Right then, this is my first ever blog, so you’ll just have to bear with me. (We’ve all got to start somewhere.)
So then… What does “Freedom to Paddle” mean?
Well if you live just about anywhere outside of England & Wales, it probably doesn’t mean that much to you. You already have the right to paddle just about anywhere you want.
But here, in England & Wales, the reality is a lot, lot, different.
We only have the legal right to paddle on 4 to 5% of our rivers. Yes that’s right, 5% at most. Its shocking. Unless there are access agreements in place with the land owner and/or the people who hold the fishing rights, then paddling or any other use of a river, is classed as common trespass, which isn’t a criminal matter in itself, but if they can prove that you’ve caused damage, or been verbally abusive, it then does become a criminal matter. When I say prove, what I really mean is, their word against somebody who is already committing civil trespass. Who’s side do you think the law will be on???
This isn’t just a problem for paddlers, it also effects swimmers, rowers & even children, who just want to play in the water.
Under the Countryside Right of Way act 2000, rivers & freshwater lakes were originally going to be included, but they were taken out at the last minute, due to the objections of landowners & anglers. This wasn’t done in Scotland & there is now a public right to use Scottish rivers for recreation.
I don’t know why they just listened to the land owners & anglers? It seems like we’re living in the 18 century or something. Maybe they bribed them!!!
Anyway, I’ve had enough, but what can I do???
I’ve had a little seed of an idea in my head for a while about this, but first, I should tell you about my own paddling problem.
I live on a hill between two rivers, they’re both good rivers for paddling, mostly flat water, but there’s some grade one, with a bit of two thrown in. There’s other great paddling rivers in England & Wales, but I can’t get there. I have Epilepsy & I can’t drive. I got this from a bad head injury in 2003 & although its a lot better than it used to be, I’ve still got it.
Both of these rivers are within walking distance, either carrying a kayak on my back, or by using a trolley. I could say “sod it” & paddle on the rivers anyway, there’s plenty of people that do. But I’d rather not break the law & always having to keep an eye out for Land owners & razor wire stretched across the river & having heated arguments with anglers, is not my idea of fun.
So, I’ve got two choices. Either, just restrict my paddling to when I can get to other places. ie. Scotland, the English Lake District & Norway. (Oh, I forgot, they’ve stopped all the ferries to Norway, so that’s out too. Grrrrrr.)
Or, I can work on my little plan & this is why I’m doing this blog.
My plan is, to start at the Cumbrian coast in Western England, Paddle up the sea to the Scottish border. Then cross the length of the border on the Scottish side, using rivers as much as I can, but also carrying or dragging my kayak. I would then paddle around the English coast, until I reached Wales. Where I would either use a trolley or carry the kayak along the Welsh/English border, until I reach the sea, where I’ll the paddle up to where I started from.
I thought I might as well try to raise a bit of money for charity whilst doing this, but it will be done mostly for political reasons, trying to get the law changed.
Yes, I’m probably a bit mad for wanting to do this, but I just want to go paddling & I can’t at the moment.