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Thread: Canoe England's Waterways & Environment meeting - 13th October, Reading

  1. #121
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    Couple of interesting insider views of the BCU's focus of attention from UKRGB that might be worth keeping in mind on Saturday:
    I have been the publisher/editor of Canoe Focus magazine for the past 17 years and completed our final edition with the october 2012 issue. Obviously, in all of that time working with the BCU, I have a few stories to tell.

    The biggest I feel is the sea change that took place around 2005, when new people came into position within Canoe England and the emphasis switched more or less to the competitive side of the sport. In 2008 those people took a keen interest in the magazine and decided that expeditions were fanciful and the emphasis of the magazine from that point would be competition and Canoe England orientated. Therefore expedition reports were limited to just one per magazine and in its place we found out what the 'favourite film' or 'food' was for Joe Bloggs who works at Canoe England!

    Canoe England's vast majority of monies now comes from competition focussed groups such as Sport England and not members. When I started working on the magazine in 1992, the BCU had something like six full time staff and was more or less totally funded by the membership. Now that figure is over 100 but sadly they have other matters on their mind than access or recreational paddlers.
    To answer your questions - unless you are a coach - your value for money from the BCU is probably limited. A separate recreational organisation really needs setting up and the BCU can then look after the competitive side and maybe combine with GB Canoeing - it's just the way it and many other NGB sporting bodies have evolved.

    As I said, the change of direction in Canoe Focus was forced by the Marketing dept at the BCU who wanted the magazine to reflect what Canoe England was doing for the membership and therefore the recreational features were drastically cut down against my wishes. I had built up a great list of contributors over the years and was now forced to tell them they would maybe have to wait years to see their stories in print. Not only this but I always gave the contributors a few lines to speak about themselves and the companies/organisation involved with the feature with phone numbers weblinks etc. I was told that this was unaccepptable and the only companies to gain exposure within the magazine would be those linked with sponsor deals with the BCU/GB Canoeing etc.

    The contributions started to dry up as can be imagined and it went down from there as advertisers pulled out and the magazine looked like an empty shell of the ones from years earlier. I was instructed that it would be a breach of contract if any of this was made public but after a while you cannot take any more.

    This isn't sour grapes - as I met some fantastic and committed people at the BCU over the 20 years I published the magazine and I've moved onto my new publication which is solely for recreational paddlers and as one door closes another opens - it's just the facts.

  2. #122
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    Quote Originally Posted by John Saunders View Post
    Couple of interesting insider views of the BCU's focus of attention from UKRGB that might be worth keeping in mind on Saturday:
    I am a recent member of the BCU/CE and I have to agree that this is also the impression I have formed of the BCU, this is why it is necessary to run the RAC as a separated but linked organisation similar to my suggestion at post No 50.
    "Rules are for the obedience of fools and the guidance of wise men"
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    Quote Originally Posted by cloudman View Post
    I am a recent member of the BCU/CE and I have to agree that this is also the impression I have formed of the BCU, this is why it is necessary to run the RAC as a separated but linked organisation similar to my suggestion at post No 50.
    Except that the BCU are grant-harvesting, and will oppose, overtly or covertly, anything which rocks that particular boat.

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    Forgot to say - best of luck to the SOTP contingent going to the meeting today.

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    Quote Originally Posted by davidh View Post
    Except that the BCU are grant-harvesting, and will oppose, overtly or covertly, anything which rocks that particular boat.
    It's the same thing that rears it's ugly head in all these debates, MONEY. The actions of both sides are driven by the need to keep the paymasters happy be it grants or fees, the guys that just want to enjoy themselves like the average Angler or Paddler have few problems between them. It's the way of the world these days and unfortunately I can't see it changing.
    "Rules are for the obedience of fools and the guidance of wise men"
    Grp Cpt Sir Douglas Bader CBE,DSO,DFC,FRAeS.

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    There is a huge amount of discussion in this place about the BCU/CE and what they do or don't do. I haven't read back through it all, but would like to mention that the time and place to tackle these issues is at their AGM's. I've just scanned through the articles of association of the BCU and note that we can raise matters at the AGM by only having two members to request it. We can go along and shout at them if we wish and presumably force a vote if it comes to that.

    Sorry if this is old hat, but I thought it might help. the Articles of the BCU are here

    http://www.bcu.org.uk/files/BCU%20Co...%20BCU.doc.pdf

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    but would like to mention that the time and place to tackle these issues is at their AGM's

    We've been through this all before, including comment from someone who was on the inside of the BCU and thought they could make a change that way. The whole thing is set up to make it next to impossible to do so.

  8. #128
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    So,its 7;15 pm,and no word from those who attended the meeting yet,....do you think they have gone to the dark side,!

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    They're probably so gobsmacked from the lack of response from the BKU, that they've gone to the pub to drown their sorrows. The BKU is so entrenched in it's attitude towards (or should that be against) recreational paddlers that I think that they just cannot imagine that there is a need to change. I can imagine their thought patterns - "Surely, paddlers only use kayaks and enter competitions?"

  10. #130
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    Canoe England gave some indication that they recognise the need for (some) change but I'm not sure they know how to, or to what extent those in the room are able to change without a positive signal from "senior management". They do plan other meetings elsewhere in the country and we may find that this is used as an excuse for delaying any response until the other regions have had a chance for input. I hope not. I was left with the clear impression that a key "enabler" for doing almost anything was the extent to which it attracts funding and grants.

    There can be no doubt that our key concerns were heard but we will have to wait for evidence of a positive response. Don't hold your breath while you're waiting!

    Others may have different views and I'm sure they'll be along soon.
    Keith

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    Quote Originally Posted by KeithD View Post
    Canoe England gave some indication that they recognise the need for (some) change but I'm not sure they know how to, or to what extent those in the room are able to change without a positive signal from "senior management". They do plan other meetings elsewhere in the country and we may find that this is used as an excuse for delaying any response until the other regions have had a chance for input. I hope not. I was left with the clear impression that a key "enabler" for doing almost anything was the extent to which it attracts funding and grants.

    There can be no doubt that our key concerns were heard but we will have to wait for evidence of a positive response. Don't hold your breath while you're waiting!

    Others may have different views and I'm sure they'll be along soon.
    Thanks Keith, and thanks to the all of you who made the effort to attend.
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  12. #132
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    I was there, and a pretty sobering day it was. Full marks to the CE personal for being there, and, I think, being pretty honest. I do think that there is a change of mood and focus, and a change of words too, but the hardliners present gave the CE people a difficult time, the response to which was quite a lot of "we are doing that, and its not working", and "we are talking to the right people in high places and they are not interested".

    For me, however, the overwhelming thought is that if the intention was to prove that access is the interest of a tiny minority, the very small attendance at the meeting was good evidence of that. I didn't count, and I didn't take notes...there were others there scribbling copiously... but I doubt if there were more than 20 of us. 5 of them and an independent chairman. There were far more Reading Canoe Club people on the water.

    I'm sure that others will give their own views, but the access improvement case was well put by some impressive advocates.

    Impcanoe

  13. #133
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    My impressions:

    The meeting was well run and gave good opportunities for people express their views.


    It was clear that Richard Atkinson, a very impressive individual, has a very wide range of responsibilities and cannot devote any significant time to the Access Campaign. I was also impressed by Kevin Dennis' obvious sympathy and recognition of the need an effective Access Campaign...

    I was not impressed at all by the account of the Access Campaign activities. It was basically a rehash of a few events which have occurred over the past few years, and of blame on others, e.g. The Ramblers, for the lack of success of our Campaign. The message in general was a very negative one. It was admitted that not one mile of increased access had been obtained. There was no strategy put forward as to how this situation might be changed. CE has a very passive attitude to non participation by members... "It is not our fault no one shows up" , rather than "What should we do to get more participation"...


    The attendees were almost all there because of their interest in the Access Campaign, not other Environment and Waterways activities, and were mostly SOTP members. Their participation in the meeting was excellent. There were two main points expressed:

    1. That CE devote more resources to conducting a proper access campaign which directly addresses the real issue. There were a few references to the effectiveness of The Ramblers campaign and its usefulness as a model.

    2. That CE takes a much harder line on the legal position by unambiguously stating that there is an already a public right of access, established in law; in the same way as Fish Legal umambiguosly states its view. This was supported by a show of hands at the end of the meeting.

    CE did not know what percentage of their budget they directly spend on the access campaign but on the evidence presented, it appears to be about 50% of the cost of one employee, out of a total of 100 employees, or less than 1%. Would this be 20,000 out of the millions they get to spend every year? CE doesn't know.

    Many aspects of access issues and solutions were discussed and there was very large agreement amongst attendees about what should be done.

    However, the biggest access issue of all is the lack of interest by CE members. As was remarked by the chairman, " if our members were interested in this topic the room would be full to overflowing. ". There were less than twenty attendees. Once again SOTP led the way by publicizing the meeting here and encouraging attendance. The meeting would probably not gone ahead without our participation.

    Obviously the number one issue for any Access Campaign is to generate that interest. I am certain that this can be done.

    As an aside, CE needs more volunteer river advisors. I urge you to volunteer, I have.

    Hopefully this meeting will be a first step in bringing about change and I thank CE for organizing it.
    Last edited by dougdew99; 14th-October-2012 at 01:29 PM.
    Doug Dew
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  14. #134
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    As mentioned above, the turn out was pretty poor; one attending Reading CC member privately questioned what all the fuss was about if so few could be bothered to show up. Hopefully, the two proposed further W&E meetings will be better attended,b ut it’s interesting to consider what mix of apathy, better things to do, and, possibly the view that CE/RAC is irrelevant contributed to the low numbers.

    IMO, CE is struggling to keep up with the reality of the changing approach to access on the ground (or should that be the water). I’m not sure whether the meeting reflected their belated attempt to stall those who have left them behind or a genuine recognition that a) the membership doesn’t need, and is way beyond, being ‘governed’, and b) if CE want to regain (?) a leadership role over access that they will have to make a quantum change in their approach from the top down.

    In no particular order...

    Most progressive sign: The question being openly raised as to how members would like the CE Position Statement on Access Arrangements to be changed, and a concomitant request to attendees (or for that matter, any member) to submit their suggested revisions. The clear message came back from the attending members to drop the deferential/concessionary/uncertainty approach and state ‘we believe...prove us wrong’. A failure to act on this now will finish any residual credibility, and the clock is ticking.

    Funniest moment: The look on some faces when it was mentioned in passing that the suggestion had been made on forums that Mark Rainsley should head the RAC (or words to that effect).

    Most jaw dropping part (where I began to seriously consider whether I might have accidentally driven to Reading in a DeLorean): The list of the RAC’s ‘achievements’ being presented as though they were last week (and had had any real impact). These included

    Des Turner’s Ten Minute Rule Bill (2007)
    John Grogan’s EDMs (2008 & 2009)
    The Paddle to Westminster (2005)

    Most predictable moment (sadly, among a number): Q. “How much money is spent on the RAC?” A. We can’t tell you” (with the emphasis on can’t because we don’t know, rather than won’t). It’s blatantly clear that the RAC (and W&E in general) is underfunded, and questions of strategic approach aside, ring fencing (a percentage) of the membership fee income would seem to be the only way forward financially (IMO), but again, if this is to be achieved then support of the promotion of access as a valid concern by members will need to be sufficient to overcome the views of those such as the RCC member described above, let alone senior CE personnel.

    Comment least picked up on? Richard Atkinson’s mention in his examples of some local volunteer involvement in W&E projects on the ground, that it may be necessary to pay people for some specific tasks. A dangerously professional approach (though, once again, the question of funding raises its head)?

    Biggest inhibitor to progress at CE? Bunker mentality? Lack of genuine will to change (there were some notable verbal ‘tells’ including “You shouldn’t be paddling in the spawning season” which had to be quickly qualified, and excuse after excuse as to why such as Canoe Trails only included non-disputed routes or why such as the Paddlepoints website couldn’t be endorsed*)? Lack of demonstrable mandate from members to force change at the top? Maybe they’ve just missed the boat (one W&E member present was unaware of Keith’s access map) and it’s time to stop waving at them to catch up from the stern, and focus on the horizon in front?

    *It was also noted that CE are in the process of removing links on regional CE web pages to website and blog river guides which are ‘non-compliant i.e. non-party line views expressed rather than just saying something like “The views expressed are not those of CE, but here’s a helpful guide anyway”.
    Last edited by John Saunders; 14th-October-2012 at 10:23 AM. Reason: Spacing of words

  15. #135
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    It is stated that the turnout was poor at the meeting but how was it publicised, I only heard about it from this thread and as the majority of attendees were from the SOTP it would seem that this was the main publicity. I have looked at the RAC & CE web sites but can not see any mention of the meeting. Could it be that few people knew about the meeting rather than lack of interest?

    Well done those that did attend, I am sure it was worthwhile even if only to confirm the limitations of the CE input to the Access Campaign.
    "Rules are for the obedience of fools and the guidance of wise men"
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  16. #136
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    Just 2 questions.

    1. What the hell is W&E?
    and
    2. What has the RAC done to be brought up so often?
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    Not my fight guys, but just a thought -
    It's pretty easy to create apathy by making promises and breaking them.

    If it was my fight I'd be clearing out the dead wood and getting a new movement going.........
    If I'm invited I may join in......

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    Quote Originally Posted by joe.ford View Post
    Just 2 questions.

    1. What the hell is W&E?
    and
    2. What has the RAC done to be brought up so often?
    W & E = Waterways & Environment - the bit of Canoe England that deals with access amongst other things.

    RAC = Rivers Access Campaign

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    Quote Originally Posted by davidh View Post
    Not my fight guys, but just a thought -
    It's pretty easy to create apathy by making promises and breaking them.

    If it was my fight I'd be clearing out the dead wood and getting a new movement going.........
    If I'm invited I may join in......
    The old git has got it right and he wasn't even there!

    I agree with what the other guys have said especially Keith's observation that they have no idea how to be assertive. Back in July I did offer to walk them through some real cases to show them how it is done and that the sky does not fall in if you do stand up for yourself. That offer is still on the table and I will e-mail them to that effect.

    Meanwhile back in the real world, I think we just plough on and let CE catch up if they can.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Angut View Post
    I agree with what the other guys have said especially Keith's observation that they have no idea how to be assertive.
    That's not what I said but I do believe a very clear and assertive (not aggressive) position is the essential start point.
    Keith

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    Quote Originally Posted by dougdew99 View Post
    However, the biggest access issue of all is the lack of interest by CE members. As was remarked by the chairman, " if our members were interested in this topic the room would be full to overflowing. ".
    I wonder to what extent the apparent lack of interest amongst CE members reflects the demographic make up of the membership.

    If the majority of CE members are also members of local clubs who may concentrate more on the competitive side of things than journeying on rivers then general access to water is not going to be much of a problem.
    The fact that a club exists is based on the local availability of water to paddle and if that water meets the requirements for the majority of their activity then why would they be bothered about the wider issues.

    This rather begs the question, is CE only interested in what the members seem to be concerned about or in the wider benefit for all canoeists in England and the potential for development of the sport beyond paddling flat out or jiggling round dangly poles..

  22. #142
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    The meeting that was held in the North West,earlier this year, in Bury greater Manchester, was, in my view well

    attended, by people who did ask very pertinent questions, I was unable to attend the Reading meeting, as I am

    not a member,and from what has been said,it would appear that that very little was on offer any way.

    A room full of disgruntled paddlers, demanding more action, with those unable to gain access to the room,burning

    the committee in effigy outside are unlikely to have got a better result, since the BCU have nothing new to suggest.

    The truth is they are not interested in our problems or our goals.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Hyperion View Post
    The meeting that was held in the North West,earlier this year, in Bury greater Manchester, was, in my view well

    attended, by people who did ask very pertinent questions, I was unable to attend the Reading meeting, as I am

    not a member,and from what has been said,it would appear that that very little was on offer any way.

    A room full of disgruntled paddlers, demanding more action, with those unable to gain access to the room,burning

    the committee in effigy outside are unlikely to have got a better result, since the BCU have nothing new to suggest.

    The truth is they are not interested in our problems or our goals.

    It is not as simple as that... They were not obliged to hold that meeting. They put themselves in a position where they knew they were going to be criticized. They didn't have to do that.

    We had the opportunity to tell them what we thought and they listened. That is a good thing. I will take every opportunity I get, to talk to them. I have no idea if they will change anything as a result. The more SOTP members we had had there, the greater our effect would have been.
    Doug Dew
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    Quote Originally Posted by Hyperion View Post
    So,its 7;15 pm,and no word from those who attended the meeting yet,....do you think they have gone to the dark side,!
    Paddle, or paddle not. There is no law against canoeing Master Hyperion:

    We escaped after the meeting...



    ...where the prevailing point of view from CE was that certain rivers were still regarded as out of bounds (despite the request for volunteers to act as W&E advisors on such contested waterways as the Itchen and Hampshire Avon)...



    ...and where there was an impression of deja vue in many of the CE responses:


  25. #145
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    'Obe One,..I wish to exit this valley in a canoe'

    'Use the course [of the river] Luke'

    Very good John, thank you for finding the cartoons to illustrate your frustrations.

    From BCU/CU the song remains the same, its 'song of the paddle', but not as we know it Jim.

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    A reason for the poor attendance? Poor publicity and timing the meeting to coincide with the beginning of the season for the more contested rivers. Sorry I couldn't make it, I finally managed to get on the Tavy which I hadn't previously got round to. The solicitor who normally shouts at paddlers was not there and we got out on Forestry Commission land who have a more inclusive attitude to the public.

    Sounds like there was nothing new discussed. Shame, one might have hoped the new era of enlightenment would have contributed to a positive vibe.

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    Unfortunately I could not attend due to being on a course, but I do wonder if the low attendance is due to BCU / CE missing the boat as it were.

    When the RAC began, and with the furor surrounding the Dee at that time, there was a huge groundswell of paddler support for change. This could be seen in the changing attitude of paddlers to access agreements and in the numbers that turned up to participate in the rallies at Llangollen or Chester. But that was never followed up on, where was the leadership and organisation to guide the fight?

    Without any sign of participation from our representative bodies, paddlers just got on with accessing rivers, paddled when they wanted and gave up on the RAC. Why attend a meeting if you know the poor track record that BCU / CE has on this issue? They had a fantastic opportunity in around 2005, they blew it and I will believe it will take real leadership and actions to regain the trust from paddlers

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    I was there and these are some of my own personal comments / observations.

    CE did not have to do this, so I appreciated that they were willing to come and meet with us.
    It was useful to find out how they relate to the new waterways bodies being set up and how paddlers can be represented
    They do have a good network of contacts which is useful for developing relationships and understanding with other river users and interests.

    CE has about 30,000 members - compared to up to 2 million people who paddle annually - This does not support their assetion to represent paddlers (in general)

    I can see they represent paddlesport (coaches and competition).
    I would like to know how their members breakdown into competitors, coaches and leaders, and others, and of those others, how many only have membership for the waterways licence.

    The proportion of resources given to the issue of obtaining more access to and along rivers for paddling is very small and bears no relation to the number of paddlers in each category CE represents (Competition, Coaching and Leading, Recreational).

    Financially I think only a small proportion of income comes direct from members (possibly less than 20%).

    The W&E team have limited resources so communicating what they are doing does not get enough time.

    All water users need to work together to increase the shared use of water resources in the country - government expects this. Entrenched positions and conflict won't be supported.

    The paddling community needs to get involved in the development and protection of their local waterways and engage in the bodies that do this.

    KEY POINT which came from an attendee
    Any campaign / organisation has to have
    1) A clear vision of what it wants to achieve
    2) A strategy for achiveing that vision
    3) A planned set of actions to deliver what the strategy needs to achieve
    4) Resources to carry them out
    It doesn't matter if that is CE/ BCU or a campaign led by others in the paddling community.
    I think it's clear that CE's priorities are split, their key focus is elsewhere, and they don' t have the resource. Given that are they best placed to lead? Or should that come from another source that can make use of CE's resources where required?

    Brevan
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    CE have posted a comment about this meeting on their facebook page.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Mike A View Post
    CE have posted a comment about this meeting on their facebook page.
    For us innocents who don't understand facebook - can someone put it on here please?

    Sam

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    Quote Originally Posted by samB View Post
    For us innocents who don't understand facebook - can someone put it on here please?

    Sam
    As requested, from CE Facebook page (posted about 4 hours ago):

    Last Saturday a total of 18 people attended a Waterways and Environment Members Meeting at Reading Canoe Club.

    After a presentation on the work the Waterways and Environment Team undertake, the day included the following:

    a. Working with others
    b. Canoe Trails
    c. Rivers Access Campaign Update
    d. Access policy/Access Statement

    There was also opportunity for questions and the end of each session and breakout sessions so that members could provide feedback and ideas.

    The Waterways and Environment Team will shortly be meeting to discuss the day, its outcomes and potential actions as well as looking how we can feedback some notes. In addition they will be involving those who are on the Canoe England Waterways and Environment Operations Group it is important that these people should be part of the information sharing process too.

    If you would like to volunteer to help as part of our Waterways Information Service or to support in additional ways then the team would be happy to hear from you.

    Following the meeting we received emails from the Members saying they thought the meeting was well organised with sufficient time for them to express their concerns and thoughts.

    There will be 2 further meetings to cover other regions. Watch this space for info. Please contact access@canoe-england.org.uk with any questions.

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    Quote Originally Posted by John Saunders View Post
    As requested, from CE Facebook page (posted about 4 hours ago):
    Just posted this on CE's Facebook page;

    "The most important outcome from the meeting was the statement by a show of hands that attendees want Canoe England to clearly take the position that a public right to paddle on English rivers already exists and no permission is required to do so. This was discussed at length at the meeting."
    Doug Dew
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    "The most important outcome from the meeting was the statement by a show of hands that attendees want Canoe England to clearly take the position that a public right to paddle on English rivers already exists and no permission is required to do so. This was discussed at length at the meeting."

    That sounds promising!
    Hang onto your paddle. And if you hit any rocks, don't hit 'em with your head.

  34. #154
    Join Date
    May 2007
    Location
    Mid-Wales (River Wye)
    Posts
    1,110

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    Quote Originally Posted by Puddlesurfer View Post
    "The most important outcome from the meeting was the statement by a show of hands that attendees want Canoe England to clearly take the position that a public right to paddle on English rivers already exists and no permission is required to do so. This was discussed at length at the meeting."

    That sounds promising!
    I don't know - how many people were at the meeting?

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