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Thread: Rights Vs Responsibilities or Careless canoeists a warning

  1. #1
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    Default Rights Vs Responsibilities or Careless canoeists a warning

    I am all in favour of access to all our rivers BUT only if we behave responsibly and respect the environment, which requires understanding of the places we go.

    I live on the Avon at Malmesbury, and paddle the river most days. There is no "right of access", so I try to leave no sign of my presence, pick up litter etc. The river here is a wonderful unspoilt piece of water, with lots of birds, fish, dragonflies etc. rafts of vegetation under the trees where the moorhens nest etc. I like it that way. This means that there are one or two bends where you have to steer around obstructions; when it gets really bad, I trim a little bit off, taking care not to disturb any of the wildlife, who have more right to the river than I do, as it is their home, and will be long after we are gone (hopefully).

    Yesterday, a group of canoeists came down the river, and saw fit to saw off large bits of tree on the bends. They just left these in the river. They are far too big to get washed away, so now they will get clogged with weed, and by the end of the summer will block the channel. There was no need to cut them. Any one who can steer could get past easily. Now unless I spend a few hours cutting up the bits, the experience of using the river will be worse for everyone. Also, the people who live next to the river will be justifiably upset by the way these people have behaved, leaving an unsightly mess behind them.

    So, if anyone knows these people, please tell them to think about where they are. They wouldn't appreciate it if I came and chopped up the trees in their gardens one fine Saturday without taking away the bits, and I don't appreciate their thoughtlessness in this case.

    The main point though, is that my neighbours, who I hope had the impression that canoeists were considerate people, now think we are vandals; that does not do the access campaign any good at all.

    Now I suppose I had better get back in the boat and go and clear up the mess........

  2. #2
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    You are quite right David. Our objective is responsible access and we must be (and be seen to be) as strong on the responsibility part as on the access part. I'm not sure of the best way to promote this but I guess your post here is as good a place as any to start.

    I gather Canoe Focus magazine is always looking for good material to include in its Access section - perhaps a short article for publication there would also be a worthwhile way of making your very valid point.
    Keith

  3. #3
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    Quote Originally Posted by DavidWhitby View Post

    They just left these in the river. They are far too big to get washed away, so now they will get clogged with weed, and by the end of the summer will block the channel. There was no need to cut them. Any one who can steer could get past easily. Now unless I spend a few hours cutting up the bits, the experience of using the river will be worse for everyone.


    Now I suppose I had better get back in the boat and go and clear up the mess........

    I think we all share your anger at this sort of thing. And kudos for doing something about the aftermath.

    Just a thought - something I have done in the backcountry when Brother Beaver has been very busy and unfortunately dropped a log or two in precisely the wrong place(s) - I use my boat as a sort of tractor, so to speak, and pulled the obstructions away ( for later use on the fire, of course,... ) Just use a 'truckers hitch' to attach the rope, and off you go.





    Then those big bits will not create a navigation hazard in the future, and they'll be much easier to deal with back on land.

  4. #4
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    Default responsibility

    Just some thoughts.....If a tree falls across a footpath (public right of way) is not the landowner responsible for removal etc ... if a tree on a river bank fall across a public navigation ... who should clear the obstruction ..... The stour in suffolk has trees fallen across the river but is just passable.... whose responsibility.... I do know that if there is a cost or a profit to be had, the landowner will take a different view... ie oak will be removed as the value exceeds the cost...

  5. #5
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    It would probably come under the environment agency's statutory responsibility for flood control. Tree blocking the river will create natural dams that can lead to flooding. a letter to the EA pointing out the issue might help.

    If the river is one of the 4% officially navigations I would have thought the landowner is obliged to keep their trees from becoming a hazard.

    DavidWhitby.

    It would be great if you could post a few pictures of the pruning that you has caused you problems.

    You are perfectly correct to point out that with rights come responsibilities so I an keen to see what damage has been caused.

    That way we can educate others.

    Bushcraft Survival and First Aid Training.

  6. #6
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    This highlights some interesting legal issues too. I am no expert on the law but having dealt with some tree related things in the past there are some points to consider.

    1 Generally there is no right to cut, prune or trim any tree without the owner's permission at least(Trees with Tree Preservation Orders need additional permissions) and removal of the material is theft.

    2 There are instances where someone can prune or trim a tree without the owners permission. For example if a tree overhangs your property (fence line say) you have the right to cut the tree back to a line perpendicular above the boundary however you must return the cut material to the owner.
    Also it may be deemed reasonable to cut back a tree without permission that overhangs or has fallen on a right of way which interferes with safe passage. Once again the material must be left for the owner in a safe position with respect to the right of way and users of it.

    I would venture to suggest that similar principles apply to trees adjacent to rivers.

    If one is canoeing on a river with "Statutary rights" of navigation it would be deemed reasonable to cut back a tree without permission if it interfered with navigation however the principle of leaving the material for the owner to retrieve would no doubt still apply. As would the obligation on the cutter to prevent any possible hazard from the cuttings to other navigators .

    However on a river where the rights of navigation are somewhat less clear and where being on the river may be argued by the riparian owner as being a trespass then cutting a tree would probably be regarded as criminal damage by the owner.

    They are just a few of my thoughts - any lawyers out there?

  7. #7
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    Never a good idea to get lawyers involved in my experience! No offence to any reading here intended.

    I understand that it is the riparian owners responsibility to keep the river free from obstruction, but as the Avon here is by no means a "navigation" it is hard to judge what that means in this case.

    My feeling having spent many hours on this piece of water, through all the seasons, is that it is not our river to make rules about. The first time I saw a moorhen making a nest on a raft of rubbish, I realised that our judgements about how the river should look may be wrong. In this case, I think the primary function of the river is as a wildlife habitat, and our role is to interfere with that as little as possible.

    The river Avon here is now in a delicate balance, largely because of groundwater abstraction, and the flow is very weak much of the year; obstructions like the lopped off branches I mentioned will probably not be naturally washed away until November, and in the meantime will cause accumulations of weed and algae and reduce the surface current, which I believe lowers oxygen levels and subtly changes the environment for the wildlife which lives here. Also all that weed etc. stops harmless canoe nuts like me from getting past quietly!

    We are lucky to have the chance to use rivers like this, and I only ask that we treat them with respect.

  8. #8
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    Default The Law, etc

    Quercus makes a good point - not only should we consider the environment but what you describe appears to be criminal damage.

    Similarly, the taking of wood for fires is questionable on both environmental and legal grounds, and there was an article about this from one of the NTS rangers at Mar Lodge in, I think, Scottish Outdoor magazine recently. As you say, even something which looks 'unsightly' could well be an important part of something's habitat.
    Damien

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by davidm View Post
    Just some thoughts.....If a tree falls across a footpath (public right of way) is not the landowner responsible for removal etc ... if a tree on a river bank fall across a public navigation ... who should clear the obstruction

    The landowner is responsible for any trees on his land falling across a river, navigable or not. Also, any tree which is in such a state as it may fall into the river (such as through rot or wind damage) should be dealt with before falling.

    If a landowner doesn't remove the obstruction when requested, then the authorities will, and submit the bill to the landowner.

    A family member has a house on the banks of a small river and owns a small island where the river passes either side. We have removed a couple of large branches which have fallen across the river, from the island. They were asked by the EA to maintain some of the remaining trees which, due to erosion, looked like they could fall in the near future.

  10. #10
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    As a general principle, the EA do not clear trees. This is the responsibility of the land owner. The EA have mixted feelings on the subject as described further up, some level of fallen trees can provide habitat and vantage points for other river dwelling animals, particularly otters who the EA are keen to encourage.

    Even on a navigation, the EA would prefer landowners to deal with their rubbish.

  11. #11
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    I believe it is also one of the riparian owners responsibilities to remove any obstruction in the river even if the material did not originate on his/her portion of the river bank.

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