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Thread: Questions for the CEO of Canoe England

  1. #1

    Default Questions for the CEO of Canoe England

    In preparation for my attendance at next year's Canoe England AGM, there are some questions I would like to ask the CEO. They are these:

    1. How long have you been CEO of Canoe England?
    2. In that time how many extra miles of access to English Rivers has been obtained by the Canoe England Access Campaign?
    3. Please list the rivers to which extra access has been obtained during your term of office.
    4. How many members of Canoe England are there?
    5. What proportion of these members competes actively in the various forms of canoe competition?
    6. What proportion of these members would describe their interest as recreational and touring as opposed as competitive?
    7. How much does Canoe England spend each year on the access licenses for which members pay in their membership fees?
    8. What is Canoe England’s annual budget?
    9. What proportion of the budget is spent directly on the Access Campaign?
    10. How is this Access Campaign money spent?
    11. What would be your estimate of the proportion of members who join primarily to obtain access licenses?

    Do you have any further questions to add to this list prior to my request for information?
    Doug Dew
    "The best is yet to come" My Father


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    That seems to have covered the aspects,Doug.

    Possibly comment/congratulate on the 3rd party insurance-very necessary and part of the reason I signed up-the access to the Medway ,Thames and Essex/Suffolk/Norfolk coverd by the BCU being another.

    On a local issue,It seems that the Royal Military Canal authority-Shepway district council -accepts the BCU 3rd party insurance;but still charges for use
    (All cnoeists on RMS must have 3rd party liability + a licence -see the blog by Silver Birch on Royal Military Canal where Pipes posted a reference to this charge.

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    Very comprehensive Doug. One point that bugs me over access rights, extra miles etc would be "and for how many days is this available?"

    The River Dove for instance, could be declared as a local agreement, a success and as having access - the devil they say is in the detail, it's available for one weekend a year in March !!

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    Hi Doug

    If you you get staight answers to all of that lot from CE I'll send you a box of wine !

    The questions look pretty good though. Given real figures, it is hard to hide anywhere.

    Good Luck mate

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    havent renewed my membership, will be interested to hear his replies and they will determine wether i join again or not
    nature is m X-box

  6. #6

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    On 7th November 2011, I wrote to Paul Owen, CEO of Canoe England as follows, (I Have summarized his response to each question in capitals):

    Paul,



    As you know, I am associated with the Song of the Paddle Access Campaign. One of the issues about which there is most debate among our members is the role of the BCU in obtaining undisputed access to English rivers. To be frank, there is a commonly held view that the BCU's performance in this area has been ineffective. I am sure you are well aware of this.



    However there is no specific information available to members as to exactly what resources the BCU applies to its access campaign, what priority the BCU gives to Access activities versus Competitive canoeing and what has actually been achieved in the last few years.



    Some SOTP members will attend the 2012 AGM with a view to influencing BCU Access policy and offering assistance where they can.



    I therefore ask you these questions, with a view to publishing your answers on the SOTP forum:



    1. How long have you been CEO of BCU? -PAUL DECLINES TO ANSWER ON THE BASIS THAT THE QUESTION IS IRRELEVANT
    2. In that time how many extra miles of access to English Rivers has been obtained by the BCU Access Campaign? - PAUL DECLINES TO ANSWER ON THE BASIS THAT THE QUESTION IS IRRELEVANT
    3. Please list the rivers to which extra access has been obtained during your term of office.-PAUL DECLINES TO ANSWER ON THE BASIS THAT THE QUESTION IS IRRELEVANT
    4. How many members of the BCU are there? -ANSWERED
    5. What proportion of these members competes actively in the various forms of canoe competition -PAUL DOES NOT KNOW
    6. What proportion of these members would describe their interest as recreational and touring as opposed as competitive? -PAUL DOES NOT KNOW
    7. How much does BCU spend each year on the access licenses for the various water ways; for which members pay in their membership fees? PAUL DECLINES TO ANSWER ON THE BASIS OF "COMMERCIAL CONFIDENTIALITY"
    8. What is the BCU’s annual budget? - PAUL DECLINES TO ANSWER ON THE BASIS THAT THE "BCU ACCOUNTS ARE PUBLISHED ANNUALLY"
    9. What proportion of the budget is spent directly on the Access Campaign PAUL DECLINES TO ANSWER
    10. How is this Access Campaign money spent? PAUL DECLINES TO ANSWER
    11. What would be your estimate of the proportion of members who join primarily to obtain access licenses? ​PAUL DECLINES TO ANSWER
    I look forward to your response,



    Doug Dew

    On 5th December 2011, I received a very disappointing response... you will see from above that Paul feels no obligation to answer my questions, asked on behalf of the thousands of canoeists who are SOTP members. If you agree, why don't you email Paul with the same set of questions and a copy to Albert Woods, President, c/o
    info@bcu.org.uk<info@bcu.org.uk>;

    Paul's response is shown below...

    Hi Doug

    For reasons that will become evident you will see that answers to your questions have been summarised in the following response.

    The BCU addresses access issues through the individual national associations as relevant to each country within the UK. The Canoe England Rivers Access Campaign seeks to establish an assumed right of access to all rivers in England rather than focusing on individual rivers or sections of rivers. Ideally this would be established through legislative change such as that which the SCA used to great effect in Scotland, but the initiative for such change needs to come from the Westminster Government which is currently focusing on other priorities.

    For reasons of commercial confidentiality Canoe England are unable to give you the breakdown of access spend and licences as requested. The BCU accounts are published annually as is a Companies Act requirement. However, membership figures are as follows

    · England = 62770
    · Scotland = 5953
    · Wales = 6122
    · N. Ireland = 686

    Access is only a part of the work that the more accurately named Waterways and Environment Dept undertake. Waterways and Environment have expanded their role to develop and promote Canoe England green credentials in response to challenges and threats from others to our sport.

    Canoe England has produced publications such as the good environmental practice guidance leaflet – You, Your Canoe and the Environment. This provides information to help paddlers take responsibility for their actions and consider both other users and the environment whilst paddling. Our role in increasing environmental awareness to paddlers is essential if we are to raise the profile of the sport to other water users as being an environmentally benign activity. Waterways and Environment will continue to develop a good working relationship with a number of external organisations such as Natural England, Rivers Trust and Environment Agency who may provide opportunities to develop our aims and help promote the sport as safe for the environment which can be carried out in a responsible and sustainable manner.

    Canoe England cannot measure the success of the access campaign in miles of access gained and I don’t really see the relevance in doing such a comparison with my length of employment especially as my role is varied and I think it would be best for others to comment on or judge my successes (or not) over my period of employment. The Canoe England Rivers Access Campaign is about ensuring clarity and certainty of access to and along our inland waterways. Canoe England has recently published a Waterways and Environment Charter which sets out the views of Canoe England concerning the legal situation and environmental use of the waterways of England. If it access was just about adding more miles in a piecemeal fashion then I would be looking to access agreements which I regard as a sometimes necessary evil.

    The primary objective of the access campaign is to secure public rights to and along non-tidal waters and reverse the present legal position. The campaign has effectively highlighted how the law not only works against the interests of canoeing , but the wider the community as a whole from the positive responses that continue to be received. For my part any extra miles gained in the present circumstances will be through AA’s that are in a sense a separate thread to the work of the campaign. Such are the difficulties in making these private arrangements as is evident from the limited success of this process, they only provide an unsatisfactory insecure piecemeal provision in the shorter term.

    The campaign is a longer game and about reconciling this status-quo with AA’s that enables some interests to place legal constraints on the use of non-tidal waters. The current campaign activity goes back to the passage of what was to be the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000. The BCU lobbied unsuccessfully to have access to water included, but as a consequence the government recognised the situation and commissioned research from the University of Brighton - “Water based sport and recreation: the facts 2001”. The research findings fully confirmed the BCU claiming that public access to and along non-tidal waters was highly restricted. The historical research by the Rev’d Dr Douglas Caffyn has made a further contribution to our position.

    The campaign built on these findings and the subsequent studies by the university and Environment Agency to develop access arrangements that had limited success. The campaign continues to lobby parliament that has included a Ten Minute Rule Bill – “Access to Waterways” that reached a second reading and drew further attention to our cause. The campaign has also evolved beyond simply recognising an important recreational resource and taken the debate into health benefits, education, and community benefits across government, and more recently has taken an increasingly active role in promoting the environmental well being of the waterways.

    Members taking part in competitive canoeing is hard to determine as there are thousands of local competitions covering a wide variety of disciplines all over the country each year and the numbers participating in these is not collected.


    Kind Regards

    Paul Owen
    Chief Executive
    E-mail: paul.owen@bcu.org.uk





    Doug Dew
    "The best is yet to come" My Father


  7. #7

    Default A possible question

    A proportion of paddlers are under the impression that CE / BCU are doing very little with regards to access and that BCU / CE will not give an unequivical backing to the right of access to rivers. Does the committee have any ideas why paddlers might think this about their Union and what could be done to improve this perception?


    As can be seen from the work of the various online communities, there is a willingness of paddlers to get involved in improving access. How does the committee feel it could make best use of this volunteer workforce?

    Or something similar.

    Mike

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    I will not be renewing my membership of the CE until the current leadership recognise that the majority of paddlers want to see their governing body focus on what matters to them ACCESS.

    Bushcraft Survival and First Aid Training.

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    Default P,f,l,o,p

    The BCU addresses access issues through the individual national associations as relevant to each country within the UK. The Canoe England Rivers Access Campaign seeks to establish an assumed right of access to all rivers in England rather than focusing on individual rivers or sections of rivers. Ideally this would be established through legislative change such as that which the SCA used to great effect in Scotland, but the initiative for such change needs to come from the Westminster Government which is currently focusing on other priorities.

    The Government will always focus on 'other priorities'until we can get them to take another look at this 'minor' issue !

    It do's not help that the bloke in charge of the Environment Agency ,Richard Benyon, feels he
    owns both banks of the river that runs for

    several miles,though his garden in Berkshire.
    Last edited by KeithD; 9th-January-2012 at 08:18 PM. Reason: fix quotes

  10. #10

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    I think the problem is a fundamental lack of respect by the BCU of it's members. Paul simply treated all the questions he was asked with contempt, even though he was speaking to an audience of thousands of recreational canoeists at SOTP. This is coupled with a complete ignorance of how many of his members are recreational rather than competitive canoeists and what their needs are.

    The bottom line is that the BCU should represent all canoeists, whether they are members or not.

    If I were a conspiracy theorist, I would say that the BCU is in cahoots with the government along the lines of "if you don't make waves about access, we will give you money for competitive sport".


    I hope many SOTPers , whether members of the BCU or not, will write to Paul, Paul.owen@bcu.org.uk, and insist that he answers the questions we have raised.
    Doug Dew
    "The best is yet to come" My Father


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    Emailed Paul asking for some answers doubt I will get much more of a response though.

    Bushcraft Survival and First Aid Training.

  12. #12

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    Right or wrong....I would expect that the success of CE in 2012 will be determined by the success of various canoe related events in the olympics. CE will be measured on how the events are run, attendance and the medal tally. I'm guessing access issues are even further down the CEO's list of priorities than usual.

    In my opinion its probably fair that they spend most of their efforts representing the majority of the members, hence I'd be particularly interested in the answers to following.

    What proportion of these members competes actively in the various forms of canoe competition?
    What proportion of these members would describe their interest as recreational and touring as opposed as competitive?

  13. #13
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    I don't think anyone has taken enough notice of what Chris B, a former insider, said on the forum a week or so back.
    http://www.songofthepaddle.co.uk/for...494#post375494

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    Whilst supportive of the SoTP access campaign, I've absolutely no issue with the response from Paul Owen, and I'd take issue with the notion of it demonstrating "a fundamental lack of respect by the BCU of it's members".

    Paul's responses to 1, 2 and 3 strike me as spot on. I'm all in favour of the BCU working to establish "an assumed right of access to all rivers in England" and as he notes, "the initiative for such change needs to come from the Westminster Government which is currently focusing on other priorities". He outlines a quite reasonable objection to the negotiation of endless access agreements, and gives some indication of what he would take to be a reasonable measure of the success of the campaign:

    • Produced publications raising the profile of the sport to other water users as environmentally benign
    • Developing a good working relationship with external organisations "who may provide opportunities to develop our aims and help promote the sport as safe for the environment which can be carried out in a responsible and sustainable manner".
    • Lobbying parliament... "beyond simply recognising an important recreational resource and taken the debate into health benefits, education, and community benefits across government, and more recently [...] promoting the environmental well being of the waterways".


    If you wish to challenge the BCU / Canoe-England further on how effectively the campaign has "highlighted how the law not only works against the interests of canoeing , but the wider the community as a whole" you might get more clarity on the "positive responses that continue to be received"... but in terms of creating a climate of opinion more conducive to legislative change... these achievements surely do (as he notes) matter more than miles gained through endless private access agreements which enable "some interests to place legal constraints on the use of non-tidal waters". Can't we just accept that?

    The number of members was answered... but the subsequent questions set up an unsustainable antithesis between "recreational" and "competitive" canoeing: unsustainable, because so-called "competition" is quite commonly (perhaps overwhelmingly) social and recreational. So-called "competitive" events will inevitably draw together like minded friends who attend primarily because they enjoy their time together, valuing on-water time (perhaps playing on a slalom course during free practice) and off-water time (perhaps camping and passing an hour or two in the pub). In the case of lower-level slalom, events can be very family-friendly, with members of the family having more/less water time according to taste... and I've known a lot of "competitors" who treated their runs as a laugh - and some who took up C1 slalom instead of K1 slalom in order to attend events (rather than "compete") in the same division as their friends.

    That's all in addition to the fact that "competition" is sometimes just the motivator for getting out (perhaps targetting the Cheshire Ring as a goal, but mostly because that encourages a weekly or twice-weekly outing on the local canal, river, lake or estuary. Individuals and clubs up and down the country get out once a week or more for "training" that's actually the regular "night out with friends". Some canoeist's "recreational" time is blowing off the cobwebs with some sprint training, playboating on a weir or whatever, and that might mean an hour and a half after work 2-3 times a week as an alternative to going down the gym (with no formal "competition" aspiration whatsoever). Moreover, "competition" could be taken to mean a game of polo among juniors on club night, or a changing-places game with a group of scouts!

    Your division between "recreational" and "competitive" doesn't strike me as meaningful, but your other category, "touring", does appear (at first glance) clear enough... but I'd question whether "touring" involves more access issues than other forms of recreational canoeing. As a kid, we never had problems finding places for "touring": inland, we regularly paddled canals and the Avon, Severn, Cherwell, Wye, Trent, Teme, Usk and many more rivers, mostly without major access concerns... and we regularly made pilgrimages to similarly open coastal areas. The "access" issue tended to arise more for white water playboating: the Dee, the Ogwen and so on (on which front, I believe the situation these days is much improved).

    Finally, regarding the finances... you appear to be implying that a greater proportion of funding should go into "access"... but without any clear evidence that lack of funding is severely limiting the effectiveness of the access campaign and efforts to get the legislative priorities changed in Westminster. I've also seen no reason to quibble with Paul Owen's note that "For reasons of commercial confidentiality Canoe England are unable to give you the breakdown of access spend and licences as requested".

    If we've got good reason to take issue with Paul Owen that's fine... but I don't see any in his response.

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    Produced publications raising the profile of the sport to other water users as environmentally benign
    It all sounds like box ticking. I'd love to know what those publications are. I'm a paddler and haven't come across them, so I doubt other water users have seen them either!

    As Chris B put in his account of his time at the BCU;
    When I was there, Council was perhaps 50% active paddlers (including competition and coaching) and 50% who didn't paddle much now but had done. But most of the members paddled on non-controversial water - competitions had negotiated access, a lot of coaching was on lakes or canals. There were few paddlers who used the waters where access is an issue

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    Quote Originally Posted by SimonMW View Post
    I don't think anyone has taken enough notice of what Chris B, a former insider, said on the forum a week or so back.
    That's the best post I've seen on this matter to date...
    • BCU is the UK Federation [...] we all join CE, WCA/CW, SCA or CANI.
    • Access is dealt with by the four national bodies.
    • The democratic structure is intended to be through clubs then regions to English Council
    • if you want to make changes, get onto your regional committee and build support at English Council
    Chris was "doubtful that BCU level will be the best place to change CE policy" and suggests "we need to tackle CE"... though "tackling" sounds rather more confrontational than should be necessary.

    I'd certainly support any efforts at building a positive relationship between SoTP and the various regional committees.

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    Couple of points:

    Simon, see this link for the latest environmental publication

    http://www.canoe-england.org.uk/medi...%20Charter.pdf

    Greg, I agree that competition/recreation can be a difficult distinction albeit useful shorthand for most of us. I'm not sure that 'touring' quite cuts it though since I doubt most whitewater kayakers consider themselves participating in 'touring' and they are probably the ones most affected by the difficult access situation.

    I also see something positive in Paul Owen's response although I've not seen it in the BCU's publicity. Constant reference to ''how the law not only works against the interests of canoeing'' is, I think unhelpful since it starts out on the premise that the law is against us whereas the whole argument from Caffyn is that these legal restrictions do not exist. I would like the BCU/CE take a positive stand and announce to the world that they accept the interpretation of the law offered by Caffyn's research and that they will support their members making responsible use of the rivers in line with this.

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    Quote Originally Posted by GregandGinaS View Post
    That's the best post I've seen on this matter to date...
    • BCU is the UK Federation [...] we all join CE, WCA/CW, SCA or CANI.
    • Access is dealt with by the four national bodies.
    • The democratic structure is intended to be through clubs then regions to English Council
    • if you want to make changes, get onto your regional committee and build support at English Council
    Chris was "doubtful that BCU level will be the best place to change CE policy" and suggests "we need to tackle CE"... though "tackling" sounds rather more confrontational than should be necessary.

    I'd certainly support any efforts at building a positive relationship between SoTP and the various regional committees.
    What about the vast number of paddlers that are not members of clubs but pay their subs for the British Waters Licence or because they have to to maintain the coaching status?

    Please can someone explain the nature of the separation between the BCU and Canoe England? I see almost no operational difference.

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    Back in 2000, BCU decided that it needed to complete a proper federalisation. SCA and WCA had already been in existence but England did not have its own separate representation. The sports funding bodies at that time wanted to be able to allocate grant funding to specifically regional bodies, eg Sport England did not want to give money to an umbrella organisation like BCU and preferred Canoe England so this was put in place. The idea was that, eventually, BCU would only deal with overarching issues like the coaching scheme. As it turned out, this separation ended up not being necessary and the full separation like SCA and WCA(CW) never happened. CE is not a separate limited company and remains a division of BCU. The expression on the CE website ''on a par with the other National Associations, as a division of the BCU'' is only partly correct.

    I think.

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    Quote Originally Posted by wayne View Post
    What about the vast number of paddlers that are not members of clubs but pay their subs for the British Waters Licence or because they have to to maintain the coaching status?
    I'd be interested to know what proportion of Canoe England members have no current or prior affiliated to any club...

    I'm not sure quite what you're arguing here.. but the club structure has long seemed to me to be at the heart of British Canoeing (as it is with many other UK sports). The clubs are surely where most folk go for an introduction to canoeing: that's where you get access to the equipment and instruction needed to get started, where the volunteers are giving their time to help others develop as paddlers and where newbies can discover their preferred discipline and find like-minded peers.

    Sure, assorted groups (including Scouts and activity camps) offer taster sessions to get people started... and some folk will find their own way... but I wouldn't see any reason for Canoe England to be apologetic about working hard to support the volunteer structures that make the sport so accessible to folk who might otherwise never get involved...

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    The point is simple every member of the BCU should have an equal voice regardless of their route to paddling. You seem to advocate that clubs are the only route to influencing the BCU/CE leadership. There are many members of SOTP that have never been a member of a canoe club. A couple locally require you to have a 2 star before being able to join them on an outing.

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    OK - so you're taking exception to Chris' notion that the "democratic structure [of the BCU] is intended to be through clubs then regions to English Council". I've never had cause to look into the system... but it seems logical enough.

    We're told "The English Council is the committee established to manage the sport and recreation of Canoeing in England, the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man" and "Reports directly to the Board". It apparently comprises of:
    • Chairman and BCU Vice President
    • Vice Chair
    • Representatives from all English Regional Development Team (11 regions)
    • Representatives from 11 disciplines
    • Chair of English Coaching Management Committee
    • Chair of Access Policy Group
    • English Representatives on BCU Board
    That's a fair sized team... and the interests of canoeists from all regions and from all disciplines appear to be catered for quite nicely... and as a member, you have your opportunity to get involved (perhaps volunteering through the regions or disciplines) in shaping what those many representatives raise at board level...

    I don't see a problem with any of that, and I'm not sure how you'd have things done differently.

    Quote Originally Posted by wayne View Post
    There are many members of SOTP that have never been a member of a canoe club. A couple locally require you to have a 2 star before being able to join them on an outing.
    Leading anyone below 2-star standard on an "outing" might be reasonable in some instances... but you're looking at beginner paddlers.... and if the volunteer running the "outing" is doing so (say) on the basis of a 4-star leadership qualification (rather than as an instructor), he or she may only be deemed proven "to safely paddle and lead other competent paddlers on sections of moderate water".

    A 2-star (improver) level paddler might be considered a "competent paddler" in some situations... but bear in mind that the BCU view 3-Star level as indicating "an intermediate paddler rather than a beginner": that's not saying one should have the award to be considered as an "intermediate paddler"... but it's indicating expectations for considering someone a "competent performer in sheltered to moderate water environments" with "the ability to paddle unsupervised, with similar standard paddlers on sheltered water".
    Last edited by GregandGinaS; 10th-January-2012 at 01:48 PM.

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    That all sounds fine but it does toe the BCU party line a little too much for me. If you come from a perspective of nobody having any of the above mentioned 'qualifications' then someone of two star standard might well consider themselves capable of venturing out on their own and even taking along one of their inexperienced mates. Call it supervision if you will. If everyone had to abide by the BCU structure, there would be very little paddling taking place in the country.

    I don't have a problem with the process ChrisB outlined but from wayne's point of view, it does seem to assume that getting onto a regional 'committee' (I think they call them 'development teams' these days) shouldn't necessarily require club membership although I guess thay's how most people do get involved.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Adrian Cooper View Post
    That all sounds fine but it does toe the BCU party line a little too much for me. If you come from a perspective of nobody having any of the above mentioned 'qualifications' then someone of two star standard might well consider themselves capable of venturing out on their own and even taking along one of their inexperienced mates. Call it supervision if you will. If everyone had to abide by the BCU structure, there would be very little paddling taking place in the country.

    I don't have a problem with the process ChrisB outlined but from wayne's point of view, it does seem to assume that getting onto a regional 'committee' (I think they call them 'development teams' these days) shouldn't necessarily require club membership although I guess thay's how most people do get involved.
    I wish I had written that.

    In the past I have offered my services as a Coaching Officer for my region and on access issues. I have tried the work from within route. Seems that you need to know the right people and hold the correct views.

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    Quote Originally Posted by GregandGinaS View Post
    I'm not sure quite what you're arguing here.. but the club structure has long seemed to me to be at the heart of British Canoeing (as it is with many other UK sports). The clubs are surely where most folk go for an introduction to canoeing: that's where you get access to the equipment and instruction needed to get started, where the volunteers are giving their time to help others develop as paddlers and where newbies can discover their preferred discipline and find like-minded peers.
    I would disagree with that. What evidence do you have that "most folk" go to clubs for an introduction to canoeing?

    From my own experience, none of the paddlers I have met have been members of clubs or were introduced to canoeing through clubs.

    I think there are lot of canoeists out there who approach it on an individualist basis. And they are unlikely to join organisations like CE if they see no benefit, and do not see any effective campaigning on the one big issue that affects canoeists in England - ACCESS.



    Quote Originally Posted by wayne View Post
    The point is simple every member of the BCU should have an equal voice regardless of their route to paddling. You seem to advocate that clubs are the only route to influencing the BCU/CE leadership. There are many members of SOTP that have never been a member of a canoe club. A couple locally require you to have a 2 star before being able to join them on an outing.
    Exactly.

    Regarding the (non) reply by the CEO - is Canoe England subject to the Freedom of Information Act? If they were they would be obliged to answer these questions by law, as other public bodies have to do.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Crow View Post
    I would disagree with that. What evidence do you have that "most folk" go to clubs for an introduction to canoeing?

    From my own experience, none of the paddlers I have met have been members of clubs or were introduced to canoeing through clubs.

    I think there are lot of canoeists out there who approach it on an individualist basis. And they are unlikely to join organisations like CE if they see no benefit, and do not see any effective campaigning on the one big issue that affects canoeists in England - ACCESS.
    A large number of paddlers are introduced to paddling via clubs and having started there paddling in that enviroment will probably stay in it, so unless you join a club you will never meet them.

    Many people will simply buy a canoe and start paddling some of those will join sites like this, some will join CE/BCU for the river license, many seem to do neither.

    The problem seems to be that there are very few numbers or even estimates of numbers of how many people fall into which group. If the vast majority of BCU/CE members are club paddlers who don't see the access situation as a problem then why should a their membership fees be used to fund the access campaign.

    What we need is a break down of BCU/CE members to see what sort of canoeing they are interested in and what they want the BCU/CE to concentrate on.
    There was a recent survey conducted by the BCU on exactly these questions, does anyone know if the results are available. This information could be used to see if the BCU/CE policy/actions on the access situation reflects that of it membership.

    Barney

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    Quote Originally Posted by Barney View Post
    why should a their membership fees be used to fund the access campaign.
    Because the BCU can see the wider picture?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Barney View Post
    A large number of paddlers are introduced to paddling via clubs and having started there paddling in that enviroment will probably stay in it, so unless you join a club you will never meet them.

    Many people will simply buy a canoe and start paddling some of those will join sites like this, some will join CE/BCU for the river license, many seem to do neither.

    The problem seems to be that there are very few numbers or even estimates of numbers of how many people fall into which group. If the vast majority of BCU/CE members are club paddlers who don't see the access situation as a problem then why should a their membership fees be used to fund the access campaign.

    What we need is a break down of BCU/CE members to see what sort of canoeing they are interested in and what they want the BCU/CE to concentrate on.
    There was a recent survey conducted by the BCU on exactly these questions, does anyone know if the results are available. This information could be used to see if the BCU/CE policy/actions on the access situation reflects that of it membership.

    Barney
    Fair point. We just don't know how many canoeists are club members and how many are not. Or how many are BCU members and how many are not. But I think it's reasonable to say that to focus solely on clubs will miss out a lot of canoeists.

    And if the BCU was seen to campaign actively for access rights, a lot more people might be inclined to join them.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Adrian Cooper View Post
    That all sounds fine but it does toe the BCU party line a little too much for me.
    Within a club system, volunteer coaches should be around to take beginner-improver paddlers on suitable outings, rendering the requirement for minimum standards irrelevant. As a kid, I recall most trips being over-run with volunteer "Senior Instructors", Instructors" and "Trainee Instructors".... and I'd guess that most of the regulars of my youth were of at least 3-star plus "Proficiency" standard.

    Very few in our club seemed to remain at "beginner/improver" level for long: volunteer-run evening classes ran pretty much every week from the beginning April to the end of September... and then switched to a pool - and help was always on hand during the additional slalom training sessions, evening sessions at Holme Pierrepont, the year-round weekend trips and at lower-level slalom competitions.

    Changing attitudes to volunteering and getting stuck in (plus all the broader changes in the sport and society) might mean life in today's clubs is somewhat different... but when I've periodically revisited my old club, the organisation has appeared more impressive than ever, and I would hope that most clubs could still get beginner-improver paddlers out pretty regularly with suitably qualified coaches.

    Ps. a report early last year estimated monthly junior uptake of ~20,000 "more committed club participants" and ~10,000 who went out "informally with parents" (perhaps in many cases with parents like me, who have previously been through a club system even if we are currently unaffiliated).

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    Quote Originally Posted by Adrian Cooper
    As it turned out, this separation ended up not being necessary and the full separation like SCA and WCA(CW) never happened. CE is not a separate limited company and remains a division of BCU.
    Thanks, Adrian, I hadn't realised that. I did say my info might be a bit dated. That does explain why CE doesn't have a more distinct identity. I still think access in England has to be pursued through CE not BCU - CE perhaps doesn't have it's own AGM but if the AGM is not the best approach that doesn't necessary matter.

    Regarding deomocracy, I think all the individual members in a region can vote for the regional comittee, whether they're in a club or not. The significance of clubs (and forums) is that they have influence, which in practice is as significant as actual votes.

    Quote Originally Posted by Barney
    If the vast majority of BCU/CE members are club paddlers who don't see the access situation as a problem then why should a their membership fees be used to fund the access campaign.
    The issue to me is that every sport needs a representative governing body. For whatever historical reason, we have reached a vicious circle where CE isn't representative because a large number of participants decline to join it; as non-members, they don't influence it's decisions so it continues be non-representative. This is made worse because the organisational structure necessary to run coaching and competition automatically gives these areas a voice. The members who want CE to be more active on access to rivers have no organisational structure so they tend not be involved in the democratic structure. Groups form and attempt to change policy via the AGM route, fail, get frustrated and just go paddling. The point I was trying make in my first post is that the committee structure is the way to be effective; unfortunately it takes more effort than a one-off AGM.

    I think we need to distinguish clearly between licences to use artificial waterways, and clarifying the law so that we can use natural ones. Using the word 'access' for both is confusing.

    I actually found some useful things in Paul Owen's reply - like the statement that CE/BCU want to get the law changed - I haven't seen that message as clear as that before!

    Chris

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    Quote Originally Posted by Chris_B View Post
    Thanks, Adrian, I hadn't realised that. I did say my info might be a bit dated. That does explain why CE doesn't have a more distinct identity. I still think access in England has to be pursued through CE not BCU - CE perhaps doesn't have it's own AGM but if the AGM is not the best approach that doesn't necessary matter.

    Regarding deomocracy, I think all the individual members in a region can vote for the regional comittee, whether they're in a club or not. The significance of clubs (and forums) is that they have influence, which in practice is as significant as actual votes.

    The issue to me is that every sport needs a representative governing body. For whatever historical reason, we have reached a vicious circle where CE isn't representative because a large number of participants decline to join it; as non-members, they don't influence it's decisions so it continues be non-representative. This is made worse because the organisational structure necessary to run coaching and competition automatically gives these areas a voice. The members who want CE to be more active on access to rivers have no organisational structure so they tend not be involved in the democratic structure. Groups form and attempt to change policy via the AGM route, fail, get frustrated and just go paddling. The point I was trying make in my first post is that the committee structure is the way to be effective; unfortunately it takes more effort than a one-off AGM.

    I think we need to distinguish clearly between licences to use artificial waterways, and clarifying the law so that we can use natural ones. Using the word 'access' for both is confusing.

    I actually found some useful things in Paul Owen's reply - like the statement that CE/BCU want to get the law changed - I haven't seen that message as clear as that before!

    Chris
    Some very good points there. If a large number of canoeists decline to join it, it cannot be representative. And it will naturally concentrate on those areas that are structured and organised - i.e. the competitive sporting side of canoeing. And the coaching qualifications side. All well and good, but not of particular interest to other types of paddlers.

    Maybe the large numbers of individual, recreational, non-competitive, "touring" paddlers (whatever the terminology used) - don't actually need such an organisation?

    And maybe due to its inherent nature it can never be the sort of campaigning body, that those people would like it to be.

    Maybe a completely different sort of campaign group is required to get some action here, and achieve equal rights to neighbouring countries on this island?
    Last edited by Crow; 10th-January-2012 at 09:32 PM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Crow View Post
    Maybe the large numbers of individual, recreational, non-competitive, "touring" paddlers (whatever the terminology used) - don't actually need such an organisation?
    First things first: for those keen on open canoe touring... another "national" organisation does exist: see the Open Canoe Association. See the website for some measure of the prominence of "access" within OCA priorities...

    More pertinently, and taking just two examples...

    1. Folk need to start somewhere... and the extensive network of Canoe-England affiliated clubs is the pre-eminent UK solution. Almost all are volunteer run, offer an excellent way to "come and try it", develop skills and progress... in most instances into touring.

    2. Whether starting out or looking to progress, "touring" paddlers might have recourse to instructors: mostly within clubs, but also freelance - and the much-vaunted coaching scheme (with a significant base of support even outside of these shores) is very much oriented towards meeting such needs (especially where the "touring" encompasses any level of "white water" and/or sea kayaking).

    Even sticking to the infamous "access" issue... I've yet to see any suggestion for a workable alternative to the strategy being pursued by Canoe-England... and I'm not seeing much acknowledgement that the situation for a young paddler now is way, way more promising than it was even as recently as when I started.

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    "Folk need to start somewhere". Yes they do, but the majority of people I know started themselves and by their own initiative. And continued that way. And brought youngsters into the activity. I'm sure clubs do a good job, but there are other ways, which should not be ignored. And to focus on clubs as a basis for access campaigning is missing a vast section of the paddling community.

    Likewise on the coaching scheme. I'm sure it does a great job but it's not the only way. People can learn and do learn from other means, e.g. other more experienced paddlers. However that is not relevant to the access campaign, it's all about personal preferences - some like to be organised and have structures others prefer to get away from that sort of thing.

    The "infamous" access issue, as you put it, is what this whole section of SOTP is about, I thought?

    I would suggest that the strategy being pursued by Canoe England is plainly not working. What gains has it made?

    A radical change of strategy would appear to be necessary, IMHO.

    It might be worth taking lessons from how it was done a few miles away. How were these rights regained in Scotland? What political pressures were brought to bear and can we emulate those successes south of the border?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Crow
    Maybe the large numbers of individual, recreational, non-competitive, "touring" paddlers (whatever the terminology used) - don't actually need such an organisation?
    The advantage CE has, if it chooses to use it, is that it is the recognised official governing body for the sport. If CE is actually prepared to push an agenda publicly (rather than talk vaguely about it in the background but actually do very little) people in authority should listen. We could set up new organisation but it would be just as much work to do it as to get involved in CE - a new body might have more credibility with paddlers but it wouldn't have the credibility with Government, etc, which is what it needs.

    Paul Owen's letter says "The primary objective of the access campaign is to secure public rights to and along non-tidal waters and reverse the present legal position. The campaign has effectively highlighted how the law not only works against the interests of canoeing , but the wider the community as a whole from the positive responses that continue to be received." Well, the first bit's great, but how many of us knew that (even those who read Canoe Focus)? He says "the campaign has effectively highlighted" I would say it's more ineffective than effective, so far - I haven't heard anyone say "The BCU access campaign is really getting the issues noticed".

    Chris

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    The problem is, a lot of paddlers don't feel the need for a "recognised official governing body" to govern them and wouldn't call what they do a "sport". (Yes, we are an unruly anarchic individualist bunch sometimes! )

    I was thinking more of some other sort of protest movement, more grass roots and less "official" and bureaucratic. As you say, the current approach isn't proving very effective.

    But how did it work in Scotland?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Chris_B View Post
    The advantage CE has, if it chooses to use it, is that it is the recognised official governing body for the sport. If CE is actually prepared to push an agenda publicly (rather than talk vaguely about it in the background but actually do very little) people in authority should listen. We could set up new organisation but it would be just as much work to do it as to get involved in CE - a new body might have more credibility with paddlers but it wouldn't have the credibility with Government, etc, which is what it needs.

    Paul Owen's letter says "The primary objective of the access campaign is to secure public rights to and along non-tidal waters and reverse the present legal position. The campaign has effectively highlighted how the law not only works against the interests of canoeing , but the wider the community as a whole from the positive responses that continue to be received." Well, the first bit's great, but how many of us knew that (even those who read Canoe Focus)? He says "the campaign has effectively highlighted" I would say it's more ineffective than effective, so far - I haven't heard anyone say "The BCU access campaign is really getting the issues noticed".

    Chris
    So, we are agreed, that both BCU and CE are not effective with regard to getting the issue of Access to the waterways of

    Wales and England to match that achieved in Scotland. They are the people best placed address this issue with the

    Government on our behalf. Why is it such a problem for us paddlers to request them to put more effort into the Access

    Campaign. Both of the organisations have this as a priority, if they live up to this objective,even I might join one of them!

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    Quote Originally Posted by Crow View Post
    The problem is, a lot of paddlers don't feel the need for a "recognised official governing body" to govern them and wouldn't call what they do a "sport". (Yes, we are an unruly anarchic individualist bunch sometimes! )

    I was thinking more of some other sort of protest movement, more grass roots and less "official" and bureaucratic. As you say, the current approach isn't proving very effective.

    But how did it work in Scotland?


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    Quote Originally Posted by Hyperion
    ...both BCU and CE are not effective with regard to getting the issue of Access to the waterways of
    Wales and England to match that achieved in Scotland. They are the people best placed address this issue with the
    Government on our behalf. Why is it such a problem for us paddlers to request them to put more effort into the Access
    Campaign.
    I don't think they see it as a high priority; it's up to the interested members to convince them otherwise. But, in the same way that you won't influence the Government by standing in the public gallery of the House of Commons and shouting (you need to work through your MP) members need to work through their Regional Committes.
    Quote Originally Posted by Hyperion
    Both of the organisations have this as a priority,
    I don't think they do, unfortunately, whatever they may say.
    Quote Originally Posted by Hyperion
    if they live up to this objective,even I might join one of them
    And therein lies a problem for the majority of paddlers - the organisation we need to rely on will only acknowledge us if we join it, and many of us don't see why we should. I'm only a member at the moment because I didn't cancel my membership before the DD went through.
    Chris
    Last edited by Chris_B; 11th-January-2012 at 08:13 AM. Reason: Spelling

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    Quote Originally Posted by Crow View Post
    But how did it work in Scotland?
    Many people forget how the situation was in Scotland before the Land Reform Act; it was significantly different from the English issue. There was always a generally accepted right of access to Scottish rivers, yes there were hotspots of dissent amongst landowners and access across land was potentially a problem. The act was so much more about land than about rivers but by combining both, the whole 'access to the outdoors' situation was improved.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Chris_B View Post
    Paul Owen's letter says "The primary objective of the access campaign is to secure public rights to and along non-tidal waters and reverse the present legal position.
    If we could only get BCU/CE to stop using defeatist language like this, we would have scored a success.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Adrian Cooper View Post
    Many people forget how the situation was in Scotland before the Land Reform Act; it was significantly different from the English issue. There was always a generally accepted right of access to Scottish rivers, yes there were hotspots of dissent amongst landowners and access across land was potentially a problem. The act was so much more about land than about rivers but by combining both, the whole 'access to the outdoors' situation was improved.
    Exactly backwards....

    I grew up in Roxburghshire - and was lucky enough to go to school in Kelso - long before the land reform act.

    From time immemorial - i.e. before even my grandfather's time - you could walk wherever you wanted - provided you "did no damage".

    Water however was different, anywhere with Salmon fishing you could expect trouble six days out of seven - on the seventh, the ghillies rested and the paddler had free access. where there was no Salmon fishing, the rules of common decency applied - you did not deliberately disturb someone else's sport.

    What the Land Reform act did was to put the land access on a statute footing and the water on the same basis. - the big practical change was water access.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Adrian Cooper View Post
    Back in 2000, BCU decided that it needed to complete a proper federalisation. SCA and WCA had already been in existence but England did not have its own separate representation. The sports funding bodies at that time wanted to be able to allocate grant funding to specifically regional bodies, eg Sport England did not want to give money to an umbrella organisation like BCU and preferred Canoe England so this was put in place. The idea was that, eventually, BCU would only deal with overarching issues like the coaching scheme. As it turned out, this separation ended up not being necessary and the full separation like SCA and WCA(CW) never happened. CE is not a separate limited company and remains a division of BCU. The expression on the CE website ''on a par with the other National Associations, as a division of the BCU'' is only partly correct.

    I think.
    Which interestingly mirrors the current political situation, with Scotland and Wales having their own parliament/assembly, but England only having the UK one.

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    Canoe England / The BCU's access campaign is fundametally flawed for the basic reason is that they still believe that a legaslative change is needed. They still think the law is against us, which based on the work of The Revd. D Caffyn and the lack of courst cases, is not. The CLA and the Angling Trust have very large amounts of money behind them and they are run by proffeesionals, now if their legal representives could find it anywhere in teh law that we should not be on the rivers then trust me we would know about it by now.
    So when Canoe England finally "grows a set" or "Mans-up" and takes this stance then they can issue charters about responsible use of the rivers and environment and about working with other user groups to enhance the experience for all.
    Whilst they bow to any threat they will continue to be spinless and far to self-serving.

    Forget the AGM, don't bother renewing your membership unless you want the benefits (and there are some) or like me are a coach, and just get out there and paddle. If nougth of us do this then we will get what we want as the land owners / fishermen will realise that we can't be intimidated by "hearsay law"

    OK rant over.

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    Quote Originally Posted by GregandGinaS View Post
    the club structure has long seemed to me to be at the heart of British Canoeing (as it is with many other UK sports). The clubs are surely where most folk go for an introduction to canoeing: that's where you get access to the equipment and instruction needed to get started,
    I've never been a member of a club and most of the people I paddle with are the same. All the clubs I've seen locally are kayak or sculling with may be a complementary open if you are lucky. My re-introduction to opens was on a specific open canoe training weekend where I probably learnt more than I would ever do from a club.

    Quote Originally Posted by GregandGinaS View Post
    For those keen on open canoe touring... another "national" organisation does exist: see the Open Canoe Association. See the website for some measure of the prominence of "access" within OCA priorities...
    I would be a member there already if I could get my BW permit as part of the membership. As it is I'm only a member of BCU because of the permit.
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    All this is all very well – maybe the BCU isn’t doing as much for access as you’d like, and maybe there are a large number of paddlers who don’t belong to clubs for various reasons – but where is this getting us?

    I read all the access threads and see the same about 20 people posting time and time again. Perhaps there are a hundred or so like me that post on this subject occasionally but are keeping up to date with the debate. How many SoTP members are there? How much effect do you think it might have if everyone of them wrote to their MP again and again? How many paddlers are there? How many have written to their MP? I appreciate and accept the ruling that this site is non-political, but I’d like to see a big banner across the top asking what people have done to help the access campaign each week, with ideas about writing to newspapers and MPs, signing petitions etc

    The government will take notice if enough people bring it to their attention (remember the Forestry commission and Ghurkhas). Unless we get the public and media on side, we will not get enough support to change a thing. Joanna Lumley hugging an old soldier may sell newspapers, but I can’t imagine the headline “samB gets shouted at by angry fisherfolk despite the fact that most think he is allowed to paddle on that river” getting on the front page!

    The BCU is just one tool in our fight for better access. As has been pointed out, it can only do what members want, and it seems the only way for members to tell the BCU what they want is through the club – region – council route. (If you don’t like this, go through the club – region – council route and get it changed.) Let it get on and do the best that it thinks it can – or let your voice be heard by them. Something is better than nothing!

    The access situation will not change if we do nothing, but that is no reason to give up. Protest paddles help publicity. Just getting on and quietly paddling can help I suppose (if you can prove that the water has been paddled from time immemorial when you finally get challenged) but isn’t really an active way to speed up change. There are lots of ways to help.

    It’s easy to make suggestions, and I’m sure that the members who read this post are probably doing their bit, but I can’t help but think that us paddlers as a group are a bit pathetic. As an example, at my club I know that all of about 6 paddlers have written to their MP out of a couple of hundred members. That’s rubbish! I bet more of them would write about the state of the public toilets than that!

    All (I think) we can do is to carry on trying, using every tool we can – and some of you/us have more time, determination and boldness than others. I don’t think it will change quickly no matter how much I want it to, but we mustn’t give up. We should all encourage others to take action of one sort or another. A slow chain reaction will take place and when it starts moving fast enough; nothing will stop the change we want from happening.

    I’ve just read through this and see it’s turned into a bit of a moan - sorry! Keep up the good work (those who are doing it) and keep encouraging others to join in

    Sam

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    Quote Originally Posted by samB View Post

    samB gets shouted at by angry fisherfolk despite the fact that most think he is allowed to paddle on that river

    Sam
    Perhaps this is the answer,what you need is a nice paddle,where the 'Otter haters' are not too strop-y,that should cut

    down the chances of you ending up on the front page of the local rag ! while enjoying a harmless pastime.

    I know what you mean, at times it do's seem that 20 of us are the only ones interested in access, but this is the nature

    of a single interest [open/Canadian canoeing] site,it can seem like a closed shop.

    Only members can post, but the site is visited by many more very welcome guests,[as well as others who are anti-access],

    by just kicking the issue about between our selves,we are making progress,I for one have learned much from other posters.

    One thing to keep in mind is that the only other country in the world where access is a problem is Wales !

    And have to admit, I find the 'quest' of trying to regain our historic rights interesting. So"once more unto the breach".

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    Quote Originally Posted by Hyperion View Post
    And have to admit, I find the 'quest' of trying to regain our historic rights interesting.
    Why do we have to regain them? I've never seen convincing evidence that we have lost them. No one has ever pointed out the statute or statutory instrument that took them away and until they do I prefer to believe that our task is just to widen the acceptance and recognition of the rights we've always had.

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    The Government clearly have no interest in addressing the access issues because they are too close to the landowners. The BCU and CE have to tow the government line as that is where their funding comes from and they are restricted from doing anything that might appear to encourage anything illegal. The constitution seems too wrapped up for any meaningful change unless many songsters have the time to work at it.

    So the best way forward, go paddle and enjoy yourselves. Any statutes and acts that have been introduced since Magna Carta are contract law so unless you were consulted and sign up for them they do not affect you. There are websites investigating these new areas of research into freedom and statute law that paddlers would do well to learn about.

    The only chance of getting much access and security on the rivers is by carrying a video camera and live streaming direct to youtube any altercations that you might have. Song of the Paddle is a great forum for communicating any problems that occur. Go in adequate numbers and try to get drop offs if the parking areas are notorious for car vandalism. Report all incidents to the police and follow up to find out what they are doing.

    Remember, most fishermen are just like us, they love and respect the outdoors and are more than happy to share the resources reasonably with each other and paddlers. It is the hot headed minority that are a problem and they need to be exposed and shamed for their behaviour. They simply cannot expect exclusive use of anywhere in a crowded planet, no matter how much they pay, and much of it is highly subsidised from public funds. The rivers belong to all of us the world over to be enjoyed, respected and conserved, paddlers need nothing, take nothing and should pay nothing.

    I worked full time for decades taking youngsters canoeing in the UK before moving to Australia and had plenty of incidents with fishermen, bailiffs and landowners sometimes behaving shamelessly in front of children so know fully what you are up against. I wish I'd had the support of Song of the Paddle in those days.

    So, believe in your rights, go paddling, support each other and show the hot headed minority for what they are.

    Good luck.

  49. #49
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    The Government clearly have no interest in addressing the access issues because they are too close to the landowners.
    That did't stop the Ramblers getting their way eventually.

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    The past week has seen some interesting responses in this thread.... and without in any way dismissing access as an issue, several of the posts imply that actually spending vastly increased sums of the BCU / Canoe-England budget on access might be hard to justify:
    • If legal entitlement already exists... then campaigning vigorously for legislative change is perhaps not necessary.
    • If legislative change is needed... we're into a "long game" in which even the full resources and undivided attention of every paddler is unlikely to result in the next decade or two!
    Neither of those would, to my mind, justify neglecting the access issue... but we're now seeing some responses indicating the complexity of the balancing act that's needed within the BCU / Canoe-England.

    Ps. Greater historical perspective might also be needed on the part of some: back in the 1980s, the climate was way, way worse than today! Caffyn obviously changed the terms of debate considerably, as did the reform in Scotland... but as I recall, most paddlers were being far, far more deferential back then - and I suspect most of us would have laughed at the notion of legislative change within 100 years!

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    then campaigning vigorously for legislative change is perhaps not necessary.
    We aren't necessarily after legislation change. Rather we are after legal clarification.

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    Quote Originally Posted by SimonMW View Post
    We aren't necessarily after legislation change. Rather we are after legal clarification.
    Have you considered what might happen in the event of a high court ruling that went against the right to access? How much worse the situation could become if Caffyn's arguments are NOT supported, and if new legislation favours the big angling / landowning lobbies?

    At present we have some sort of stand-off: could it be that the longer it lasts, the more time canoeists have to create a climate of acceptance and establish a long term solution? Should we see the current situation in a more positive light?

    Realistically, how far away do we see ourselves as being from some meaningful "resolution" to this issue? In the 1980s, I'd have said "not in my lifetime". Now, I'm thinking I might actually see the day - but I'd still not expect it to be this side of my daughter being in her prime...

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    Have you considered what might happen in the event of a high court ruling that went against the right to access?
    Yes, I have. There would be clarity, a firmer footing for protest, and wider public attention that would bring about the anger of the masses, and hopefully a response similar to that when the forests were about to be sold off.

    I'm not sure how a clarification would find against us though. The sway of public opinion would be so large, and nowhere is there any legislation that says that Riparian rights include the right to prevent navigation that I can see. If they did want to make it so that Riparians could prevent navigation, that too would attract wider public attention in the news, and again possibly a similar response to that of the forest sell off.

    Part of our problem is that the general public does not know the situation. It simply isn't known outside of our circle. If it was there would be less public apathy. Ask any man or woman on the street about whether they think they can canoe down a stretch of water, and they will usually reply "yes". They are also usually incredulous when you tell them that many consider canoeing and kayaking to be illegal on more than 96% of our waters.
    Last edited by SimonMW; 14th-January-2012 at 10:49 AM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by SimonMW View Post
    There would be clarity, a firmer footing for protest, and wider public attention that would bring about the anger of the masses, and hopefully a response similar to that when the forests were about to be sold off.
    In some ways, your view is testimony to just how much has changed since the 1980s: IIRC, one of the biggest fears in the 1980s was a public inquiry followed by legislative change! I recall, for instance, discussions of how "public ownership" had led to the "destruction" of good canoeing rivers in other countries (with nice, free-slowing and charming rivers being turned into turgid "navigable waterways" for motor boats). The general assumption was that the power of the fishing lobby (especially within Labour) and landowning lobby (stereo-typically associated with the Conservatives) would bring benefits to everyone except the canoeist!

    The situation is obviously a little different now... but I would still see a risk of any arrangement ending with a more regulated access situation on waterways of interest to the occasional canoeist (so more strictly licensed access to sheltered open water and lowland rivers where access has rarely been an issue), a bureaucratic nightmare situation where lake access is "facilitated" (with canoeists needing to be supervised by the "facilitator" or by a (suitably qualified) "responsible person")... and landowners and fishermen getting increased protection for the white water rivers where the access situation is currently most contested and difficult - perhaps with a funded scheme to increase commercial "stay (pay) and play" access on key stretches... perhaps modelled on the Tryweryn set-up... but big, easily enforced penalties for anyone caught venturing on the other stretches!

    I'm not suggesting any specific measure is likely... and the risk of some sort of unwelcome conclusion surely needs to be entertained: the access situation could still get a lot, lot worse!

  55. #55

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    Hi - I'm making a short comment on this thread, as one of the SCA reps on the BCU board. Many issues have been mentioned but, basically, yes, in England you have an English Council to represent you, and someone described it very well. I have been paddling since the late 1950s, and believe me, in every decade since, someone has had a rant and formed a 'new' organisation , not by an internet forum, but by post in the old days!
    Several people have mentioned Scotland, and yes, someone was right - the political scene is very different up here, and the Land Reform Act was passed by the then 6 parties in the Scottish Parliament (even the Tories, all few of them, agreed to most of it!). However, this was seen as a Human Rights and equality issue, which Scotland is very hot on. There was also a very vigorous campaign up here, as water was NOT initially included in the Bill.
    Members such as myself would not comment on Canoe England issues out of respect, as you have 5 Directers who could do that (if they chose). However, CE staff are very much working all the time on the access issue, and some people posting have not been very fair to them. It is a long drawn-out political issue. I do not see anybody deciding that for other reasons, they would 'play it down'.
    Ah well, now off to our annual SCA board working weekend, instead of paddling. If I do not post again for a while, it is not disinterest, it is because of lots of other (volunteer) work

    Eddie Palmer
    SCA Board Director (Access and Environment)

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    I'm not sure how a clarification would find against us though. The sway of public opinion would be so large, and nowhere is there any legislation that says that Riparian rights include the right to prevent navigation that I can see. If they did want to make it so that Riparians could prevent navigation, that too would attract wider public attention in the news, and again possibly a similar response to that of the forest sell off.

    Part of our problem is that the general public does not know the situation. It simply isn't known outside of our circle. If it was there would be less public apathy. Ask any man or woman on the street about whether they think they can canoe down a stretch of water, and they will usually reply "yes". They are also usually incredulous when you tell them that many consider canoeing and kayaking to be illegal on more than 96% of our waters.



    I’m not so sure the public sway of opinion would be so large. People who want to use the rivers are not in the majority: Yes – people think we should be allowed, but have little reason to voice their opinions except when asked, and it’s hardly a vote winner; - and it’s not just the wider public apathy that keeps things moving so slowly. We canoeists (as a whole) are not getting actively involved. I think that most of the recreational paddlers who are near me on the Great Ouse system feel quite alright as they are. With their EA licence, they don’t need better access, and its hard work to commit to fighting for something that you don’t really need. It must be the same across the country. Most people who have free access to the nearby water don’t want to make an effort, and where access is much more restricted, there perhaps aren’t the same amount of paddlers (as they can’t access the water in the first place.) Even the people like me (and maybe you?) who want to move around the country trying different rivers tend to travel to where they know the access situation is ok – (Ure, Tees, Tywerwyn, the boards, Wye etc) – or just go to Scotland. It is a real commitment to keep on shouting for something that’s certainly right, but doesn’t really effect you, and isn’t a matter of life and death. I think its paddler apathy that has to be overcome – but I remain hopeful!
    Sam

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    I'm not sure I agree. Otherwise there wouldn't have been such a fuss over the forests. It is likely that quite a sizeable number of people who signed up to various petitions regarding that issue were city dwellers who hardly go near the countryside. It was the principle that was at stake, and people will back an issue if there is a moral principle being challenged.

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    I hope you're right and I'm wrong !!
    Sam

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    "Even sticking to the infamous "access" issue... I've yet to see any suggestion for a workable alternative to the strategy being pursued by Canoe-England...."

    Perhaps you could explain what the 'strategy being pursued by Canoe-England' actually is; that is, in more specific terms that their CEO is prepared to.

    'The 'workable alternative' is the political campaign for access conducted by The Ramblers, starting in the 1930s and continuing to this day. This is a hugely successful political and grassroots campaign covering a wide spectrum of campaigning tactics, including public demonstrations, political lobbying, petitions, press campaigns, etc; that is, all the avenues open to citizens in a democracy to bring about political change.

    These are the facts:

    1. The BCU claims to be leading the campaign to obtain access to English rivers.

    2. The BCU cannot demonstrate any concrete progress whatsoever over the last twenty years from its so-called campaign.

    3. The BCU cannot demonstrate any ongoing campaigning activities apart from some 'behind closed doors' lobbying of MPs.

    4. The BCU is not willing to share any information about its access campaign or the makeup of its membership with its members.

    No amount of discussion about regional structures, or the difference between the BCU and CE, or various committees, or the role of the AGM, can disguise this reality.

    The only real Access campaigning activity I know of, is the work done by a tiny group of SOTP members, here. I can point to the access map which Keith has organised, and the efforts of 40 or so people who have written to their MPs, and the press attention generated by Hyperion's non-paddle on the Avon, (The BCU in its own inimitable and deeply cynical way, tried to claim some credit for Hyperion's work in the last issue of their magazine. What a joke!).

    If the BCU really had any interest whatsoever in furthering the access cause, they would emulate the Ramblers and/or 38 Degrees and conduct a similar campaign. This might involve a couple of extra salaries. I know for a fact that The Ramblers would be very happy to share their knowledge and expertise...

    It would be better for all concerned, if the BCU were honest, and made it clear that they are not campaigning for access. There would then be no confusion and make it possible for those who feel passionate about this issue to form a national organisation to take up this issue. Right now, the Government can rightly say they should deal with the BCU on this issue and not anyone else.
    Doug Dew
    "The best is yet to come" My Father


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    'The 'workable alternative' is the political campaign for access conducted by The Ramblers, starting in the 1930s and continuing to this day. This is a hugely successful political and grassroots campaign covering a wide spectrum of campaigning tactics, including public demonstrations, political lobbying, petitions, press campaigns, etc; that is, all the avenues open to citizens in a democracy to bring about political change.

    While I agree with your point, the interesting thing is that if you check out my other thread about Kinder Scout, the Ramblers in the 30's were actually opposing protest and were actually quite happy with the situation. It took a fringe group of non Rambler associated walkers to organise the Kinder Scout trespass and finally bring the issue to the wider public view. Much in the same way that it is people like us trying to spread the issue, while the BCU is happy to sit on their hands and not really do much publicity wise.

    3. The BCU cannot demonstrate any ongoing campaigning activities apart from some 'behind closed doors' lobbying of MPs.

    4. The BCU is not willing to share any information about its access campaign or the makeup of its membership with its members.

    Absolutely right. A big problem is that the BCU are doing everything in a very hush, hush way so it never enters the wider public consciousness.

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