Canoeists are calling on the Government to provide greater access to UK waterways, reports the BBC.
An argument over use of the UK’s miles of waterways has led to canoeists calling on the Government to legislate to provide for fairer access.
The canoeists say that they should have a ‘right to paddle’ on UK rivers, opening up large parts of the country to a sport that is rapidly growing in popularity.
However, landowners and anglers are stifling their ambitions, wanting to keep the rivers free for their own enjoyment.
In an interview with the BBC, one canoeist described the scenes on the river as akin to that in war-torn Iraq.
“”It’s like canoeing in Baghdad. You’re never sure what’s round the next corner,” they said.
The canoeists describe a hostile environment where anglers and landowners are driven to shout abuse and taunt canoeists as they peacefully paddle by. The BBC report demonstrates that the issue is not isolated to one particular area, with canoeists from across the UK reporting similar stories of conflict.
Presently only 4% of UK waterways have public access rights. The result is that the UK’s 1.2m canoeists have just 2,800 miles of water to explore, compared to 41,000 miles of riverway in total.
UK law states that the person who owns the riverbank also owns the riverbed. However, the canoeists argue that the water that runs in the river is free from ownership, and they should therefore be entitled to paddle on them in the way that ramblers are permitted a ‘right to roam’.
One academic has published a thesis claiming that a legal right existed for public use of all watercourses in the UK from 1189 until around 1600.
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