To give lazy people something to work from, here is my letter written while I should have been doing over nasty lawyerly things. I've already encouraged my old uni club to send this to home MPs and Uni MPs and anyone else's MP who'll listen. This is surely the best opportunity we've had to raise awareness of how many people paddle if nothing else. If all else fails, I've been pulled over by rebels with guns while paddling in Nepal and bribed them with pens and balloons... Do you think it'll work?
I am writing to ask you to give your support and to encourage your fellow MPs to support EDM 957, which backs increased river access for non-powered crafts. As an enthusiastic kayaker/canoeist, I believe it is time for legislation to insist on increased access to waterways, giving even a fraction of the freedom provided to ramblers by the right to roam under The Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000, because the negotiation of access arrangements is too often failing.
Our sport, as represented by the British Canoe Union (the BCU website can be found at http://www.bcu.org.uk
), is one of the fastest growing activities in the country, is a fantastic introduction to the great British Countryside and, perhaps most significantly, promotes aerobic and anaerobic fitness at a time of ever-decreasing activity levels and ever-increasing health problems in our society. However, attitudes best summed up by the familiar refrain 'Not In My Back Yard' and a strong angling community are frustratingly restricting, often totally, access to our many miles of whitewater despite the best efforts of our BCU representatives.
It is a tragedy that more has not been done to promote diversified use of our waterways. In other countries, activities like canoeing and angling co-exist comfortably. In fact, in some parts of the UK, though disappointingly few, our fellow river devotees are more enlightened and a mutually beneficial relationship is enjoyed. They recognise that there is minimal evidence that canoeing is detrimental to fishing, agree access arrangements around the highly limited times of year where spawning and the like could possibly be disturbed and exchange friendly waves as canoeists carefully navigate around angler's lines.
Anyway, enough for now. You must have got the picture. We are just asking for a foothold (well, a paddle-hold maybe!) on Britain's rivers. If all we can do is look at our rivers, people will continue to happily do this on TV, and you can continue to legislate for growing problems with health and antisocial behaviour. We already win Olympic medals for kayaking and canoeing, let's encourage the current generation so that we can dominate this great sport by 2012.
Many thanks for your support