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Rivers Access

In England and Wales, canoeists, kayakers and swimmers have no recognised legal right to enjoy rivers or lakes. Prior to the 1940’s informal access was rarely challenged. Subsequently some riparian owners have declared that there is no public right to water. This has no basis other than loose case law relating to trespass which is not relevant if there is a right!

Not even the Welsh Assembly Government can clarify the existence of statutory rights on even small pieces of water. The response being that a court case is required.

It sounds unlikely, but it’s true!

Current government advice is to rely on access agreements, but we can see they’re not working and potentially not necessary! So it’s time for a change. Find out how you can help.

I have recently found tihs poem, below, which I think sums thinks up rather nicely.

The Gentleman at the River

The gentleman at the river
The one who owned the land
Said I could not paddle
He told me I was banned
He explained that this was ‘his river’
And he was not obliged to share
But he kindly agreed to an access agreement
Which he considered fair
An annual trip on a very short stretch
On a specified date and time
Would be how canoeist’s could enjoy ‘his river’
Without committing a crime

The gentleman at the river
The one who owned the land
Said I could not paddle
He told me I was banned
I did not apologise, I did not speak
I launched within sight of this man
If someone says that you can’t paddle
Show them that you can

I thanked this gentleman profusely
For his reasonable and generous ways
For agreeing to canoeists’ access
On those few, selective, days
And for forty years I kept to his rules
And I requested that others did too
This was, after all, ‘his river’
My negotiations reinforcing this view

But it was when he withdrew his permission
That I finally realised
That at that very first meeting
This gentleman had lied
This was no more ‘his river’
Than it belongs to you or me
In law nobody owns the water
Meaning that all our rivers are free
The river has flowed for thousands of years
Long before this man
His house, his fences, his cows and sheep
Had occupied the land
It is part of our natural heritage
Which is not the preserve of the few
Rivers are free for all to enjoy
Including me out paddling my canoe

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