Clear Access Clear Waters is a campaign for fair, shared and sustainable open access on water for all. It’s aim is not only to seek greater public access to water for recreation, but also to secure the protection of our natural environment.
Now, more than ever, we all need access to our natural spaces, our parks and rivers, mountains and lakes. Whether it is for health, for fitness, social time, family time, or to take action to protect the environment access to green and blue spaces for recreation is/will be crucial in helping us build back a healthier, more resilient society post Covid-19.
People protect what they love, but they only love what they know. The natural world is fragile and needs our help to protect. If we are to be the first generation to hand over our environment in a better state than it was found, then our waterways must not remain shut off to all but a few.
The Clear Access Clear Waters campaign is asking for clarity of rights over access for this generation and future generations to come. The case for fair, shared, sustainable open access on water in England and Wales has never been greater.
Nationally around 2.1 million people go paddling each year. In November 2017 the Clear Access Clear Waters Charter launched to:
- Champion the case for fair, shared, sustainable open access on all waterways in England
- Act to protect and improve the health of our rivers
- Inspire more people to be active outdoors – reconnecting them with their environment
The outdoors should be open to sustainable unpowered pursuits for
enjoyment, learning, health and exploration enabling the public to enjoy health and well-being.
Paddling contributes towards improving mental and physical well-being, sustainable access on and along waterways can have a beneficial impact on the environment; paddling positively benefits and supports the local economy.
Of the total length of rivers in England, of 57,602km, less that 4% have a clear right to paddle. British Canoeing is asking the government to confirm public rights of navigation for open access ON water in law. The Countryside and Rights of Way Act (CRoW) 2000 introduced open access land for walking, climbing and running however access to inland waterways and the use of boats were excluded. The laws and principles adopted in Scotland demonstrate that sharing of all waterways can be achieved without significant impacts to differing interests. Repeated attempts to negotiate voluntary access arrangements in line with Department Environment Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) policy have not succeeded. It can be difficult to
agree when one party believes they hold the power/have the upper hand.
Any right of access would not affect inland waterways under the control of a statutory navigation authority, where users already comply with statutory licensing requirements e.g. Canal & River
Trust. A rod license fee is a legal requirement and pays for vital work to protect and improve fisheries including enhancing habitats for fish and rearing coarse fish at Environment Agency fish farms to restock rivers. Paddlers are using the river network like a cyclist does the highway network.
Health of our Rivers
For many paddlers the environment and wildlife is the primary reason for taking to the water and they are keen to protect it. Where there is evidence that damage or disturbance would occur to our native wildlife, for example spawning fish and nesting birds, British Canoeing would endorse temporary measures on specific waters. The right of open access should be complemented by a statutory Code of Conduct for all users, promoting paddling sustainably by sharing the space and respecting others and the environment.
80% of marine rubbish comes from land based sources which finds its way to the sea via rivers and drains, blown by winds or even swept with the tide. Currently, the equivalent of one rubbish truck of plastic per minute enters our oceans. A large proportion from our rivers. Paddlers can reach litter on our rivers where others can’t. As part of the Autumn 2019 national campaign Wey Kayak club’s 50 volunteer paddlers collected 30 sacks of plastic pollution and junk from a 3 km stretch of the River Wey! Imagine the great work if paddlers could access all rivers! Since 2018 over 150 paddle clean ups have taken place.
Invasive Non-Native Species
Alien invaders both plants and animals arrive from other countries. Some of the plants are attractive and bought over for ornamental reasons however they can have a detrimental impact on our environment because they: outcompete native species, increase erosion and flooding, clog up our waterways, cost the economy in excess of £1.8 billion annually.
Even within England, we can unwittingly transfer alien invaders from one area to another and many can survive for weeks on damp and dirty kit – they love it. So, remember to:
- Always Check you’re not carrying live animals or plant material, leave anything you find on site, don’t put anything down the drain
- Clean all equipment, clothing and shoes thoroughly as soon as you can
- and Dry your boat, equipment and kit as well as possible using a towel to mop up pools of water inside