'Dyke Builder' presented to Andy Batchelor of the Environment Agency

Published on: 15 May 2024, 13:00 hrs - Latest update: 16 May 2024, 15:24 hrs

The Dijkwerkertje (Dyke Builder), also known as the Steenzetter (Drystone Masonry Placer), was presented to Andy Batchelor on 8 May 2024, during the ceremony to mark the fortieth anniversary of the Thames Barrier in London.

Elja Huibregtse and Koos Vrolijk presented the prestigious figurine to Andy on behalf of Director-General Martin Wijnen and Managing Director Water, Transport and Environment of Rijkswaterstaat Marlouke Durville. The Dijkwerkertje is the highest award that Rijkswaterstaat can present to people in recognition of their highly commendable work for Rijkswaterstaat and/or water management in general.

The fact that Andy was awarded this token of thanks is quite special, as he works for the Environment Agency (the equivalent of Rijkswaterstaat in the UK) and is a UK citizen. So what did he do to earn this award?

In 2006, Andy and Marc Walraven of Rijkswaterstaat set up the international I-STORM network, which aims to share worldwide know-how and expertise on storm surge barriers. I-STORM is the international knowledge-sharing network for everyone who works in the world of storm surge barriers.

This network is a forum in which specialists from around the world come together to take on common challenges. The network makes it possible to improve the design, operation, maintenance and management of storm surge barriers.

Andy Batchelor is also Operations Manager of the Thames Tidal Defences (which includes the Thames Barrier and other barriers managed by the Environment Agency). 8 May marked the 40th anniversary of his work at the Environment Agency and, throughout that time, he has been working on the Thames Barrier. So, it’s a landmark anniversary for them both!

On 8 May, Andy transferred his position as Operations Manager to John Dippnall. Andy will still be working on I-STORM for 2 days a week.

Failure is not an option

The presentation was a special moment, on a sunny day, packed with symbolism. When Andy symbolically handed over the keys of office to John, he emphasised his motto on the importance of protecting London: ‘Failure is not an option.’

Queen Elizabeth II officially opened the Thames Barrier 40 years ago. That was also Andy's first day at work on the barrier. On 8 May, the Thames Tidal Defences team received a letter in which King Charles III expressed his personal congratulations. Alongside our Rijkswaterstaat colleagues, plenty of Environment Agency colleagues, including the Chief Executive, were present, and even the designer of the Thames Barrier!

Disc from the Maeslantkering

Elja and Koos did more than merely present the Dijkwerkertje. Accompanying the figurine was a personal letter from Martin Wijnen and Marlouke Durville. The Thames Barrier team were given a 'pad' from the Maeslantkering. This is one of the many synthetic discs used to clad the entire interior of the hinge housing, allowing the ball-joint hinges to rotate smoothly.

In addition, there was a card for Andy and John showing the UK's Union Flag that has been on a tour of all the Dutch storm surge barriers to have personal messages added by various colleagues. Rijkswaterstaat's gifts were greatly appreciated!