Eric Hastings (69), a recently-retired river guardian from Drygrange who has dedicated his life to protecting the river Tweed, has been chosen as the winner of the 2018 Tweed Forum River Champion Award.
Introduced in 2016, the accolade rewards an individual from the Scottish Borders or North Northumberland, from any walk of life, who has an outstanding commitment to the protection and enhancement of the River Tweed and the natural, built and cultural heritage of its surroundings. The river has a catchment of 5,000 sq km, with 80% in Scotland and 20% in England.
From tracking and catching poachers and regulating rod fishing to carrying out fish monitoring surveys and dealing with pollution incidents, invasive plant species, illegal engineering works and obstructions in the water, Eric has enjoyed a 41-year career at the River Tweed Commission that has seen him develop an encyclopaedic knowledge of the river and rise to the rank of Chief Inspector and Superintendent. Following in the footsteps of his father, who was a river bailiff for 45 years, Eric has developed an unrivalled knowledge of the Tweed and its tributaries the Till, Whiteadder, Teviot, Ettrick and Yarrow, which he has frequently navigated at speed, often in the dark.
Eric’s award brings to the fore the importance of managing and protecting the river’s fish stocks at a time of increasing uncertainty due to climate change, increased predation and pressures at sea. The salmon and trout of the Tweed are the lifeblood of an industry that’s worth £24 million a year to the Borders economy and which supports over 500 jobs.
While poaching incidents have reduced dramatically in recent years, vigilance is still required and this, together with the fish stock monitoring work and habitat improvements that are carried out on the river are vital to ensure the future of one of the most important industries in the Borders and North Northumberland.
Speaking as he presented Eric with a specially commissioned glass trophy by Scottish artist Jane Raven, Tweed Forum Chairman, James Hepburne Scott said; “Eric has made an outstanding contribution to the protection of the River Tweed and has helped to further vital scientific and habitat improvement programmes. Few can claim a more intimate knowledge of the river and its tributaries, and few have spent such a large part of their lives working for its benefit. Eric is a truly worthy Tweed Forum River Champion.”
Eric Hastings said; “The news of this award came as a bit of a shock but I’m very honoured to be receiving this accolade. I’ve greatly enjoyed my many years working on the river and love every part of it, from the headwaters right to the coast. I’m proud that I’ve been able to play a part in the protection of the river for future generations.”
The Tweed Forum River Champion is chosen from nominations received from the public and from groups and organisations involved in the management of the river on both sides of the Border.
Their championing of the River Tweed includes activity undertaken after 2010 and can feature anything from wildlife preservation initiatives and flood prevention to woodland, wetland and moorland management, listed building preservation or other relevant work. It can be carried out through their employment, through volunteering or other personal commitment.
The eventual winner of the Tweed Forum River Champion Award is decided by a judging panel.
Previous Tweed Forum River Champion recipients are Frank Turnbull from Coldstream (2016) and Jim Sinclair from Galashiels (2017).
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