Q&A: Peter Waters, inland waterways volunteer

Serial volunteer Peter Waters talks about his former career in education, community work and role as a volunteer on the county's inland waterways

How old are you?I am 61. I am said to be a typical Taurean with an April 30th birthday. I was born prematurely, my mother had a caesarean and I came out backwards. I definitely started as I meant to go on!

Tell us about your familyI am an only child and a bachelor, so I don't have any family in this country since my parents died. My mother was French, so I have cousins on her side in France and also in Venice and Chile. They have been admittedly good for 'scrounge holidays'.

Where do you live?Nightingale Place in Rickmansworth, behind the Long Island Exchange Hotel. I have never moved away from the area because I really like the location and I am heavily involved in the local community. I've served on the Rickmansworth Residents Association for nearly 30 years, with the Rickmansworth Society for 22 years. I also volunteer as a steward at Three Rivers Museum in the town centre and with Rickmansworth Waterways Trust.

What do you do for a living?I retired nearly two years ago after a career in education administration. I read English at UCL and stayed on after taking my MA there to work for London University. I later became the assistant secretary at St George's Hospital Medical School and then assistant secretary and clerk to the council for the Girls' Public Day School Trust. Now my life is as busy - if not more so - than when I was working! I'm secretary of the Watford Festival of Music, Speech and Drama and a Trustee of Three Rivers Council for Voluntary Service. I am also Vice-Chairman for Three Rivers Music Society, Rickmansworth Historical Society and Friends of Watersmeet Theatre. Add to that senior altar server at my church - 54 years and counting. I'm exhausted just saying them all!

How did you get involved with inland waterways and what do you do?Rickmansworth Waterways Trust first formed nearly 20 years ago as an offshoot of the Residents Association when I was its chairman. The trust's aim was - and still is - to bring together people who are enthusiastic about canals, education and the environment. Now we organise the Rickmansworth Festival every May in the Aquadrome. My role over the weekend is a comfy throne at the festival entrance on Batchworth Bridge to collect donations from visitors.

What else is the trust involved in?We run a really successful and award-winning children's education programme on the inland waterways called 'Learning at the Lock' between Easter and September. I help out too during the summer season at Batchworth Lock Centre, the trust's shop and information centre. The canal is a really vital part of our local community, not least because of the opportunities it provides to both the leisure and voluntary sectors.

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What is your favourite song or piece of music and why?I find it difficult to narrow my favourite music to one piece or composer, so instead it's three classical composers. Edward Elgar because he's so quintessentially English, Richard Strauss because of the richness of his orchestration and musical language and Hector Berlioz because he was so ahead of his time.

Do you have any unfulfilled ambitions?I sometimes wonder what I would have been like if I had become a priest, but I think I'm too independent to have stayed the distance. Marriage too perhaps, but if you think of it as a three-course meal, I have stuck to buffet dips.

Where are the best views in Hertfordshire?For me, views from the Shire Lane walk are fantastic - looking out from West Hyde right at the county edge towards the Thames Valley. It doesn't really matter that the M25 is only 100 yards away behind me - when I'm there I block it out of my consciousness.

What is your favourite town/place in Hertfordshire and why?It can't be anywhere else than Rickmansworth. It has the best of both - in the country but close to London. I always think of it as a big village.

Sum up Hertfordshire in five wordsInexhaustible treasure trove of surprises!