Verna Smith

South East Region Chairman

The post of regional chairman is a vital link between the local membership and the national body of the IWA. While electronic communication has improved access to specific people at Chesham, it cannot entirely replace the local knowledge base available in the region or give a proportionate view on issues. I would be the first to admit that I have not been involved with the IWA for decades but fresh eyes can be an advantage when looking at both developments and solutions. 

I spent nearly forty years as a teacher where my prime goal was to get the best out of both children and adults.  There is no IWA without willing, grassroots volunteers.  I do believe that the IWA needs to decide on its direction for the next five years and how that can be portrayed to potential and current members.

My interest in waterways was kindled by an aunt and uncle who allowed us to stay at their caravan at Wyre Mill on the Lower Avon while they were helping with both practical restoration and implementing administrative structures to future-proof the Trust. It was later that I realised that the muddy ditch, five minutes from home, filled with runner beans, dead cars and mysterious bags was the Basingstoke Canal which I watched being restored. While at college we studied the canals of the West Midlands and this gave me a real admiration for the work of the canal engineers and their legacy. 

After ten years of training and assessing young people undertaking the expedition section of the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award Scheme, and completing and advanced diploma in management and a master’s degree alongside a diploma in management from the Institute of Directors, I became involved with the Basingstoke Canal.  Initially, I helped with the sales stand at a local Basingstoke Canal event but soon realised that other folk were better at this and I responded to a plea for more directors.   I subsequently co-ordinated a number of canal events locally and visited the IWA festivals both as a stallholder and punter.  My recent appointment to Navcom has really opened my eyes to some of the excellent work in my local region.

As a canoeist/kayaker I have paddled most of the major rivers in England and a large proportion of the white water in both Scotland and Wales, which has given me a unique insight into our waterways and the interactions between unpowered craft, powered craft and other user groups. 

I envisage that the next ten years will bring exciting changes in the roles for volunteers and charities on our waterways.  The IWA has the opportunity to manage those changes for the future good of our members and the waterways.


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