Meet the team

Meet some of the faces that are working behind the scene on our project.

Jason Leach,

Programme Director

Jason has been working to improve the environment most of his career. He joined as programme director for Unlocking the Severn in 2018. Since joining Canal & River Trust’s predecessor in 2001 he has worked on a diverse range of projects from large-scale canal construction, canal restoration, building, towpath improvements, wetland and biodiversity projects. He secured and delivered extensive third party funding with a large focus on National Lottery Heritage Funding to improve our waterways for people and wildlife. He enjoys working with and motivating teams to deliver more while balancing demanding project delivery tasks with life.

He is committed to environmental sustainability, enjoys the outdoors with his family and keeps fit at his local Crossfit gym. Despite the scale of the challenge of the civil engineering works he is most excited about the education angle, inspiring the next generation to get involved with the environment and perhaps wanting to secure a career to improve it!

Rich Harrison ,

Programme Manager

Rich has been involved with countryside, community, environment and waterway related projects for over 15 years and has worked on the Unlocking the Severn project since July 2017. Rich joined the Canal & River Trust in 2006, originally managing volunteering projects as part of the Cotswold Canals restoration.

Since 2008, Rich has worked across both contract and project management, managing a wide variety of contracts, projects and programmes across the South West and London waterways. For Unlocking the Severn, Rich manages our programme, reporting, and budgets, as well as our construction works at Diglis.

Passionate about the environment and the outdoors, Rich is relishing the opportunity to bring his project and programme management experience to deliver our hugely exciting environmental project, unlocking the Severn for people and wildlife.

Lorna Pedersen,

Senior Project Manager

Lorna has joined the team from WellChild, where she spent six years delivering life-changing garden transformations for children and young people with complex needs and serious disabilities, through a national corporate volunteering programme. Prior to that she spend seven years working at the BBC on a wide range of TV and radio production, including well-loved shows such as Countryfile, Coast, DIY SOS and The Archers.

Lorna studied Fine Art at Aberystwyth University, and has a life-long passion for nature and the outdoors. She is looking forward to working on a series of exciting events to celebrate the completion of Unlocking the Severn in 2022, and to hopefully seeing lots of shad using Diglis Pass in May!

She enjoys spending time in the outdoors, particularly hiking and backpacking, walked the Coast to Coast from St Bees to Robin Hoods Bay earlier this year and is planning to hike the Pembrokeshire Coast Path next summer.

Katie Woodroffe,

Project Manager

Katie has been with the Canal & River Trust for 2 years, first in post as Restoration Coordinator and then joining the Unlocking the Severn team as a project manager to help support on the delivery of the exciting programme of community engagement events.

She graduated in 2010 with a BScHons Zoology and has since gained experience across many areas including environmental education, event and volunteer management and community engagement and science communication, working across the UK and abroad in Thailand.

In her spare time, Katie volunteers as a Trustee for a marine conservation charity and enjoys hiking, relaxing in nature and exploring the cold waters of the UK with her scuba gear!

Rosie Croggon,

Education Officer

Rosie joined the Unlocking the Severn team in August 2019 with a background in Geography and education. Rosie graduated from the University of Birmingham in 2015 with a BSc in Geography; and following this she went on to teach A level Geography for four years. Her passion lies in environmental education.

She cares greatly about inspiring young people to connect with the natural world and to recognise their own relationship with it, both on a local and global scale. As the Education Officer for Unlocking the Severn, Rosie is excited to connect children and young people of all ages to the magnificent River Severn and the endangered shad which the project aims to support.
On a personal note, Rosie has her own connection with the River Severn having grown up around it, and she enjoys getting outside through her love of cycling and walking.

Rosie is currently on maternity leave.

Jennie Hermolle,

Communications & Marketing Officer

Jennie joined Canal and River Trust to work on the communications for Unlocking the Severn and has been fully operational in her new role since January 2019. She a wide range of experience developing and managing brand marketing and communications, most recently in the education sector. She is particularly excited by the joint environmental and community engagement elements to this project.
Jennie is looking forward to getting more people inspired by the River Severn and sharing the story of the shad as we work to return this rare fish to its natural spawning habitats.
In her spare time, Jennie loves to be outdoors, often with her active young family.

Mark Miles,

Informal Learning and Interpretation Officer

Mark joined the Unlocking the Severn team in September 2021 after 28 years of teaching at a local primary school. His many connections with Diglis Island go back to his first year of teaching when he taught the son of the Lock Keeper, who lived on the island at the time and, more recently, the grandchildren of a long-time resident of one of the Diglis Cottages.  In September 2019, he was one of a group of local teachers invited to give feedback on the then-derelict workshop and island to see how it could be turned into an informal learning space.

Mark is immensely proud that his Y4 class created the wonderful Unlocking the Severn fish mosaic located in the workshop and that he co-ordinated the Year 5 and 6 children to create the animation “Up River! A Shadventure on the River Severn.”

Mark is excited that his role of Informal Learning and Interpretation Officer allows him to develop his passion for education beyond the classroom and help promote the benefits of being outside by water and all that the local natural environment has to offer.  He has spent the last 22 years enjoying his daily commute along the banks of the Severn and can often be found in the sea, regardless of sunshine or snow.

Steph Wheeler,

Events Officer

Steph joined the Unlocking the Severn team as Events Officer in October 2019. Steph graduated from the University of Exeter with a BSc in Conservation Biology and Ecology and has worked in community engagement, outreach and environmental education for the last five years.

Steph is passionate about engaging people with nature and science, and is looking forward to exploring creative and inclusive ways to connect people with the Severn.

She loves to be outdoors, particularly near water, and hopes our events can highlight the positive impact that spending time near blue spaces can have on our wellbeing.

Steph is currently on maternity leave.

Alice Deans,

Volunteering Officer

Alice joined the Unlocking the Severn team as our Volunteering Officer in October 2021. She graduated from Aberystwyth University with a BSc in Countryside Management and then went on to work as a Public Rights of Way Officer for five years.

Alice has a passion for facilitating people’s enjoyment of the countryside, whilst also helping to protect and enhance it. She is looking forward to building on this by working with existing Unlocking the Severn volunteers and by providing opportunities for others to get involved with the project. She is also looking forward to developing her skills and knowledge on freshwater ecology.

Outside of work Alice enjoys spending time outdoors with her dogs.

Corinne Spiller,

Communications and Events Apprentice

Corinne joined the Unlocking the Severn team in June 2021 as the Communications and Events Apprentice. Corinne has a Bachelor of Science degree in Geography and Masters in Oceanography, and is looking forward to sharing her love of conservation and knowledge of the natural world as part of the Unlocking the Severn team. She also has a strong background in communications and experience in social media marketing, which she is excited to develop in the conservation sector. With a passion for the arts and a keen acrylic painter, Corinne is enjoying using her creativity in her role.

Corinne is passionate about exploring the outdoors, whether on land or in water. She is a trained scuba diver and has spent lots of time in both freshwater and marine habitats around the UK!

Aaron Batsman,

Waterways Environment Apprentice

Aaron joined the Canal and River Trust as the new Waterways Environment Apprentice in July. He studied Geography at the University of Portsmouth, focusing on biodiversity and conservation modules. Aaron has always been captivated by nature and its intricate ecosystems, and looks forward to using his knowledge to help with their protection along the River Severn.

Aaron is especially fascinated by the underwater world, an interest he has explored as a keen scuba diver. He also enjoys a wide variety of land-based sports too!

Aaron is particularly looking forward to gaining practical skills from his apprenticeship, as he says these will enable him to “aid in the conservation of the beautiful natural world that surrounds us.”

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