Access article in Todays Independent

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Access article in Todays Independent

Post by buck197 » ... 335810.ece

Hope the link works and some good PR for River Access.

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Post by neilfarmer »

Since you need to pay for 'independent articles' online, when they are more than 3 days old, the article is reproduced below. I also find that the website will not display properly in some browsers (Safari).

Perhaps we can send in some letters from kayakers? This would show an interest to the paper, who may follow the story up and the MP's who read it!


Letters to the Editor are from the print edition of the Independent. E-mail responses (no attachments), giving postal address and telephone number, to

From this URL :


Canoeists fight for right to paddle the 'blue pathways'
By Terry Kirby, Chief Reporter
Published: 31 December 2005

When the nation's ramblers finally achieved the right to roam at will across the countryside, it was a cause for celebration among all lovers of open spaces.

But for one group the victory was bittersweet. For although the battle for the right to roam has been won, the fight for permission to paddle is very much the coming cause of 2006.

Since the full implementation last month of the Countryside and Rights of Way Act Britain's two million-plus canoeists have increased their efforts to be granted similar rights to paddle freely along Britain's rivers - what they term "blue pathways" - the vast majority of which flow through land where rights are controlled by landowners.

Campaign leaders have warned that some of their more militant followers may resort to acts of illegal trespass on private rivers if they do not make progress. Many are already unofficially breaking the law every week by canoeing on rivers where they do not have permission.

The issue has divided MPs. Almost 100 have signed an early day motion, tabled by John Grogan, Labour MP for Selby, urging the Government to extend the right to roam to all waterways - noting that the most successful Olympic canoeing nation, Germany, requires landowners to tolerate the use of non-powered craft on their waterways and that similar access in Britain would boost the nation's chances of future Olympic success.

But a group of pro-angling MPs, led by Martin Salter, another Labour MP, have hit back with an amendment, saying that river access should be by voluntary agreement only and that sensitive aquatic environments should be protected.

Chris Hawksworth, the access and facilities manager of the British Canoe Union, said canoeists were still angry over being excluded from the provisions of the Rights of Way Act - introduced by the Labour Government to honour a manifesto commitment. "Rivers were excluded specifically because of lobbying from both landowners and the angling fraternity," he said. "We feel we were discriminated against."

He said that fears by anglers or naturalists that canoeists would disturb the environment were unfounded. "We aren't going to destroy swans' nests or frighten away kingfishers if we can help it. We enjoy nature as much as any other users of the countryside."

The anomaly only persists in England and Wales. In Scotland, the introduction of wider freedoms under the Land Reform Act opened rivers to all.

Canoeists are particularly annoyed that local angling associations maintain objections to canoeists throughout the year, and yet for four months of the fishing close season, the anglers stay at home.

Anglers reject suggestions of discrimination, saying their concern is to preserve fishing grounds and breeding areas for a sport enjoyed by many millions more than canoeing.

The county of Devon has some of the best rivers for canoeing in England and Wales, which flow through some of the most beautiful countryside in the South-west. And yet every weekend, to enjoy both rivers and countryside, canoeists break the law and risk threats and intimidation from landowners and fishermen.

"Our members do not enjoy breaking the law but every week many of them do so, myself included," said Peter Thorn, 57, an educational consultant and a member of the Bideford Canoe Club who has been a canoeist since the age of 12.

He added: "In the 1930s there was a huge outcry about the fact that grouse moors were being kept for the exclusive use of the shooting fraternity. This feels like the same kind of feudal arrangement to protect [the] exclusive preserve of the fishermen."

The Environment Agency - the quango which looks after rivers and waterways - said that while it was anxious to open the nation's waterways to public use, it was committed to help negotiate agreements between canoeists and other users. A spokeswoman stressed that four pilot schemes were under way to establish best practice and that an extra 45 miles of waterways would be opened next year. Any legislation would be a matter for Defra, which has ruled it out for the present.

Neil Farmer.

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