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Thetford River group members pay tribute to 'irreplaceable' founder Sean Ready

Thetford River Group members have paid tribute to its founder, who died days before he was due to pick up a BBC Radio Norfolk award for its work.

Sean Ready, 51, died on November 11 from a heart attack at his Dane Close home.

The group that in 2017 he started patrols the town’s rivers, the Thet and Little Ouse, collecting litter as well as monitoring and testing projects with Imperial College London and others, on the health of invertebrates, fish and wildlife.

Sean would regularly be seen out on the river. Picture submitted
Sean would regularly be seen out on the river. Picture submitted

The station announced the group as its Environmental category winners in its Make A Difference Award on November 15, also holding a minute’s silence in his memory.

Dave Smith, who picked up the award in Sean’s honour, said: “My heart was racing when we won, but it was just so sad that Sean was not collecting it as it had been his life’s work – it should have been all of us there.

“When people see me out on the river, they always ask me about the ‘man in the boat’, he was truly a part of Thetford life.”

Dave, who started with the group around four years ago after seeing a Facebook post about their litter picking said Sean was such a friendly person and always determined to make the rivers better for people.

He added: "Sean wanted to keep them as clean as he could for people, so I have ever intention of continuing to collect litter from the river."

Clare Higson, who met Sean in 2017, before becoming part of the group said he had left an irreplaceable hole.

She added: “He was a best friend and being part of the group was a cracking adventure to have with him."

The group did monitoring and litter picking on the River Thet and Little Ouse. Picture submitted
The group did monitoring and litter picking on the River Thet and Little Ouse. Picture submitted

Clare said Sean had been diagnosed with Asberger's, a form of autism, in his late 40s and that the group for him was not just about giving the river more of a voice.

She said: "It was also a mental health project and for many of our fellow members it has helped them with their struggles too.

"One of the things I hope Sean has left as a legacy is that people have seen the beauty of Thetford and the lovely stuff that people usually just walk or drive by.

"We have had so many messages about Sean since the news and it is just so lovely to have that recognition of our local hero."

Roseanne Gough, who met Sean about four-and-a-half years ago said he was a humble and unassuming character.

"He was almost like the front man of the band, that was how I sort of saw him - he was so creative, intelligent and knowledgeable,” she added.

“When we spoke to people at the river he would give them so many stats that they would go away learning something new or it would trigger a thought process about the environment that would help spread the message Sean was always trying to get out there.”

As well as the BBC award, the group also had interviews about their work with ITV News and Look East, which Roseanne said was good Sean got to see some of the recognition he deserved.

She added: "The only thing he missed was knowing that we won the BBC award, but he did say to me he thought we had won it - thank goodness he got to see parts of the appreciation people have for him."