‘Big river cleanup’ planned to raise funds for London Harbourmaster

29 July, 2020 / by Matt Smith

Images above: Mark Towens, Mark with his family 

A big river cleanup of a section of the Thames is being planned this Friday (31 July 2020) to raise money one of London’s harbourmasters, Mark Towens.

Mark is the Harbourmaster Upper in the Upper District which includes Richmond Lock and Weir. For the past four years, he has been battling cancer and earlier this month he received the terrible news that the cancer had spread to his brain.

His options for treatment are either to have Chemotherapy and Radiotherapy, which have a limited effect on his type of cancer, or to raise funds to try another treatment which may be more effective, but is only available privately in the US. The treatment, with flights and accommodation, would amount to over £150,000. A GoFundMe page was started by Mark’s wife, Joanne, and it has raised nearly £100,000 already in small donations.

‘People on the river tend to look out for each other’

Active360, which runs paddleboarding sessions from their base at Kew Bridge, is organising the river clean-up. Throughout lockdown the river has been cleaner, as fewer people have been using it, but all sorts of plastic waste gets dumped there and now they are finding the amount of waste is back to pre-lockdown levels. Twenty people have paid to take part in the clear up, by paddleboard, with the dual aim of cleaning the river and helping Mark.

Speaking to The Chiswick Calendar the Founder & Director of Active360, Paul Hyman, said:

“We thought it would be nice to get people to clean up plastic trash from the river in order to fundraise for Mark. It’s something we do quite a lot of anyway from time to time. We’re hoping it will raise awareness of what’s happening with Mark and other people might be tempted to put a donation in, people who have heard of him or people who are sympathetic.

“People on the river tend to look after each other. There’s quite a community involved with the Thames so whenever something like this comes up, people tend to rally round it”.

As a club which is active on the River Thames, Active 360 has regular dealings with the harbourmasters office. A harbourmaster’s duties include being responsible for issuing local safety information to mariners and co-ordinating responses to emergencies along the 95 miles of the Thames.

“Being a Harbourmaster is pretty high profile, he would have been in contact and dealt with a lot of people in London and particularly in the river community” said Paul.

Active 360 is hoping to raise £500 or more.

“We’re hoping people will mention it to their families and maybe get a little bit more so hopefully it will go up”.

Images above: Group of people from GoodGym after clearing trash from Kew Bridge Drawdock; trash haul removed from the area, a Harbour Seal joins a paddle boarder on the Thames – they are native to the Thames Estuary and are affected by plastic pollution.

‘Strong and positive’

On the GoFundMe page set up for Mark, it says that:

‘Throughout all of this time Mark has remained strong and positive. Shielding his family from some of the devastating news he has had to face along the way.

‘Continuing to organise family holidays, skiing to Austria, camping with extended family, Charity bike rides and so the list goes on. Mark has also continued to work throughout in a highly pressurised job as the harbourmaster for London.

‘He launched a drowning prevention strategy for the Thames with Prince William, even after finding out just weeks before that the cancer had spread.

‘Mark has never given up and continues to fight!’

If you would like to make a donation, please follow the link below:


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