MODEST Dave Throup is the envy of blokes everywhere, with his own adoring fan club and women queuing up to have their picture taken with him.
As the face of the Environment Agency the reformed “New Romantic” has been interviewed by the likes of Eamonn Holmes and George Alagiah, but you can almost hear unassuming Dave’s toes curl at the mention of his Twitter fan club, which now has more than 1,800 followers . There has even been a petition for mild-mannered “Super Dave” to be awarded an MBE for his boundless flood- related heroics.
Yet mixed with Dave’s embarrassment there is pride in his team and gratitude that their efforts have been recognised at a time when the Environment Agency has been berated nationally over its response to flooding.
The fan club, set up during last month’s floods by Ross- on-Wye councillor Andrew Atkinson, is in homage to the hard work of the Environment Agency’s area environment manager for Herefordshire and Worcestershire.
Thanks to his prolific use of Twitter to deliver informative minute-by-minute updates and advice and his media interviews, often delivered from the epicentre of flood-hit areas, Dave is about as close as the EA is ever going to get to a celebrity, albeit a reluctant one.
The 48-year-old, of Powick, said: “There have been a lot of ladies who want to have a photograph taken with me. It’s a bit strange. I don’t feel like a pin-up.
“It is nice that people recognise that what you do is valuable. All I’m doing is my job. It seems bizarre.”
But then freakish weather like flooding often throws up weird scenarios, like the army delivering a free bus service in Upton or EA staff wrestling with 35lb carp on Upton Ham two years ago or, more recently, when fish were flapping along the final furlong at Pitchcroft in Worcester.
So how did Dave end up at the Environment Agency?
Well, it all began with nature walks as a boy in the Worcestershire countryside with his grandfather, Wilfred Lockey, a police officer.
Dave said: “He fired my interest in the natural world. I liked everything about it and that is where I developed my interest in the countryside.”
Dave’s rapport with nature even enabled him to tame a jackdaw, called (what else?) Jack, and he was pictured with the cheeky bird for the Worcester News back in 1976, getting the day off school for the snap. Dave said: “He was a fantastic pet. He used to drop by and tap on my window. He liked anything shiny and threw my mother’s pots across the kitchen. She wasn’t very happy. He went completely wild after four or five years.”
His interest in the environment led to a degree in environmental studies at the University of Wales, in Carmarthen, before he took a Masters in, of all things, pesticide chemistry at the University of Reading. Despite his love of the natural world he hates rats and snakes, which may explain why his first job was working for Rentokil in Aylesbury, before he became a chartered town planner in South Wales. He then moved back to Worcestershire to join Severn Trent Water, where he ran a lot of environmental projects, including getting visitor centres up and running.
But he is in his element working for the Environment Agency, dealing ordinarily with fisheries, pollution re - sponse, regulation and environmental monitoring, but when flooding becomes a problem Dave becomes an incident commander, linking in with the police, fire and ambulance and other partners to spearhead the response, not to mention giving media interviews to national and local journalists for TV, radio and print.
He said: “It’s a fantastic job. You couldn’t get a better job, really.”
In crisis situations like the flooding in February Dave becomes the main point of contact in this area for the EA.
He said: “Flooding is a devastating experience. We want to do everything we can to help or warn people.
“It does get quite personal and we do deal with a lot of anger. People lash out, without a doubt. Part of the job is taking that.
“It is more about empathy, understanding what people have been through. The most rewarding thing is being able to make a difference to people. .”
It can be incredibly hard work. Dave has not had Christmas, Boxing Day or New Year with his family for the last two years, but accepts it is just “part of the job” in the same way it is for the emergency services.
Dave also loves sport (but not football), particularly cricket, and likes nothing better than a beer at Worcestershire County Cricket Club or coaching youngsters at Barnards Green Cricket Club.
Dave, who was born in Newland and attended Powick Primary School and Dyson Perrins High School, in Malvern, is also a family man.
His wife, Cathryn, is head teacher at Clifton-upon-Teme Primary School, and they have two children, Helen, 15, and Owen, 11.
So what does the future hold? Dave says homes in this area are better protected than they have ever been, with valuable lessons learned following the summer floods of 2007, but he does accept that these incidents are increasing. Flood defences, both larger defences like the bund in Hylton Road, Worcester, and smaller ‘individual property protection’, have also meant more homes are spared the perils of flooding. He said around 150 homes flooded in Worcestershire during the February floods compared to 4,700 and five deaths in 2007.