"The local anglers were not amused at first, but they soon entered into the spirit of things; and most of us swam and canoed before the party ended."

"Revenue streams" by David Hoppit in the Sunday Times, November 3, 2002

Friday 4 February 2011

Canoeing and kayaking on the River Itchen Navigation starts here...

This blog was registered over a year ago, but has finally been given an unintentionally early kick start by an encounter described below, which is taken with permission from the author on the Song Of The Paddle forum.

"A walk with 4 interesting conversations

It was a lovely day yesterday and I was out walking along a public footpath along the Itchen Navigation, I with my open boat and another friend with a kayak.

Three times during the walk we were questioned about it.

The first time was by a river keeper from the local fishing club, who said it would be illegal to paddle . When I mentioned the Navigation acts, he denied the acts were still valid and wouldn't apply to the river sections even if they were, and complained we'd be creating environmental mayhem if we paddled by destroying the banks and silting the river. He then threatened to have us hauled out the water if we were found paddling and that we'd get nowhere along the river. Sadly I did not record the conversation, it would have been useful later on, conspiracy to assault?. The Environment Agency employee who overheard this remarked to my friend that as far as he was concerned we'd be doing less damage than the dogs people let loose and which went in the river (there are dog dips set along the path) and that canoeing has very little impact.

The second was by the owner of a house we were passing, who very civilly spoke to us, letting us know that bit of the navigation was part of his property and we could not paddle, and that the navigation acts were no longer valid owing to a court ruling case in the seventies taken by the Test and Itchen Association, on account of the poor behaviour of a group of canoeists. I said if that were the case, and it did take precedence in law over the acts and ruled out a right of Navigation, then I'd let other paddlers know about it. He couldn't remember details, but he thought that it had been taken by the Test and Itchen Association, and it had been in the local papers.

He also said that the value in his property and the income from the fishing rights in his property fishing (only two rods) was modest but necessary to him, and would be adversely affected by a right of navigation (as has happened in Scotland, allegedly, anyone have any figures for this?). This was a fair enough argument to raise.

He was a great example of how to deal with a potentially contentious issue - polite, civilised and firm in his viewpoint, with good points made to back it up without arguing. A great contrast to the earlier encounter.

A bit later on we came across a police constable coming the other way who wanted a word with us, as concerns had been raised. He might have had to walk some distance to reach us, we were going pretty slowly with all the carrying and conversation we'd had on the way. At least he was aware it was a civil matter,wasn't going to stop us and just asked for our contact details and went on his way. I should have mentioned the threats we 'd received, but I had no evidence . A waste of police time and taxpayers money that he was called out in my opinion, I will try and find out why they thought they should be involved.

We then went home."

There is off-road parking for three vehicles at the single passsage bridge over the Itchen on Kiln Lane.  This is a popular location for walkers of the Itchen Way footpath to park, and care should be taken when portaging past Kingfisher Lodge from Downs Bridge and crossing the road.

"It was an interesting walk through a lovely if somewhat muddy countryside. Didn't see a single fish or angler except on the way back to pick up the car, there were some at the southern water station. Lots of other walkers, many with dogs., but a pig of path to carry an open boat along . Probably won't do it again (be easier to walk it with a kayak, assuming you can take the abuse).

I've not found any reference to the case yet, and I have access to some quite good resources. If I do find it or anyone knows anything about it let me know.

I did look up the price of property and fishing rights - can see why landowners and fisheries wish to keep it exclusive (Type fishing rights for sale into your favourite search page. You'll be surprised). Doesn't excuse threatening behaviour by their employees or members, or preventing people exercising lawful rights of passage where these exist."

Congratulations to the Bishopstoke Fishery employee, who no doubt thought he had been suitably intimidating and authoritative (he did have a couple of young ladies in the background to impress), but failed to recognise that we were carrying our boats to avoid trespass, and who has now generated further debate on the right to canoe and kayak the River Itchen Navigation.