Our team

Our story

Our group formed with humble intentions. Desiring to put her love for the Medway into practical action, Ellen Kittredge organised several community clean-up events that proved to be highly successful. Even with limited promotion around fifty people turned up, all dedicated and on a mission to rid the River of visible pollution. They pulled out all sorts — from bicycles to industrial machinery — shocked at the magnitude of discarded waste. It was a historic moment, but also revelatory: it highlighted the extent to which the River had been neglected, forgotten and abused. It exposed the need for action.

This sparked an important and ongoing conversation. How could we stop pollution — visible and invisible — entering the River altogether? How could we protect the River, ensuring that it is a place of flourishing biodiversity for all? How could we reconnect and deepen our relationship with the River, learning to honour and care for her? As the group began to form, everyone found that they could bring their own unique talents and skills to help the River - be it practical, organisational, creative, mindfulness and care, understanding and knowledge of the sacred, technical knowledge of the law and regulations, or fundraising.

And so, Friends of the River Medway was born: a volunteer group organised around an all-encompassing triad of practical action, legal action and sacred connection.

Meet the friends
of the river

Ben Christie
Ben Christie is driven by the deeply held belief in the possibility of a more equitable, sustainable and harmonious world. He works to support NGOs and ethical businesses develop and achieve their goals. With a career spanning events, media and business development.Ben has been fortunate enough to gain experience of many different countries, environments and partnerships at first hand.
Ellen Kittredge
Ellen Kitteridge has a bachelor's degree in Environmental Studies from Oberlin College. She has been an advocate for human health and appropriate land stewardship since her early twenties, when she worked for the Centre for Food Safety, a non-profit focused on sustainable agriculture solutions to the world’s ecological crises. In her late twenties, she trained in nutritional counselling and has been in private practice since 2008 as a health and wellness coach, where she teaches clients about the relationship between human health and the health of the environment. She has a separate, though related passion, of connecting people directly to the land through nature-based connection practices sourced from her extensive study with living holders of indigenous land-based wisdom traditions from around the world.
Ffion Thomas
Ffion Thomas has a background in regulation and risk management. However, three years ago she felt the urgent call to make a complete career change, focusing on the pressing need to save nature. Consequently, she studied for an MSc in Sustainable Food and Natural Resources at the Centre for Alternative Technology, centring her attention around soil and plant health. She is currently doing a PhD at the Centre for Agroecology, Water and Resilience at Coventry University, where she is researching the effects of soil health on the tree disease ash dieback. 
J Julia
J Julia is the founder of Sacred Waters of Sussex, a county based volunteer community that works to gently clear, clean and restore ancient water sites. It also reintroduces local communities to the natural water treasures in their midst and to the ancient spiritual Practices of the Wealdlands, which offers deeper personal pathways of connection to the living body of our planet. She is a Water Seer, Oracle, public speaker, teacher and Keeper of the inherited teachings of her lineage, The Deepen Way and Serves to build effective bridges of communication across all Realms of Being. She believes, most passionately, that not only are All capable to participate in the Guardianship of this dear world, but that each and every human Being has a unique and vital Gift within them to bring forward and into this greater Work. 
Jimena Paratcha
Jimena Paratcha is an active Community Leader and Transformative events Producer. As Founder of Action for Brazil's Children Trust with 22 project partners in 5 major cities of Brazil, Jimena guided the NGO to become a founding partner of Street Child United, a global platform voicing the rights of young people at risk around the world. After 20 years working in the social justice sector, Jimena turned towards the emerging environmental crisis campaigning for Ecocide Law alongside Polly Higgins and becoming a Trustee of TreeSisters. Jimena's love and gratitude to the land, trees and waters has encouraged her to continue raising awareness and funds whilst building networks to encourage positive change.
Julia Jason
Julia Jason previously worked as a film director of award-winning short films and television commercials. Julia was one of three British Directors to be chosen to make a short film for the BAFTA 60 Seconds of Fame. In 2010 she left the industry to become a full-time mother. Julia is passionate about regenerating rivers and wild swimming.
Patricia Patterson Vanegas
Patricia Patterson Vanegas is actively involved in green politics and was elected as the head of the Wealden District Council for Forest Row last year. She is working hard to bring back the recycling centre in Forest Row and is one of the leading members of their Waste and Recycling Group. Patricia has a wide range of professional experience in global industry, management and coaching. She has set up and run a successful magazine business and today works as an emotional coach and teacher. Her concern towards people stretches out to the environment, which she feels is of the utmost importance to protect.
Paul Powlesland
Paul Powlesland is a civil barrister, environmental activist and storyteller who is shaking up what it means to be a lawyer in a time of environmental crisis. After practicing as a barrister in London for a decade, Paul realised the urgent need to create greater respect and protection for the natural environment within our legal system. He therefore founded Lawyers for Nature to represent the natural world and all who are seeking to defend it. He writes and speaks on legal rights for the natural world, as well as representing the natural world (including trees and rivers) in the courts as best he can within the current legal framework. He has a natural affinity for water, lives on a boat and has founded a community project to restore a river in East London.
Rachel Millward
Rachel Millward has a background in the arts, though she is now committed to dedicating her skills and productivity to the restoration of nature. In 2002, Rachel founded Birds Eye View, celebrating international women filmmakers and drawing attention to the shocking statistics (only 7% of feature films were directed by women at the time) with a major annual London-based film festival. In 2010 she was named one of Arts Council England and the Culture Leadership Programme's 50 "Women To Watch", nominated for the Woman of the Future Media Award, and was selected for the prestigious Clore cultural leadership fellowship. In 2014 she went on to be the first director of a small community arts centre in Hackney, London, where she curated BREATHE - a celebration of air through the installation of a multi-sensory windharp in an ancient church tower. Most recently she worked with folk singer and environmental campaigner Sam Lee as Executive Director of The Nest Collective, a leading live music organisation focusing on nature connection, tradition and community.
Tristram Stuart
Tristram Stuart is the author of two internationally published books on food and the environment. He is the founder of Feedback Global, an environmental campaign organisation that seeks to regenerate nature through the transformation of our food systems. He is also the founder and director of Toast Ale, an award-winning craft beer company that turns surplus fresh bread into ale. He continues to be heavily involved in fighting food waste, serving as a Champion 12.3 for the UN Sustainable Development Goal of halving food waste and reducing food loss globally by 2030. In 2011 his efforts won him the international environmental award, The Sophie Prize, a testament to his deep commitment to restoring the earth’s natural balance. As co-owner of Windyridge Estate on the Ashdown Forest and of the Old Lodge Nature Reserve, he has been a firsthand witness in the decline of river health in the area. 
Zofia Page
Zofia Page graduated from Bristol University with first class honours in History (BA), seeking to transform the public’s attitudes, behaviours and relationship towards the environment. In May 2020, she produced, wrote and presented a short film to promote a community-led resource centre that promotes a circular way of dealing with waste. More recently, she wrote and co-produced a short film to educate people about the shocking state of our rivers, ending the piece with a call for action to support the Sewage (Inland Waters) Bill. She is now doing an apprenticeship at Fork & Dig It (Stanmer Organics, Brighton) to learn how to apply the principles of earth care and people care through regenerative farming. Though our group is predominantly made up of volunteers, Zofia is being paid to carry out the research that guides our work, serving as a freelance consultant and coordinator.

Creative team

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