MBE for Tamsin

For voluntary services to Waterways and to Young People through Girlguiding UK

Tamsin, with Amber, in Switzerland

We are so delighted that Reading Canoe Club member Tamsin Phipps has been awarded an MBE in this New Year’s Honours list. This is for her very considerable volunteer work for Waterways and young people.

Tamsin has always been passionate about the development of young people and also about sport, constantly making them a central part of her career and volunteer work. That started early on with her teaching qualification, continued when she joined the army, with a special interest in organising a number of the sports teams and has continued since.

Most notably for young people has been her volunteer work with the Brownies and the Girl Guides. Having been very involved in the Guide Association as a child – Brownies, Guides and Rangers, even becoming a Queen’s Guide – Tamsin knew the value that Guiding has in society and the life skills it can give to a young person, as well as being lots of fun. 

As an adult, Tamsin first became involved in the Brownies when she left the army. After that, she became a Rainbow leader in Woodley, then, on moving to Wargrave in 2004, took on the role of Brownie Owl. In 2010 she established the village’s Guide Unit, so her Brownies would have somewhere to progress to. In 2016, at the request of her older Guides, she opened a Ranger Unit and Tamsin now runs this with her daughter Amber. Tamsin continues to run the village Guides whilst also carrying out wider duties for the Guide movement. That includes being Berkshire County Boating Advisor, a mentor for other guide leaders, Residential and Guide Advisor and being the Joint Division Commissioner for Maidenhead.


As Government and Public Affairs Manager during her time with British Canoeing, she led the nationally acclaimed Rivers Access campaign, promoting greater public access to rivers. Essential, of course, to all paddlers and an aspect we now take for granted. She also established a huge network of high-profile supporters and was successful in launching a Private Members Bill in the House of Commons. At this time, she was also asked to become a special adviser to the minister and became a member of the Inland Waterways Advisory Council. Tamsin was also actively involved in the restructuring of the British Waterways Board into the Canal and Rivers Trust, taking on the voluntary position of Chair of both Kennet and Avon and Bridgewater canals partnership.

And closest to home, Tamsin was key in transforming the ramshackle wooden hut that was Reading Canoe Club into the amazing facility we all enjoy today. On moving to Reading in the mid 1990s, she became a member of Reading Canoe Club, and its Chair within a year of joining. She had a vision to transform it with a new purpose-built facility. She took responsibility for all aspects of the project – from fund raising to procurement and overseeing the construction of the building – with its completion and opening in 1998.

Tamsin’s racing prowess:

As a competitor Tamsin has made a name for herself as a specialist in the 125-mile Devizes to Westminster Canoe Race. Known as the Canoeist’s Everest and referred to by Ex Royal Marine Paddy Ashdown as the hardest thing he has ever done, the race has a daunting reputation. Tamsin has completed the race on many occasions becoming only the second woman to join the 1000-mile club (8 successful completions). She has won the race 3 times and her fastest race placed her 5th against the men. Additionally, in competition she achieved National Marathon Champion status in kayak doubles and has served on numerous voluntary committees. 

And her list for volunteering goes on … she remains a key figure at the canoe club and, as well as all the above, also volunteers as a Reading Street Pastor, caring for her community during the night at weekends and at major events including Reading Festival.

Congratulations on your MBE, Tamsin. Hugely well deserved. We are proud to have you at the club.