Actually, this isn't just about the River Action Group; it is also about the man who initiated and has guided it through the decade and a half of its existence. Tom Gondris, senior and respected member of the Ipswich Society, was accorded the MBE in 2009 in recognition of his services to conservation and heritage in Ipswich and Suffolk, much of which has to do with his work through the River Action Group in improving the corridor of the River Gipping as it flows through Ipswich. Anyone who remembers the river as it was until the 1980s must be aware of the enormous improvements to the riverside scene between the Ipswich Waterfront and the Borough boundary. What was once a scruffy and neglected former tow-path is now for the most part a hard-surfaced, well lit pedestrian- and cycle-way. Signs indicate directions and distances between landmarks. Information boards illustrate points of wildlife or historical interest. Sculptures point up the connection between the town and its river. Many people now use the river path as a safe and convenient commuter route between the western outskirts and the town centre or simply as a pleasant place to relax and enjoy fresh air. These things have come about with the active encouragement of the River Action Group, inspired and driven by the enthusiasm of its chairman, Tom Gondris.
For health reasons Tom has sadly had to step down from this post, although the riverside will always be affectionately and gratefully associated with him. Because of this and other changes the River Action Group needs help. We are a small committee with lay members of the community working together with officers of the relevant local authorities, the Greenways Project and Sustrans. For particular projects we may occasionally be helped by others, such as the MP for Ipswich. We meet for a couple of hours every two months throughout the year, although of course much of the work goes on at other times. We need people who are interested in caring for the local environment of the Gipping. That could involve for instance keeping an eye on a stretch of the river to spot - or perhaps remedy - particular problems. Or it could mean taking part in the much publicised clean-ups. We would like representation from particular groups who use or have an interest in the river: anglers, walkers, cyclists, naturalists. Specifically we need a minutes secretary to maintain records and communication within the group.
The River Gipping is the reason for Ipswich being where it is and it remains an important feature of our town. So the work of the group touches on developments associated with the river corridor, and there is much of interest to those concerned with the future of Ipswich and its riverside, as well as the rural reaches between the Ipswich Borough boundary and Sproughton.
If you would like to help or would simply like more information please contact either James Baker at email@example.com or myself. Tom would be the first to agree that there is still a great deal to be done.