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Six months of INNS Work in the Thames Catchment

Since starting at British Canoeing in June, Ben Francis, Environmental Project Officer, has worked with lots of volunteers from many clubs as well as in partnership with other organisations, to tackle Floating Pennywort in the Thames Catchment.

He shares some of this highlights and successes in this blog.

Ben Francis

It has been a fantastic learning experience, since I joined the organisation in June this year. Working in partnership with the Environment Agency, the Angling Trust and others, we have completed many days of action and cleared a huge amount of Floating Pennywort out of the Thames.

Floating Pennywort is a highly spreadable Invasive Non-Native Species which can have crippling effects on our waterways.

To learn more about Floating Pennywort, please visit:




There have been many highlights and successes which I wanted to share here:

  • At least 127 volunteer visits – the largest event at the River Wey 25 September with ~65 volunteers
  • Worked with 21 paddling clubs with 10 represented at volunteer events
  • Age range of volunteers from 14-year- old scouts to one volunteer who was over 80-years-old
  • The estimated volunteer contribution is the equivalent cost of spending around £20,000 on taking such action
  • 12 paddling clubs or centres have received Check, Clean, Dry posters
  • More than 300 Invasive Species Pocket ID guides given to clubs and members of the public
  • Many blogs and articles written for different organisations and publications
  • A risk assessment for the Floating Pennywort Technical group was written which is being used across multiple organisations

River Wey Volunteer Day 25 September 2021

The biggest achievement was working in partnership with the Angling Trust to deliver a joint volunteer action day on the River Wey Navigation, Surrey in September. There were more than 60 volunteers represented from 22 organisations including eight clubs. Over 500m of thick Floating Pennywort matts were removed from the navigation to allow it to be enjoyed by boaters, paddlers and anglers alike.

You can watch the official video from the day here:

And read more about the success of working in partnership with all the organisations here:

Wey Day 1

A special thanks to goes to Addlestone Canoe Club, Wey Kayak Club, Dittons Paddle Boarding and Whoosh Explore Canoe Club. As well as, Surrey Outdoor Swimmers, New Haw Scouts, Byfleet Angling Association, Woking and District Angling Association and the National Trust.

– Ben Francis

A second day on the River Wey Navigation was planned for November however, unfortunately had to be postponed due to Storm Arwen. If you are interested in taking part on the rearranged date (likely to be Spring 2022) please register your interest via the following form:

Voluntary work on the River Mole

I have supported the hard work of volunteers on the River Mole (Surrey, SW London) to remove Floating Pennywort from a heavily infested section of the river. The hard work is being led by Purley Canoe Club who have organised four voluntary action days in 2021 which is fantastic.

The before and after pictures of the October voluntary day show how much Floating Pennywort was removed by the team in a few hours:

You can also read more about the voluntary days in July here:

Purley Canoe Club are keeping up their momentum with two more volunteer days already planned for 2022.

A big thanks to Noel Humphrey and Purley Canoe Club. As well as the Lower Mole Partnership, residents of Molesey, Dittons Paddle Boarding, Canoe and Camping Club.

– Ben Francis

Raising Awareness

Since starting in June I have spoken to many individuals, clubs and organisations about the threats of Floating Pennywort and how these can be addressed through Check, Clean and Dry.

 To learn more about Check, Clean, Dry and Biosecurity, please visit:




Some notable events:

  • Myself and a colleague in the Angling Trust, in September, arranged a meeting of different stakeholders to share thoughts and practice about tackling Floating Pennywort in the South East. This was hosted by Addlestone Canoe Club and was a great opportunity to share experiences with the different stakeholders
  • Myself and a colleague in the Angling Trust also attended the River Wey Festival at the National Trust at Dapjune Warf in Guildford. There we spoke to members of the public around the threats of invasive species and how to stop the spread. We have out over 200 invasive species pocket ID guides. You can read more about the Addlestone Canoe Club meeting and River Wey Festival here:
  • I presented a seminar to masters students from the Centre of Environment and Sustainability at the University of Surrey in November to tell them about our work on the River Wey and more generally.


Special thanks to Addlestone Canoe Club, Whoosh Explore Canoe Club, The University of Surrey, the Non Native Species Secretariat and the National Trust.

– Ben Francis

Working in partnership

Since starting work on the Thames Pilot project I have worked with over 50 different organisations. As well as clubs, I have worked with commercial water companies (Thames Water, SES Water), local residents and councils, government organisations (Environment Agency and Animal and Plant Health Agency) and other organisations such as the scouts and National Trust.

Working in partnership with all relevant stakeholders is essential in the battle against Floating Pennywort and other Invasive Non Native Species.

The plan for 2022

In 2022 I will continue to work with different groups to take part in more Floating Pennywort volunteering in areas such as: the River Wey, River Mole, Basingstoke Canal and more. I am hoping to work with new groups in other areas of the Thames catchment also affected by Floating Pennywort

Jointly with the Angling Trust, Environment Agency and other stakeholders, I will be writing some training resources for clubs and volunteers to use with the intent of empowering groups to deliver their own volunteering in the future.

 If you or your club would like to get involved in the Floating Pennywort battle in the Thames area, please feel free to contact me at: [email protected]

Have a good Christmas and New Year. Looking forward to working on Floating Pennywort again in 2022!