Times article

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chicklechives
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Times article

Post by chicklechives »

Has anyone got access to the Times article today on river access?
Fancy copying and pasting here?

sonofflubber
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Re: Times article

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We inflate our kayaks beside the River Loddon in a drowsy corner of Hampshire so idyllic it should be prescribed for high blood pressure. On a bright summer day, this is a sparkling stretch of river out of The Wind in the Willows, perfect for messing about in boats.

An angler appears. “That’s private all the way down there,” he tells us. “All owned by the Duke of Wellington. Do you have permission?”

Nick Hayes, my guide for the day, tells him cheerfully that we do not have permission. “Then you shouldn’t be here,” the outraged fisherman says. “I don’t see it like that,” Hayes says.

On many rivers there has been tension between those with paddles and those with rods, especially in recent years, when the popularity of kayaking and paddleboarding has boomed. This one stalks off and we start paddling upstream, away from him and blissfully unsuspecting of the welcome that we are shortly to receive.

To write a book about the history of trespassing, Hayes, 38, an illustrator, writer and campaigner on land access rights, has been all over England in search of walls to climb over and “keep out” signs to defy as he explores grand estates, closed rivers and the dense thickets of laws preventing access to private property.

In the year of the staycation, when we are all piling out into the countryside in search of socially distanced recreation on land and water, his quest to discover exactly where we can tramp and paddle is suddenly very timely.

Rivers are particularly contested territory. The boom in kayaking, paddleboarding and wild swimming has only increased since the pandemic. British Canoeing’s membership has leapt 40 per cent in the past year, with 19,000 new members joining in the past three months.

An estimated two million people take part in paddling activities each year and a similar number swim in rivers and lakes. The water-sports trend of the summer is stand-up paddleboarding, with Red Paddle Co reporting a 100 per cent increase in traffic to its website.

However, rivers are remarkably inaccessible. Unless the river has a clear right of navigation, as exists on some larger rivers — including the Thames, the Upper Severn and the Wye, as well as tidal water — the law is murky and disputed.

The rights to the riverbanks and beds are owned by those who own the land on either side, and that means, as Hayes and many others understand it, that a kayaker technically needs the permission of all those landowners to proceed down the river. Often the landowners make money from fishing rights, and the anglers, who have long enjoyed the tranquillity of these riverbanks, don’t appreciate kayakers passing through.

British Canoeing, which is campaigning to improve access, estimates that of the 42,700 miles of inland waterways in England, which includes canals, only 1,400 miles can be paddled uncontested. The organisation believes that there is a strong case that under common law there is a public right of navigation on all rivers that are physically capable of being navigated, but accepts that others disagree and has a website that allows you to check where you can go safely, without fear of being challenged.

You need a licence to go on most waterways, and British Canoeing’s arrangements with navigation authorities gives those with membership (£45) access to rivers managed by the Environment Agency, the Broads Authority and the Canal & River Trust’s waterways. “Differing interpretations of the existing law create a climate for conflict, which is not conducive to co-operative working,” a spokesman for British Canoeing says.

Baroness Grey-Thompson, the paralympian, is among members of the House of Lords supporting an amendment to the agriculture bill that would enable farmers to be financially rewarded for building paths to waterways to provide access for kayakers and swimmers. She told the Lords last month that it was “damaging to restrict people to using just a tiny amount of water. If we could spread that use out, the burden on existing pressure points would surely be eased.”

The Country Land and Business Association says it has supported voluntary access agreements to rivers for many years. “We believe that increasing access for kayakers, canoeists and swimmers must be assessed in light of competing demands for the river and for suitability,” says Sophie Dwerryhouse, the association’s national access adviser. “A strategic approach is needed to understand the impact of competing interests such as on environment, conservation and fisheries.”

On many rivers there is tension between those with paddles and those with rods
On many rivers there is tension between those with paddles and those with rods
GETTY IMAGES
On the Loddon we pass a sign declaring this is Stratfield Saye Fishery: “No public right of way.” We have only travelled 200m when there is a crash in the undergrowth on the left bank and two men appear asking what we think we are doing.

They are wearing Wellington estate polo shirts and are the duke’s water bailiffs. Hayes, a veteran of encounters with employees of great estates, asks what right does the 9th Duke of Wellington have to own a whole stretch of river.

“You, as a grateful nation, gave it to him,” says the older loyal retainer. The 1st Duke of Wellington was given the Stratfield Saye estate in gratitude for defeating Napoleon at the Battle of Waterloo. The house is a little way upstream.

Ninety-seven per cent of English rivers are inaccessible to the public, Hayes states, and that’s not the case in Scotland or Norway. “Go there then,” comes the unsympathetic reply. One of the bailiffs suggests he might come round to Hayes’s house and start using his barbecue. “My house is tiny. And I don’t own an inch of river,” Hayes says. “Good!” comes the retort.

Trespass, which Hayes points out in his book is a “charged word”, is mostly dealt with under civil law and has been since the late 17th century. The old sign “trespassers will be prosecuted” is, Hayes says, “an out-and-out lie”. You can end up in court if you cause damage, or if you refuse to leave and resist the efforts of the police to remove you, which could be a breach of the peace.

This year the government concluded consultation on a law to criminalise trespass, which is aimed at tackling travellers’ encampments. The Ramblers and other organisations are concerned that the law could have the unintended consequence of deterring people from accessing the countryside.

Landowners can remove you from their property using “reasonable force”. This is disconcertingly vague and I ask our water bailiff friends if they have had to do this. They have turned people out of their kayaks and taken the boats off the water. “Nothing to stop us turfing you out of the canoe as long as you don’t injure yourself,” we are told. If we don’t leave it will be “a police job”, so we retreat to our embarkation point.

As we are sitting on the bank a member of the estate’s security team pops his head over the road bridge above us and explains the family don’t want people coming through their “back garden’’.

“I’m shaking. I don’t like the adrenaline of confrontation,” Hayes says. “And I feel like it’s an aborted day. We were very quietly, very gently taking in the day. However, the law allows the landowner to redefine that gentle act as an act of aggression. The law’s on their side.”

The concept of trespass entered the lawbooks in the 13th century, but Hayes has brought us here to talk about a later episode in the history of land access. In the early 18th century civil unrest in Hampshire and Berkshire took the form of mass poaching. Because many of the poachers blackened their faces with charcoal they were referred to as Blacks. The law introduced to deal with them in 1723, the Black Act, turned a huge range of rustic crimes, from deer stealing to wrecking a fish pond, into capital offences.

“It was hysteria of private landowners, not wanting people to exercise the rights that they once held on their land,” Hayes says. Back then our little jaunt might have ended nastily. “We could have been transported or hanged.”

The boom in kayaks and wild swimming has only increased since the pandemic
The boom in kayaks and wild swimming has only increased since the pandemic
GETTY IMAGES
Andrew Speed, the estate manager approaches. He is reason personified and so keen for us to get going that he offers us a lift off the estate. We explain who we are and what our plan had been for the day. “A lovely idea,” he says amicably, but it’s just not possible. He is sure we are very responsible, but if he said yes to us he’d have to say yes to everyone. We have a friendly chat and then we pack up.

When I later contact Speed he explains that the public can use 22 miles of footpaths on the estate and there is also a 350-acre country park for paying visitors and an equestrian centre. The house is open at Easter and in August and for group visits at other times. “Access is restricted to the river so that the anglers, who pay to fish it, can do so undisturbed. It is unfair for them to pay money and then have their enjoyment and value for money compromised by other river users.”

Hayes has trespassed on other aristocratic estates, including those of the Duke of Buccleuch and the Duke of Norfolk, and wherever he went his aim was to draw the land, “absorb its topography and atmosphere and see what happens”. He was only occasionally confronted by gamekeepers and never met any of the landowners.

Greater public access would yield mental and physical health benefits, and he believes that it is right for people to enjoy vast areas that once were common land, even if many of them ceased to be so around the time of William the Conqueror.

Hayes carried out his trespasses in accordance with the Scottish Outdoor Access Code, introduced in 2003, under which you can enjoy the outdoors on most land and inland water, including mountains, moorland, woods, rivers, lochs, parks and open spaces, as long as you behave responsibly. You can’t go into other people’s houses or gardens or on to land adjacent to their home when doing so might cause the owner to be “unreasonably disturbed”.

The Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000 afforded more limited access to the mountainsides, moors, heaths, downlands and common land of England and Wales. It doesn’t cover most of the big estates that Hayes is interested in and excludes waterways.

Hayes would love to see the Scottish version of the right to roam in England. “Maybe that’s wishful thinking for a country where the culture of exclusion has become so embedded, in a way that it never was in Scotland. The purpose of these trespasses was to put the reader inside these places as a way of demystifying the notion that it’s an immoral act. The book is saturated with observations of pretty bits of nature and just sitting down and having a cheese sandwich. There’s nothing going on there that is damaging.”

Sometimes he lit a fire during a trespass, including in the grounds of Arundel Castle in West Sussex, one of the homes of the Duke of Norfolk. So if he bought a spread with river frontage, would he object if I stopped by and lit a fire there? “Of course I would because it is an invasion of my sense of personal sanctity.” He refers me to the Scottish code and its stipulation that gardens and land close to a house are a “commonsense exception” to the right to roam.

He says landowners object to a right to roam because they say England is a small country. “It’s a cramped country because there’s so much space hidden behind brick walls. I barely met a soul and I walked miles.”

But isn’t England’s glorious network of public footpaths and rights of way enough for anyone to explore? “Footpaths are beautiful and brilliant, but I find walks [on paths] just a little dull. If you’re scrambling through the woods you’re discovering stuff.”

Hayes doesn’t just want access. He would like to see a redistribution of the value of the land through a land value tax. He went trespassing on estates that had been built on the profits of colonial business that relied on slaves and calls these “monoliths to the myth of white supremacy”.

He believes that organisations such as the National Trust need to do more to tell the story of the colonial origins of the wealth that built many houses and as a form of reparations the estates should be turned over, at least in part, to community allotments.

I wonder if he got a thrill from all this creeping about. “Absolutely not,” he says. “There’s nothing about me that likes getting caught up in barbed wire as I am climbing through a private woodland. I’ve never enjoyed confrontation with authority.”

I feel a flutter of wings pass very close to my head. “Kingfisher!” Hayes says. I’ve never seen a kingfisher and am gutted not to have glimpsed it. “You’d definitely have seen one,” Hayes says glumly, “if we’d carried on up the river.”
The Book of Trespass: Crossing the Lines That Divide Us by Nick Hayes is published by Bloomsbury on August 20

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chicklechives
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Re: Times article

Post by chicklechives »

Awesome, thanks

Interesting read, hope that the trend for sup and swimming continue and force change

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Re: Times article

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Great thing with SUPs, they are not boats, so all those no boating signs.......
Jason

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Adrian Cooper
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It's a shame they kept calling it trespass

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I've currently reading one of Nick Hayes' graphic books, The Drunken Sailor, which is excellent but has nothing to do with trespass, and best avoided if you are easily offended, but I have just bought his new book which I had on pre-order as I am attracted to his radical thinking on the subject of land owndership.
it's not a playboat, it's a river runner

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chicklechives
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Re: Times article

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Have heard him interviewed a few times and he comes across very well. Really compelling case.

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“Access is restricted to the river so that the anglers, who pay to fish it, can do so undisturbed. It is unfair for them to pay money and then have their enjoyment and value for money compromised by other river users.”

This is absolutely what it’s all about. People will pay more for fishing rights if they are promised exclusively. Follow the money.

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I have started reading Nick Hayes' book and although I'm only a few pages in I can recommend it. It isn't a difficult read, it maintains interest and he certainly clarifies trespass law, albeit from his point of view.
it's not a playboat, it's a river runner

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John K wrote:
Fri Aug 21, 2020 7:36 am
“Access is restricted to the river so that the anglers, who pay to fish it, can do so undisturbed. It is unfair for them to pay money and then have their enjoyment and value for money compromised by other river users.”

This is absolutely what it’s all about. People will pay more for fishing rights if they are promised exclusively. Follow the money.
Greetings from Finland! Here, I think, most kayakers do also fish. We do paddle on the day time and fish on the night time, on the same rivers. I have never understood, that there can be just fishermen, or paddlers. Last time I was visiting there, I of course had my travel fly rod with. We were in Betws-y-Coed and I was fishing also. Also the rivers Dee and Derwent looked out so good for fly fishing.

But, I did not get your point at all. If/When I buy a fishing license, I get a license for fishing on that river section, I do not get any other rights. Fishing licenses are expensive also here. On some good trout streams a day license can be 80 euros, but I do not definitely get any other privilegies for that money but just fishing; not yelling to paddlers, or, (Ican`t believe that) swimmers, or hikers, or no one else. If I would start to argue with other outdoor people, I might loose my expensive fishing license.

Have you tried to go to the river banks with fly rods on your hand and try to talk with the fishermen?

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Re: Times article

Post by jmmoxon »

You have somewhat more space & fewer people in Finland, so easier to keep out of each others way...
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The issue is not the population density of the UK, it's our acceptance that all of the land (and water) is owned by someone, and that ownership of land confers the right to control access. This gives the fishermen who pay to rent a bit of space on the river a sense of injustice stemming from the view that kayakers are just freeloaders. The population density in the Highlands of Scotland is not too dissimilar to Finland and yet there was plenty of friction between anglers and kayakers before the right to roam was made law, and still continues to this day in pockets probably due to a hangover of attitudes, and also that a lot of anglers and landowners in Scotland are actually English.
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Re: Times article

Post by Chris Bolton »

KaitsuH wrote:If/When I buy a fishing license, I get a license for fishing on that river section, I do not get any other rights.
That's the same in England - but some anglers think that because they've paid for their licence to fish, and canoeists have not paid, the anglers have priority. Of course, we all pay taxes, and the ultimate owner of all land is the Queen, so we have paid really. (Cyclists have the same problem with car drivers, because you pay for a licence for a car but not a bicycle). A legal book was written in 1830 that said the landowner had the right to control use of the river, but there's a lot of evidence now that that was not correct. Not all English law is written down exactly, it can depends on interpretation of things from many hundreds of years ago.

So in 2020, I had two canoe trips in Finland planned, one to Lake Saimaa and one to Hossa National Park. Both were cancelled because of the virus but I hope to go in 2021.
This gives the fishermen who pay to rent a bit of space on the river a sense of injustice stemming from the view that kayakers are just freeloaders.
I think this is the key point. Once the law changed in Scotland and it became clear that nobody had any more right to the river than anybody else, that sense of injustice disappeared for many. It's only a minority of fishermen who object to paddlers in Scotland.

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