What follows strikes me as the most realistic appraisal I've yet read of where we might currently stand in terms of increased access to rivers: posted on UKRGB on 3rd March.
Mark R challenged the phrase "what has become accepted access to much of England and Wales' waterways".. leading to a clarification with which I'd wholeheartedly agree:Originally Posted by Big Henry
This chimes with my own experience: my recollection of the 1980s was of a FAR worse access situation... at least as far as WW rivers were concerned. Back then, the key folk in my paddling circles found the whole situation so intimidating that we didn't do ANYTHING that didn't have the go-ahead from a river adviser - and we still had access to more than most people would ever get around to paddling - and whilst I'd like an improved access situation... I'd rather settle for the workable status quo than take significant risk on us ending up in a LESS favourable position!I'm using the term 'accepted' to mean unchallenged, and I say 'much' because the (admittedly limited) number of sections of rivers I now paddle on completely unchallenged throughout the year, as opposed to having to stick to rigid access times, must have increased fifteen- or twenty-fold at least. But as I mentioned, it is limited (to the North East) and other areas are not so lucky.
Getting back to the UKRGB thread, we find Adam Box announcing his resignation as Devon and Cornwall Regional Access Adviser and commenting on the basis of immense familiarity with Access matters:
Whilst negotiating new CE agreements on SW rivers I have insisted that the pre-amble to the arrangement includes a paragraph which makes it clear that the different parties have different views on the legal situation with regard to access, and that we (CE & canoeists generally) do not accept the traditional views of the riparian owners. It concludes with a sentence along the lines of 'The aim of this arrangement is to allow canoeing to take place without confrontation or challenge, and without prejudice to the views of either Canoe England or riparian owners'. I have refused to sign and ratify any agreements without this statement. The purpose of any such arrangement is therefore to allow unchallenged access on rivers during the fishing close season while still giving paddlers the opportunity to paddle at other times if they so wish, without creating any precedent which riparian owners can use to support their case. Despite the hostility shown by a relatively small number of contributors to this forum over the Barle arrangement I still feel that this is a positive way forward during the current legal uncertainty.Further food for thought, and a healthy counterpoint to the more militant voices here on this board: to my mind, these contributions introduce a much needed dose of realism into discussions - and can we at least get agreement that CE will not be thanked by many if efforts to "improve" our access situation actually lead to the "rights we have as described by Caffyn" being "legally and forever removed".I wish I had a clear understanding of my rights and status with regard to river access because the only thing I am certain about is that there is no certainty about the legal position. I know what I believe to be morally right, though the riparian owners put a totally different moral argument. I know and like what Caffyn says, but he is just one person expressing an opinion which has not been legally tested. I also know of cases in which the courts have supported the riparian owners view of their rights, and these have been widely reported on this forum. A legal challenge is therefore the only way that this will get sorted and I won't be mortgaging my house to pay the outrageous legal fees to pursue such a case, and I'm not entirely sure that I'd have faith in our legal system to come up with an answer which supports Doug Caffyn's views.
I think that with the exception of the 2nd para, which I commented on in my last post, Big Henry's post of 3rd March is the most astute, analytical and realistic explanation of the situation that CE finds itself in that I have seen on this site. However, having identified the pitfalls of various approaches he is not able to clearly identify a winning way forward for paddlers, and therein lies the problem for the paddling community.