The campaign for

River Access for All


This is the latest news from River Access for All.

This section contains the latest news about issues relating to river access.

April 2018
Unnecessary Tension on the River Wye   Read More
Nov 2016
It’s Time For Change!   Read More
Feb 2015
Understanding the Evidence   Read More
Jan 2015
Remember Clause 33 ... or Forget Magna Carta   Read More
Sept 2014
The Angling trust dismisses Magna Carta   Read More
May 2014
Welsh Government need more Time to make Plans   Read More
Dec 2013
More Of The Same From The Angling Trust   Read More
Oct 2013
New Approach From New Minister   Read More
Oct 2013
Gone Fishing   Read More
Sept 2013
Welsh Government Moves To Settle Access Issues   Read More
Sept 2013
Reorganised Agencies in Wales   Read More
Feb 2013
Lets Get it Clear   Read More
Feb 2013
Changing your mind   Read More
Dec 2012
It was a Simple Enough Question but Not Answered - Petition to the House of Commons   Read More
Dec 2012
Why does Richard Benyon continue to encourage angling groups to believe they have a veto over navigation   Read More
Dec 2012
River Access for All Shop open   Read More
Dec 2012
Paul Heiney, presenter of Countrywise on ITV, and a canoeist   Read More
Dec 2012
World's Foremost Extreme Kayaker supports River Access For All - Shaun Baker    Read More
Nov 15th 2012
Is DEFRA Acting Against the Will of Parliament? - DEFRA   Read More
Nov 2012
Talking Rubbish ? - River Cleanup   Read More
Oct 10th 2012
MP intervenes in Barbed Wire Case ? - River Danger   Read More

Unnecessary Tension on the River Wye

April 2018

Rivers should be a great source of peace and tranquillity.

Yet tensions on the river Wye upstream of Hay on Wye are again running high as Geoff Maynard of Llanthomas Fishery, asserts

People need my permission to paddle through my stretch. This is not my opinion, it is the law.

Mr Maynard has announced his intention to enforce charges, to some canoeists, for use of “his stretch” of the river.

There are few rivers where the evidence of public navigation rights is clearer than on the River Wye. In addition to the evidence of common law public rights of navigation there are two statutes which declare

PROVIDED also that it shall and may bee lawfull to and for any person or persons, to use occupy or imploy any boat, barge, leightor or other Vessell upon the said River of Wye for the carrying, transporting, or conveying of any passengers, goods or any other things whatsoever, as freely to all intents and purposes as is or hath been used or accustomed.- 1662


That the said Rivers of Wye and Lugg be and from henceforth be accounted deemed and taken to bee free and Common Rivers and Streams to and for all His Majesties Subjects freely to make use of for the carrying and conveying of all Passengers, Good,s Wares and Commodities by Boats Barges Lighters and other Vessells whatsoever.- 1695

That would seem clear enough! However, those that oppose recognition of the PRN upstream of Herefordshire, claim that the titles of the two Acts of Parliament viz.,

An Act for the making navigable the Rivers Wye and Lugg, and the Rivers and Brooks running into the same, in the Counties of Hereford, Gloucester and Monmouth.”-1662


An Act for making navigable the Rivers of Wye and Lugg in the County of Hereford.”- 1695

impose an implied limitation excluding any application beyond the named counties.

If they are right the navigation would have ended at the border of Hereford. But it didn’t! There is a great deal of evidence that navigation extended much further upstream. The Act of Parliament (George II (1756) cap 73 - An act for building a bridge across the river Wye from the town of Hay in the county of Brecon to the opposite shore in the county of Radnor) covering the building of the bridge, makes specific provision for the preservation of navigation at this location, which is not in Herefordshire .

And be it further enacted by the Authority aforesaid, that the said Commisssioners, or any five or more of them, are hereby authorised and impowered by themselves, their servants, agents, workmen, and others, to remove any Shelf or Shelves, or to deepen or widen the said River Wye or any Ayts [aits] or Stops in the same between the parish of Clirow and the Town of Hay aforesaid; or to dig or cut the Banks of the said River in such manner as shall be necessary and proper for the building of the said Bridge, and the Navigation and Passage of Boats, Barges, Lighters, and other vessels, and for the more convenient and better carrying on and effecting the said Undertaking, and making the Navigation of the said River more easy; …….”

The building of Hay Bridge was a public project funded by public money. It would have been illegal for such public funds to have been spent on maintaining or improving this navigation unless it was a public navigation. This is conclusive evidence that the public navigation did not (and therefore, does not) end at the borders of Hereford.

This evidence, and much more, is detailed in the paper Public Rights of Navigation on the River Wye upstream of Herefordshire. It demonstrates that not only the Parliament of 1756, but the officers of the county of Radnor, landowners, carriers on the river and others recognised the public’s right to navigate the river Wye upstream of Herefordshire.

Johnathon Crompton Image

In 2002, the Wye Navigation Order modified the statutory position by making the Environment Agency the Navigation Authority up to the downstream face of the bridge at Hay. It pointedly did not modify the navigation rights (“if any”) upstream of Hay Bridge which remained as they were.

It’s Time For Change!

Nov 2016

Three years ago we published an e-mail from Defra which acknowledged

There is no clear case law on whether a 'common law right of navigation' exists on unregulated rivers. This is widely accepted to be an unclear and unresolved issue.

It directly challenged the assertions of the Angling Trust who claim

The current position of the law is settled in that no general public right to navigate in non tidal rivers exists in England and Wales.

This obviously upset the Angling Trust who lobbied Defra and the government to reverse their position. Their sister organisation, Fish Legal made a formal complaint to Defra about their confirmation that the law was unclear.

In a subsequent Press Statement, The Angling Trust said

Thanks to Fish Legal’s perseverance, this statement has been shown to be incorrect.


It was clear to Fish Legal that DEFRA had not done its homework.

They implied that Defra now supported the Angling Trusts interpretation of the law.

And yet in a response to Ken Clarke, MP as recently as 29th October 2016, Andrea Leadsom, Secretary of State for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs once again confirms that

the law regarding the right of navigation on unregulated watercourses is unclear.”

She goes on

Our unregulated watercourses serve many users, so the interests of canoeists/kayakers need to be balanced with others who use the waterways.

Once again Defra and the Angling Trust (who believe that the interests of canoeists should be subordinated to the interests of anglers rather than balanced with them) are at odds!

Encouraged and sustained by the AT’s interpretation of the law, various angling groups continue to attempt to intimidate canoeists with threats of legal action and injunctions, with predictions that a refusal to acknowledge total control of navigation by anglers will result in court costs running into tens of thousands of pounds being awarded against canoeists. Individual canoeists even face periodic threats of physical violence.

But the intimidation isn’t working anymore. The Angling Trusts position is no longer seen as credible. The angling groups must now decide whether this really is something that should be fought out in court on the basis of the evidence or is it time for all river users to find ways to share use of our rivers on a responsible and equitable basis.

Understanding the Evidence

Feb 2015

Last year we wrote to Ken Skates AM, Deputy Minister for Culture, Sport and Tourism in the Welsh Assembly Government.

We presented the evidence for common law public rights that have existed since ancient times to navigate rivers. The reply reveals the Welsh Governments understanding, and its failure to understand some of the key issues.

The reply (from Catrin Dellar, Senior Access and Outdoor Recreation Officer on behalf of Ken Skates) says the following.

We do not dispute that there has been ancient statute covering navigation issues dating back to the Magna Carta or even earlier.

No surprise here!; the evidence comes from Royal Charters, Commissions and Acts of Parliament and is both widespread and totally authoritative..

The question is whether these are still relevant …

It’s a fair question but the answer is completely clear. The Environment Agency v Josie Rowlands established that a public right of navigation can only be amended or extinguished by Parliament (or the Welsh Assembly in Wales), either through a specific Act or through the exercise of powers delegated by Parliament for the purpose. Neither the Welsh Government (nor anyone else) can point to any such Act or exercise of delegated powers and therefore the ancient rights of navigation must still exist.

… and whether they prove beyond doubt …

Proof beyond any reasonable doubt is the standard of proof applicable to criminal law but the existence of a Public Right of Navigation does not involve the criminal law. The standard of proof required to establish facts under the civil law is “on the balance of available evidence”.

… that navigation rights exist on all rivers...

Roman law (See The Institutes of Justinian page 19, 1-4) recognised navigation rights on all flowing water. Magna Carta confirmed it’s provisions to protect PRN applied “throughout the Realm” and the 1472 Act for Wears and Fishgarthes added the clarification

"Whereas, by the laudable Statute of Magna Carta, among other Things, it is contained That all Kedels by Thamise and Medway, and throughout the Realm of England, should be taken away, saving by the Sea-banks, which Statute was made for the great Wealth of all this Land, in avoiding the straitness [obstruction] of all Rivers, so that Ships and Boats might have in them their large and free Passage...."

In the absence of any evidence to the contrary this conclusively indicates that the ancient public right of navigation existed (and therefore exists) on all rivers capable of navigation.

The evidence you provide in your document seems to indicate that navigation has historically been determined on a case by case (river by river) basis.

The evidence referred to dealt with obstructions to navigation on a river by river basis. It did not consider whether a public right to navigate existed – it demonstrated that it did! No court has ever found against the existence of the ancient common law right of navigation on any river.

It is not for the Welsh Ministers or their officials to provide legal advice to the public on this or any other matter. It would be for the courts to decide the merits of any claim in relation to recreational navigation rights on Welsh rivers.”

A clear and unambiguous ruling on the existence of public rights of navigation IS the province of the courts rather than Welsh Government. But the rights to invoke the courts in making such a determination in Wales is reserved exclusively to the Counsel General for Wales who is appointed by the Crown and sits within the Welsh Government. The Counsel General may bring, defend or appear in legal proceedings, in the name of the Counsel General, if he considers it appropriate to do so to promote or protect the public interest. So whilst the letter is correct that Ministers cannot provide legal advice to the public they can initiate a chain of action that can obtain a clear judicial ruling concerning the existence of common law navigation rights by seeking the advice of the Counsel General who can obtain a determination from the courts.

Welsh Government is currently considering the need for new legislation covering access to Welsh rivers for public recreation. Do they really intend to do so without a clear appreciation of the current law?

Remember Clause 33 ...... or Forget Magna Carta

Jan 2015

This years celebration of the 800th anniversary of the first sealing of Magna Carta will attract a great deal of attention.

Specialist academic comment is starting to appear everywhere. Two authoritative comments are

Magna Carta ......... , clause 33 was to be of enormous significance in the history of navigation in this country, because it established the principle of free passage along England's rivers, so laying the foundations for transport development in the Industrial Revolution.

From a lecture to the All Party Parliamentary Group on the Constitution, 26 February 2013 (see page 2), by Professor Nigel Saul, Professor of Medieval History, Royal Holloway University of London.

Londoners came to believe that this could only be achieved if they had the control of the whole of the Thames. The Charter did not make this sweeping concession, but repeated John's prohibition, without a penalty clause, and extended it to all English rivers.

the Magna Carta Project academic commentary on Clause 33 (at the end of section (b)).

We have also become aware of the case of The King v Clark (1702) (12 Mod 615; 88 ER 1558) confirms

And per Holt, Chief Justice, to hinder the course of a navigable river is against Magna Charta, c. 23, and anything that aggravates the fact, though not directly to the issue, may be given in evidence upon it; as here the taking of money to let people pass. And it is no exception to a witness here, that he contributes to carry on the suit, or that this public nusance (sic) was to his private nusance (sic)

These are authoritative confirmation of public navigation rights which existed in all rivers. Further analysis of statutes and Royal Commissions also shows no restrictions on the basis of the tidal/non tidal status of rivers or their status as "Great Rivers" which some suggest limited navigation rights. It's all in our publication The Protection of Navigation on Rivers with links to the source documents we refer to.

There is so much authoritative evidence that it's hard to understand how anyone, especially those responsible to the public, can continue to ignore it, .. but they do! Defra, Welsh Government, the National Trust (who will host the Magna Carta celebrations at Runnymede) and councils such as Three Rivers District Council (whose principal legal advisor is a Director of the Angling Trust) continue to deny public navigation rights on rivers

Clause 33 was repealed in 1969. But Clause 33 didn't create navigation rights. They were there before Magna Carta. So the repeal of Clause 33 just removes the prohibition on kiddells and fishgarthes which are no longer an important consideration in today's world. The spirit and intent of Clause 33 lives on.

In Scotland, which never benefited from Magna Carta itself, public navigation rights are enshrined in modern legislation (Land Reform (Scotland) Act, 2003). It's time that the same certainty is restored to England and Wales as originally intended by Magna Carta, Clause 33 (Clause 23 in subsequent versions).

In 1215, Magna Carta was a sham. King John had no intention of observing the agreement and within weeks he had petitioned the Pope to have it annulled. When we celebrate the 800th anniversary in June, will we be honouring the spirit of what Magna Carta (including Clause 33) became over the centuries that followed 1215 or paying lip service in the style of King John?

Remember Clause 33 ......
or forget Magna Carta!

The Angling Trust Dismisses Magna Carta

Sept 2014

Next June the attention of the free world will focus on the meadow of Runnymede where Magna Carta was first sealed 800 years ago.

This Great Charter, confirmed more than 40 times over successive generations, will be acclaimed as one of the foundations of democratic government, enshrining and protecting such great principals as all men being equal before the law, constraining the arbitrary exercise of power and protecting public rights of navigation "throughout England".

Yet on BBC's One Show (11th September 2014) Mark Lloyd of the Angling Trust dismissed it with just nine words. (watch the One Show Report).

There were lots of things in the Magna Carta

He then went on to justify this stance by claiming

Every Legal Professional we've ever spoken to has said there are legal judgements throughout the last two hundred years which clarify you would need permission to navigate down non-navigable rivers.

Setting aside the semantic nightmare of navigating on non-navigable rivers, he seems to have forgotten about the lawyers at Defra who said to me that

There is no clear case law on whether a common law right of navigation exists on unregulated rivers. This is widely accepted to be an unclear and unresolved issue

We know (from their press release) that Mr Lloyd and the Angling Trust have spoken to Defra on their understanding of case law. We also know, from the same source that Defra did not retract or amend their statement.

No agreement there, so lets see what agreement can be reached about Magna Carta.

Mr Lloyd has made a good, if modest, start. There will be wide agreement that Magna Carta contained lots of things. But did it protect navigation? The British Library says it did. Assuming agreement on this point, has the right of navigation that it protected been ended? We think not, but Mr Lloyd and the lawyers he discusses these things with may have found an overlooked statute to justify taking a different view. If so, it's time the Angling Trust told us what it is.


Welsh Government need more Time to make Plans

May 2014

When the Welsh Government Minister, John Griffiths, announced the review of legislation addressing access to the countryside (including waterways) the objectives were clear.

Our aim is to secure better access to the outdoors for recreation, modernise and simplify the current regulatory framework, and provide clarity and certainty over where people can go and what they can do there. This will enable us to take forward the Programme for Government commitments to improve access to the outdoors and to legislate for the amount of land that is available for allotments.

"Better access" is clearly desirable. "Modernise... the regulatory framework" is clearly needed.

Most rivers are not regulated other than by common law rights established from time immemorial. Provision of "clarity and certainty" would resolve the current situation where there are two distinct camps with totally opposed views.

Whilst revealing that he no longer plans to introduce primary legislation within this Assembly term (before May 2016), latest statement from John Griffiths doesn't change those objectives but says that "More work is required including further evidence gathering before we should decide the way forward." The delay is disappointing and can contribute nothing to the declared objectives but since the objectives of those seeking to share our rivers would not be served by early but poor legislation, we must accept Mr Griffiths judgement that this is best achieved by doing more work prior to legislation.

In the meantime nothing has changed. Mr Griffiths hopes for more agreement between river users as has always been the case. The evidence for the existence of existing common law rights of navigation, on all rivers physically capable of navigation, remains as persuasive as ever. The absence of any evidence to refute the common law rights and the reluctance of those that claim an exclusive right to control who can use Welsh rivers to test this right in the civil courts seems undiminished.

If any progress is to be made, while we wait for the issue of revised legislation to rise to the top of the Welsh Government agenda, it will be on the basis of a willingness to accept shared use of our rivers with mutual respect and consideration of the needs of all users.


More Of The Same From The Angling Trust

Dec 2013

The Angling Trust statement of 20th November, "Canoe Trespass Must be Tackled Say Angling and Countryside Groups" once again recites the same old unsubstantiated claims that we have all seen before.

River Access For All welcomes the response from Canoe England and Canoe Wales which makes it clear that, whilst they welcome constructive dialogue with those representing the other user groups that share our rivers, they do not believe that the objectives of the UK and Welsh Governments to widen and extend public access can be reconciled with the current stance of the Angling Trust which is based on the erroneous assumption that angling interests have a superior legal or moral claim to exclusive use of our rivers at times and places of their choosing.

The Angling Trust talks of trespass by canoeists and others on English and Welsh rivers.

There are legal sanctions against trespass but they don't apply where there is a public right of navigation.

These sanctions are not used by the Angling Trust or its legal arm Fish Legal. Could that be because such action would subject the Angling Trusts claims and the evidence supporting the existence of public rights of navigation to the scrutiny of the courts?

The Angling Trust has taken Government calls for local issues to be resolved by local agreement as a licence for them to exercise an effective veto over any non-fishing recreational use of rivers. They would have us believe that they and others have made strenuous efforts to enable substantial increases in canoeing opportunities through offers of Voluntary Access Agreements in line with government policy but let's just examine the facts.

In Appendix J of their dossier, referring to the River Rother, they attempt to show their reasonableness and the way it is frustrated by the intransigence of Canoe England. The River Rother is a statutory navigation by virtue of an Act of Parliament of 1791. The navigation was closed to trade in 1888 and the proprietors were relieved of the obligation to maintain it in 1936 but this did not remove the statutory public right of navigation.

The Angling Trust and the other "countryside interests" have suggested a permissive agreement for one day each month." The simple fact is that canoeists do not need "permission" from anglers to exercise a right of navigation confirmed by statute.

The Angling Trust complains that

the BCU were adamant that they would not monitor compliance with any arrangement or cooperate with a proposed permissive access scheme whereby participants would be registered and badged.

Again, the simple fact is that Parliament has given neither the Angling Trust nor Canoe England the right to control the public in such a way.

Canoe England and the Angling Trust are in a position to discuss evidence based issues affecting the environment, and reasonable measures relating to sharing our rivers in a sustainable way.
They can then recommend local codes of practice to canoeists and anglers, many of whom are not members either of Canoe England or the Angling Trust.

Unfortunately, talks are unlikely to progress to these achievable objectives while the Angling Trust and other angling groups focus almost exclusively on their campaign to assert the rights of anglers as being superior to those of all other users.

As a further example of how it is the attitudes of angling groups rather than Canoe England or Canoe Wales that have prevented Voluntary Access Agreements from working, consider the situation on the River Itchen in Hampshire.

The barrister, Arthur Telling, in his report "The Public Right of Navigation" concluded

To sum up: (i) there is an undoubted common law right of navigation over the tideway to Woodmill;

(ii) on the balance of probabilities, there is a common law right of navigation from Woodmill to Winchester over the original course of the river;

(iii) there is a common law right of navigation from Winchester to near Alresford either from time immemorial or by virtue of implied dedication;

(iv) there is a statutory right of navigation over the canal.

This conclusion, reached in 1985, predates the considerable additional research into historic navigation rights by Rev.d Dr Caffyn and others.

In February 2010, members of a sub group of the Hampshire Countryside Access Forum (a statutory body set up by the County Council under the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000) approached The Test and Itchen Association (an angling group) to propose discussions between them and Canoe England.
In June 2010 the response from the TIA confirmed that after discussion at both sub-committee and main Board meetings it was unwilling to even enter such discussions with Canoe England.

The BCU/Canoe England/Canoe Wales have attempted to extend access to rivers via such agreements for 50 years without significant progress.

Over recent years there is a much better understanding of historic navigation rights which, never having been extinguished by legislation or statutory authority, continue to exist.

All river users would benefit from greater co-operation with, and understanding of, the others that share our rivers.

This will only happen when the emphasis shifts from "permissive agreements" to discussions on how everyone can exercise their rights responsibly and with appropriate consideration for the needs of others.


New Approach From New Minister?

Oct 2013

In a surprise twist on the recent government reshuffle, Dan Rogerson, the Liberal Democrat MP for North Cornwall, has gained Inland Waterways within his ministerial portfolio.

In their 2010 manifesto the Liberal Democrats committed

Liberal Democrats will Increase the general right of access to the countryside, along the lines of the model introduced by the Liberal Democrats in Scotland.

The Land Reform (Scotland) Act, 2003 established a public right of responsible access to all rivers in Scotland for recreation.

The realities of coalition government mean that he may not be able to honour this commitment in the short term. Unlike his predecessor, Richard Benyon, he can, however, be expected to be sympathetic to non angling recreational access to rivers.

Whilst Richard Benyon steadfastly refused to engage with the evidence presented by Rev Dr Douglas Caffyn which concluded that there was an existing public right of navigation on all rivers physically capable of navigation, it is not unreasonable to expect Dan Rogerson to take expert advice on the validity of this research and its conclusion before he formulates his own policy regarding the law relating to navigation on unregulated rivers.

River Access For All looks forward to a more open-minded approach to the subject of Public Navigation Rights from Mr Rogerson and wishes him every success in his new position.


Gone Fishing?

Oct 2013

Richard Benyon, allegedly the richest MP in Parliament, has been sacked from his job as Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Natural Environment, Water and Rural Affairs at Defra.

He is replaced by George Eustice, the Conservative MP for Camborne and Redruth who won his seat in 2010 with only a 66 vote majority.

Richard Benyon had been a staunch defender of the supremacy of riparian landowner's rights to control navigation on unregulated rivers. He maintained this position despite his department saying

There is no clear case law on whether a 'common law right of navigation' exists on unregulated rivers. This is widely accepted to be an unclear and unresolved issue

Since his department also said

We are aware of the work of the Revd. Dr Douglas Caffyn "(demonstrating the existence of an historic common law Public right of navigation on a rivers in England and Wales)" but have not sought or received advice on it nor formed a legal opinion on the validity of his research

Defra is of course fully entitled to hold whatever view it wants on the existence of public rights of navigation but the public deserves this view to be based on a thorough examination of the evidence rather than on what can be no more than uninformed prejudice.

Only time will tell whether Mr Eustice represents just a repackaging of the same old prejudices or an opportunity for a full review of navigation rights and future policy to serve the broader public interest rather than privileged minorities.


Welsh Government Moves To Settle Access Issues

Sept 2013

John Griffiths, Minister for Culture and Sport in the Welsh Assembly Government, has announced plans to introduce legislation to settle access to and along rivers in Wales.

The aim is to secure better access to the outdoors for recreation, modernise and simplify the current regulatory framework, and provide clarity and certainty over where people can go and what they can do there.

The review will consider a wide range of areas but broadly these relate to access to the countryside and urban green spaces, improving public rights of way, and better provision and administration of allotments and community gardens.

Whilst, to most people, these will be seen as very worthy objectives, the Countryside Alliance and anglers groups have reacted to the proposals by stepping up their campaigning for restrictive access and greater regulation.

The timetable for change will see a detailed Green Paper in December followed by wide consultation before the Minister makes a final decision on the shape of legislation in April, which will then progress into law during 2014. The Welsh Assembly has already taken the power to introduce such legislation after a 2011 referendum seeking public approval for such wider powers.

River Access For All welcomes the prospect of a new regulatory framework that acknowledges canoeists' and swimmers' rights to share Welsh rivers with other user groups and believes that once this is established all such groups will be able to concentrate on practical solutions to any local issues. It works in Scotland and, with goodwill and courtesy from all parties, there is no reason not to be confident that it will work in Wales too.


Reorganised Agencies in Wales

Sept 2013

A new agency, Natural Resources Wales , has taken over the functions of the Countryside Council for Wales, Environment Agency Wales and Forestry Commission Wales, as well as some functions of Welsh Government.

The new agency says

We believe that by unlocking the potential that lies within Wales' resources, by managing them and using them in a more joined up and integrated way, they can help to meet the challenges we face.

Wales faces many challenges - challenges for its people and communities, for its economy and for its environment and wildlife. Securing energy and fuel supply, provision of jobs and income; tackling the threats of climate change and flooding; improving people's health and wellbeing.

Meeting these challenges needs fresh ideas, new ways of thinking and new ways of doing things. This includes how we maintain, enhance and use our natural resources.

The Agency will operate from offices across Wales . Concerns and environmental incidents should be reported on 0800 807060.


Let's Get it Clear

Jan 2013

After finding itself on the opposite side of the argument from DEFRA over Keith the seal, the Angling Trust now finds its stance on riparian owners rights to control navigation by canoes at odds with what DEFRA say.

The Angling Trust say

The current position of the law is settled in that no general public right to navigate in non tidal rivers exists in England and Wales.
Anglers Trust Statement

But DEFRA say

There is no clear case law on whether a 'common law right of navigation' exists on unregulated rivers. This is widely accepted to be an unclear and unresolved issue.

DEFRA also said in an unrelated email

We are aware of the work of the Revd. Dr Douglas Caffyn but have not sought or received advice on it nor formed a legal opinion on the validity of his research

Why not?

Perhaps if they did it would help end the lack of clarity on the existence of the common law public right of navigation, end the attitude of the Angling Trust that only the rights of anglers should be respected and pave the way for constructive dialogue on how we can share our rivers in a way that respects the rights and responsibilities of all users while protecting the environment that all river users value so highly.


Changing your mind

Jan 2013
When the facts change, I change my mind. What do you do?

John Maynard Keynes

The Angling Trust change their mind too.

When they learned that a seal was in the River Severn and eating fish (as seals will) they applied for a licence to shoot it. Faced with an upsurge of public opinion and a petition to save the seal the AT continued to demonise the seal and the Environment Agency for not taking action to move the seal from their river.

Then, as public opinion against their attitude continued to build, they changed their mind. They urged others to sign the petition and they withdrew their application for a licence to shoot the seal.

What does DEFRA do?

When the Rev. Dr Douglas Caffyn undertook extensive research (enough to be awarded a Master of Law degree and a PHD on its basis) to show that DEFRA's interpretation of the law concerning the Public Right of Navigation on Rivers was wrong they did nothing!

When a petition to the House of Commons was submitted on the basis of Dr Caffyns research, asserting that there had been an historic PRN, that it had never been ended by legislation or exercise of statutory power and therefore still exists, DEFRA ignored the evidence and made observations which completely failed to address the issues.

And now, in response to a Freedom of Information request from Doug Dew (a supporter of River Access For All) they have confirmed that they...

are aware of the work of the Revd. Dr Douglas Caffyn but have not sought or received advice on it nor formed a legal opinion on the validity of his research.

Shame on you DEFRA! This concerns the public rights of every citizen in England and Wales.

You make regular statements concerning the publics' right of access to our rivers but do so from a position devoid of legal opinion "either by internal or external lawyers".

The Research by Rev. Dr Caffyn provides totally convincing evidence of the existence of a public right of navigation on all rivers that are physically capable of Navigation.

The facts have changed DEFRA! It's time to change your mind!


It was a Simple Enough Question but Not Answered

Dec 2012

Once again the government play silent when asked a simple question

The Petitioners therefore request that the House of Commons urges the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs to adopt a policy for navigation on unregulated watercourses which is consistent with current legislation or explain by what authority the Department holds a contrary policy

It was a simple enough question but one that Owen Paterson, Secretary of State for the Environment, Food & Rural Affairs chose not to answer. Douglas Malpus's Petition to the House of Commons had asserted that there had been a public right of navigation on all rivers between Magna Carta and the 1472 Act for Wears and Fishgarthes and that as such could only be extinguished by legislation or exercise of statutory power.

Mr Paterson's side stepping of the question seems to confirm that there is no such legislation and, consequently, is a public right of navigation on all rivers in England and Wales.

However the rest of his statement makes it clear that his policy is to ignore this. The policy of his Lib Dem partners however is to introduce a new statute enshrining the public right of navigation as in the Land Reform (Scotland) Act, 2003 (See their manifesto commitment "Liberal Democrats will:Increase the general right of access to the countryside along the lines of the model introduced by the Liberal Democrats in Scotland" - 2010 Liberal Democrat Manifesto, page 81.)

He also ignores the views of the 2011 Red Card to Red Tape Report (commissioned by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport Researched & Written by The Sport & Recreational Alliance) which said "DEFRA should introduce a statutory right of access in England and Wales for un-powered craft to inland water for recreational purposes. This system of rights and responsibilities should be based on the Scottish Outdoor Access Code." (see page 201) and the Select.

No agreement either with The Select Committee of the House of Lords on Sport and Leisure who said in 1973, "The legal question of rights of way over water must be settled. A number of different legal interpretations of this right of way have been referred to in evidence and it is time for these to be resolved."

As an advocate of resolving issues by agreement we are beginning to see how it works Mr Paterson. You tell us what you want, making no reference to the law or the views of others outside anglers and landowners and everyone else has to agree - just like on our rivers!


Why does Richard Benyon continue to encourage angling groups to believe they have a veto over navigation?

Dec 2012

The Angling Trust have issued a statement quoting an interview with Richard Benyon, Parliamentary Under-Secretary for Natural Environment, Water and Rural Affairs in which Mr Benyon says


Will you rule out a statutory 'right to paddle' for canoeists?

Answer by Mr Benyon.

I want to be really clear about this. While we want more people to get out and enjoy activities in the countryside they must be complimentary. There are plenty of places to canoe where it is appropriate and others where it is not. There will be no change to our policy of supporting voluntary access agreements as the only way forward. Anglers and fishery owners spend a lot of time and money caring for our rivers and streams and their rights deserve to be respected

If Mr Benyon wants to be really clear perhaps he should start by clarifying when, where and how the historic right of navigation on all rivers was ended. Mr Justice Lightman (Josie Rowland v Environment Agency. 2002. Case No: HC 0102371) said "Public Right of Navigation may only be extinguished by legislation or exercise of statutory powers ..." and neither the Angling Trust or Mr Benyon have made any suggestion as to which piece of legislation or exercise of statutory powers was responsible. This is the subject of Douglas Malpus's Petition to the House of Commons, recorded in Harsard on 13th November 2012 and to which there has, so far, been no response.

Until this question is answered, Mr Benyons words will be seen by many canoeists as contributing to the on-going lack of harmony on many of our rivers rather than promoting a solution. Mr Benyon and the Angling Trust need to accept that the rights of anglers and fishery owners that need to be respected do not include the right to extinguish public rights of navigation.

Only then can there be truly constructive moves towards a sensible balancing of the rights and responsibilities of all concerned.

In the meantime the Angling Trusts stance brings out the worst in some anglers which illustrates the precise problem that has to be addressed.

Lance Buckle

Or just have a rod with a 3 oz lead to hand for when they come past!!!!

Bryan Mfe Price

I found big spinners and 50lb line works well cast over the top and pull hard

Roger Tanner

You mean a catty with AAA in?

Mark Brooker

maggots do the job nicely, and no worry over being convicted for abh!

All the above comments are from the Angling Trust facebook page dated 14th December 2012. Anglers Trust Facebook Page


River Access for All Shop open

Dec 2012

The river access for all Shop is now open

River Access for All are proud to offer a variety of promotional items. All profits from the sale of these items go toward the upkeep and promotion of the campaign.

River Access for All shop


Paul Heiney, presenter of Countrywise on ITV, and a canoeist

Dec 2012

Paul Heiney, presenter of Countrywise on ITV, has signed up as a supporter of River Access For All.

Over a few decades we have seen enormous progress in giving each and every one of us access to all parts of the countryside. Where once we were barred, we are now free to roam the hills and fells, the moors and the Dales. It has been a real revolution.

But there is one important part of the rural scene which remains closed to us, and that is our beautiful river network.
As a canoeist I know all too well the unique view of the landscape that comes from quietly and thoughtfully paddling our rivers, doing no damage to the environment and causing no disturbance to others.
Yet despite the lightness of touch that this sport brings to the countryside, there remain many miles of river where we not allowed to paddle. The reasons can be complex but the solution should be simple - the waterways are for all to enjoy, and the law seems to agree.

We have shown that we can live alongside other rivers users, such as boaters and anglers. We are one of the most peaceful sports imaginable, and all we ask is to be allowed to quietly paddle through some of Britain's best landscapes. Can it be too much to ask?

Paul Heiney, presenter of Countrywise on ITV, and a canoeist

River Access For All is delighted to welcome Paul Heiney as our latest supporter.

A DVD set of Paul's ITV Anglia series "Secret Rivers" is available from Old Pond Publishing at £24.95 Click here to visit Old Pond Publishing


World's Foremost Extreme Kayaker supports River Access For All

Nov 2012

Shaun Baker, the world's foremost extreme kayaker, has signed up as a supporter of River Access For All.

Shaun holds 4 world records for paddling off huge waterfalls, down seemingly impossible gradients, and even the "Land Speed Record" for a kayak (on snow!).

It's great that you guys are fighting this corner for all us canoeists and kayakers - we really do appreciate it!

The right of navigation on our waterways is fundamental to the very existence of our sport.

Live and let live..

Let's all enjoy this natural resource & make friends with those we meet along our way.

Having boated freely around the world & met many wonderful people on my journeys, I live in hope that one day our rivers here back home can be enjoyed in the same uncomplicated way.

Shaun Baker

We appreciate your support, Shaun - and the support of the hundreds of others that are signing up as supporters of River Access For All.


Is DEFRA Acting Against the Will of Parliament?

Nov 2012

It may have been a long time ago but it seems clear to us that the 1472 Act for Weirs and Fishgarthes clearly recognised the public right of navigation.

Shaun holds 4 world records for paddling off huge waterfalls, down seemingly impossible gradients, and even the "Land Speed Record" for a kayak (on snow!).

Whereas, by the laudable Statute of Magna Carta, among other Things, it is contained That all Kedels by Thamise and Medway, and throughout the Realm of England, should be taken away, saving by the Sea-banks, which Statute was made for the great Wealth of all this Land, in avoiding the straitness of all Rivers, so that Ships and Boats might have in them their large and free Passage...

Mr Justice Lightman (in the case Josie Rowland v Environment Agency. 2002. Case No: HC 0102371) said

Public Right of Navigation may only be extinguished by legislation or exercise of statutory powers or by destruction of the subject matter of PRN e.g. through silting up of the watercourse.

So it seems reasonable to ask the House of Commons which statute or exercise of statutory power DEFRA had in mind when they formulated the policy that navigation should only take place subject to voluntary access agreements with landowners and angling groups who don't volunteer to agree.

That's essentially the question posed by Douglas Malpus of Southport in his one man petition to the House of Commons.

It will be interesting to see DEFRA's response. Will they

•  Identify the statute or exercise of statutory authority?

•  Concede that there is no such statute or exercise of statutory authority and therefore the public right of navigation still exists?

•  Dodge the question with evasion and obfuscation?

•  Introduce new legislation like the Land Reform (Scotland) Act, 2003 to confirm that there is a public right of navigation which can be responsibly exercised subject to an outdoor access code as in Scotland?

Click here to see the petition


Talking Rubbish

Nov 2012

Canoeing is an environmentally benign activity. But increasingly canoeists are a positive force for protecting and cleaning up the damage done to our environment by others.

A group of canoeists from Glasbury Canoe Club joined forces with other river users at a clean up event on the River Wye, organised by Keep Wales Tidy and the Brecon Beacons National Park.

With the help of the ingenious "skipamaranv" they removed 78 bags of rubbish and 15 tyres from a stretch of the River Wye.

A similar event, supported by the Environment Agency recently took place on the Rivers Tavy and Dart in Devon and was well received by many members of the public who recognised and applauded the efforts of the canoeists in cleaning up the river for the benefit of the public at large.

We fully support these two clean-up events and are more than happy to supply volunteers with the equipment they need to do an excellent job. Rivers are incredibly important and valuable and we should all do our bit to help keep them clean and healthy,

Mike Maslin for the Environment Agency.

Unexpectedly however one local angler was so incensed he wrote to the Western Morning News and his MP condemning the good work. The newspaper reported

Mr Mountjoy said the incident had highlighted the problems caused by canoeists and said the Environment Agency had endorsed a "mass trespass". He said the sport of canoeing on inland waters "clearly needs regulating much the same as angling is already controlled" and he added that he was stepping up a campaign to achieve that.

The Environment Agency dismissed Mr Mountjoy's criticisms.

Sadly Mr Mountjoys attitude seems to reflect the attitudes of those diehard angling groups who disagree with our view that rivers are a precious public resource which should be enjoyed and cherished by all.

Fortunately, most reasonable people will disagree with him.

The Western Morning News reported the Environment Agency's reaction.

The spokesman said there were "clear environmental benefits" to be gained from the actions of the volunteers, who often removed items such as fishing tackle left by anglers. He also said there was "little evidence" that fish would have been disturbed as salmon normally spawn on the Tavy from around Remembrance Sunday through to mid-January, while the clean-up took place at the very start of the spawning season. "Importantly, fish tend to spawn at night. The clean-up took place during the day," the spokesman added.

It's time the government resolved the conflicting views of the various groups using our rivers and create the situation where we can all engage positively in working together to protect our rivers as a valuable national asset to be shared and enjoyed by us all.


MP intervenes in Barbed Wire Case

Oct 2012

Tim Farron, MP for Westmorland and Lonsdale and President of the Liberal Democrat Party has intervened in the dispute concerning the barbed wire placed across the River Kent, which is frequently paddled by Canoeists.>

In reply to an email raising concerns about this hazard which appears to have the sole objective of deterring canoeing, Mr Farron has written to the police asking for immediate action to remove the hazard.

Previously the police had investigated the concern with the local farmer and the golf course where the hazard has been placed and had indicated that a record of the complaint would be placed on file - an entirely inadequate response.

See details of the incident and subsequent action here. Read more.

The Westmorland Gazette have carried this story.

Westmorland Gazette

The newspaper reported that the police had been told that the barbed wire had been washed into the river "during the recent increase in river levels and flooding".

We suggest you look at the photos and decide for yourself if this is a credible explanation.

The Gazette also reports "Once the owners of the golf course were aware of the danger it caused to people using the river, they removed it immediately."