in planning action and efficiently dedicating resources to protect fish and fisheries.

Scott Wood, Volunteer Bailiff, East of England

Scott is a relative newcomer to the VBS but immediately impressed his Regional Enforcement Manager when, through no fault of his own, he could not make the official VBS induction day but was willing to take the time to be available for a ‘one to one’ induction at a later date. Now formally inducted, Scott has continued to make a positive impression with regular early morning patrols on his local Great River Ouse – leading to a regular stream of reports onto the VBS site. This committed volunteering effort is a perfect example of the VBS ethos of using ‘eyes and ears’ to help protect fish and fisheries.

Paul Abbott, Volunteer Bailiff, East of England

Paul joined the ranks of the VBS in October 2016 and has been patrolling the banks of his local waters in Essex regularly since his induction. Recently, Paul has been able to safely continue his patrols on his bicycle, throughout the Covid-19 crisis, as part of his daily exercise, and has reported a number of instances of people out fishing in contravention of Government restrictions. This continued dedication to his VBS patrols during these extraordinary times makes him a credit to the VBS and worthy of recognition by way of a Volunteer Excellence Award.

Vanessa Warner, Area Coordinator, Northamptonshire

Vanessa signed up to become a member of the VBS in April 2018 and has always been a regular contributor of patrols and reports onto the VBS secure reporting site. Recently, when the position of VBS Area Co-ordinator for Northamptonshire became vacant, Vanessa quickly volunteered to step into the position, an action that was immediately recognised by her Regional Enforcement Manager and marked her out for this deserved Volunteering Excellence Award. As Area Coordinators fulfil a vitally important role within the VBS, it has been a pleasure to see that Vanessa has made her mark in Northamptonshire by initiating regular contact with the volunteers in her charge and cascading down relevant information when required to do so making her a worthy recipient of this award.

South East Region

David Flint, South Downs, Volunteer Bailiff, South Downs

Dave joined the South Downs region of the VBS in 2017. Since that time, he has actively patrolled and consistently reported on the VBS website, alongside his role as a bailiff and committee member for Crowborough AC, reporting a number of incidents in line with FESS guidelines. In addition, he has been able to use his local knowledge and connections to local angling clubs to assist his Regional Enforcement Manager in relation to joint EA and Police investigations. Dave has also attended joint patrols with our partners and played an active part in supporting FESS organised events.

Stuart Crookshank, Phase 2 Volunteer Bailiff, Kent

Stuart joined the Kent region of the VBS in 2014 as a Phase 1 volunteer bailiff and recently became one of the first volunteers to join the VBS Phase 2 pilot project in the South East region – working with and directly in support of EA Fisheries Enforcement Officers. As a Phase 2 volunteer, Stuart, a retired Customs Investigator and keen angler from Tunbridge Wells, regularly patrols with the Kent and South London EA team and has made vital contributions to law enforcement investigations, becoming the first volunteer bailiff to give evidence in court – leading to the successful prosecution of an abusive angler charged with unlicensed fishing and public order offences. Stuart received praise from EA colleagues and was commended by the magistrate for his clear and credible testimony, which saw the offender receive a higher than normal fine and a 12-month suspended sentence. Stuart’s exemplary behaviour and professionalism represented the VBS with dedication and is firm evidence of the value and success of VBS Phase 2 as well as providing a perfect example of the positive results that can be achieved through partnership working and a multi-agency response to fisheries crime.

Brian Langley-Smith, Volunteer Bailiff, West Thames

Brian joined the West Thames region of the VBS in 2013 and is also a bailiff at the Seven Oaks Fishery near Aldermaston in Berkshire. Using the knowledge and experience gained from volunteering with the VBS, Brian has been able to make a significant contribution to the local EA and Police in respect of intelligence and reporting incidents at the fishery as well as training and supporting other local bailiffs. Brian reports regularly on the VBS website and has actively supported his Regional Enforcement Manager at VBS induction days and Fishery Enforcement Workshops.

Robin Merritt, Volunteer Bailiff, East Thames

Robin joined the East Thames region of the VBS in 2014. He is a regular contributor to the VBS website in both patrols and the reporting of incidents. Robin is also a committee member for Bishops Stortford and District AC and has used the experience gained from his role in the VBS to advise and direct his club’s activity to great effect. Robin has also supported his Regional Enforcement Manager in joint patrols with the EA and Police and has helped in relation to VBS training.

Kieran Gillingham, Volunteer Bailiff, Solent

Kieran joined the Solent region of the VBS in 2012. He is a passionate angler and has used the knowledge gained from his VBS role and from his work in the EA to actively patrol and report on the Itchen Navigation in Hampshire. Kieran’s active reporting has resulted in a number of incidents being reported to the authorities and he has supported his Regional Enforcement Manager in joint patrols in Hampshire with both the EA and Police. Recently, as a direct result of Kieran’s reports to the Police, anglers fishing in breach of the Government’s Covid-19 regulations and committing fishing related offences have been prosecuted, both on the Itchen and on a lake in Southampton.

South West Region

Roger Wilkinson, Volunteer Bailiff, South West

Since becoming a Volunteer Bailiff in 2019, Roger has regularly patrolled and made good quality incident reports relating to illegal fishing in the Bridgwater area of Somerset. Using his excellent knowledge and contacts in the local angling scene, Roger actively promotes best practice to anglers and the role that the Angling Trust plays in support of anglers, actively supporting Fisheries Enforcement Workshops and local Freshwater forums, interacting with anglers and fishery managers positively. He represents all that is good in a volunteer.

Keith Whitefoot, Volunteer Bailiff, South West

Keith has been an active member of the VBS since 2017, patrolling local waterways and submitting consistent, good quality reports. He has been superb in liaising with local Police Officers and maintaining good contact with them throughout his time as a volunteer. He is highly regarded by local PCSOs and has undertaken joint patrols such as during Operation Clampdown when he was able to share his knowledge and understanding of the local angling scene to help raise officers’ awareness of the VBS, the close season fishing rules and all that angling is about. Typical of the comments about Keith is that of PCSO Juliet Evans from Wiltshire Police who said “I have never fished before but having been out on patrol with Keith and benefitted from his knowledge and experience, I now have a better understanding of the angling community.” Keith’s actions have been an integral part of building excellent links with local policing and reflect the best tradition of the VBS.

Building Bridges Project, Key Volunteers

Leva Breiteryte, Building Bridges Project Key Volunteer

Leva joined the Building Bridges Project as a key volunteer in 2019 and has quickly become a vital member of the team who is always ready to help. It is essential for our volunteers to build strong connections with their local migrant communities and Leva is an excellent example of how this can be achieved. She has made a measurable impact over the past year as a passionate angler with huge experience of delivering the goals of our project to the wider community. She is an excellent communicator between anglers from Eastern Europe and the UK, which is one of the main challenges for the Building Bridges Project. I am sure that Leva’s approach is a great example for other team members and the wider angling community. Leva’s outstanding contribution as a Building Bridges key volunteer is appreciated by the whole team.

Krzysztof Kaszuba, Building Bridges Project Key Volunteer

Krzysztof, who joined the Building Bridges Project as a key volunteer in September 2019, has brought huge experience to the team in social media communications. He is constantly delivering digital content – which is being used for the Building Bridges and Angling Trust Facebook pages. His experience in producing and editing high quality images has helped increase social media engagement and enabled the project to share its work and engage with a much larger audience than ever before. Krzysztof produces angling blogs and articles for Building Bridges, which also receive a huge response from the angling community. His skills as a volunteer, including the ability to work as a valued member of the team and his understanding of the angling industry, are essential to the continued success of the Project.

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