We at British Canoeing were recently contacted by the Environment Agency regarding portage points on the River Ouse in Sussex, at the Barcombe Mills site. After various assessments carried out by the Environment Agency, it has been advised that one of the portage points, and the areas immediately upstream and downstream of the flood defence gates, and other structures should not be used. This is due to safety concerns, due to the fluctuating and unpredictable water flows that can be caused by the infrastructure here. We have accepted this advice and would add that portaging at this mid-location point is not easy and can only be used at certain states of the tide.
The image below shows the area in red subject to the Environment Agency’s review. The blue squares highlight portage/access points, with the central blue square the one being removed. Please note the other two portage points are still in use.
These changes do however bring with them a positive outcome as because of this, the upstream portage point will be improved, maintaining and improving access for paddlers to the river. The current access point, located on Environment Agency land using the natural bank adjacent to a footbridge (marked FB on the map), will be improved with a canoe landing stage provided by the Agency.
Whilst highlighting this area, British Canoeing would like to address some rumours regarding the banning of paddling on the non-tidal section of the river at Barcombe Mills. We have heard from local paddlers that they have been told by people in the area (not by Environment Agency officials) that paddling could be ‘banned’ through the site. The Environment Agency have confirmed the only proposals to restrict canoeing will be in the immediate vicinity of the weirs and sluices at Barcombe Mills. The Environment Agency has posted information for the restricted area on the public notice board at Barcombe Mills for all to be aware that no further restrictions will apply.
The only change is to the central access point, which is also on Environment Agency land. This happened only due to concerns it was potentially dangerous for paddlers to use. The River Ouse is tidal below Barcombe Mills, and rights of navigation upstream are protected by an Act of Parliament in 1790. We are therefore pleased to be able to work with the Environment Agency to continue to ensure facilities are in place to enable paddlers to navigate the river in a safe manner.
We hope this post clarifies the current changes that British Canoeing have been advised of by the Environment Agency following their risk assessment of structures at Barcombe Mills. If any paddlers receive any advice from local stakeholders contrary to this statement please contact us via [email protected].