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Clear Access, Clear Waters celebrates second anniversary

Tile 2 Cacw

Access and protection of the special places we paddle is fundamental to our enjoyment of being on the water. We all need safe, clean and accessible places to go paddling. 

The Clear Access Clear Waters Charter was developed by the paddlesport community and partners to make a clear case for fair, shared, sustainable open access on all our waters. 

This year COVID-19 has turned all our lives upside down and the cessation in paddling activity had a huge impact not only on  our organisation, but the outdoor recreation sector as a whole.

The summer lockdown brought restrictions that inhibited our freedom to participate in many of the activities that we normally take for granted. With opportunities to exercise limited, the pandemic brought into sharp focus just how important it is for the public to have easy access to green and blue space. The public began to explore their local area in new ways, which led to tens of thousands of people taking to the waterways for the first time.

With more people participating in paddlesport,  our calls for Government to address the inequity in access to water in England have been significantly strengthened. Not since the end of the Great Wars have people so desperately needed our countryside, both green and blue spaces, for health and wellbeing benefit. The case for fair, shared, sustainable open access to water has never been louder.

Since Clear Access Clear Waters was launched in Parliament in November 2018, the Places to Paddle team have made huge strides, and 2020 has been no exception. Here are just a few highlights…

Championing the case for fair shared sustainable open access for all

In 2018, we pledged to:

Champion the case for fair, shared, sustainable open access on and along inland waters to be confirmed in law”

We did:

At a time when a general election and Brexit was anticipated to be the all consuming political agenda, along came Covid-19. The pandemic had a huge impact on our plans for 2020, it affected not only the way we work, but also our political ambitions, including a newly launched petition.  However, while the pandemic created challenges, it also opened up opportunities and work continued behind the scenes on influencing new post Brexit legislation. 

Working closely with other partners in the sector, including colleagues at the Ramblers and the British Mountaineering Council, we undertook a huge amount of work on the Agriculture Bill

The Bill will redefine how landowners will be financially supported once the UK exits the European Union, essentially seeing payment for providing ‘public goods’, including the potential for greater access for the public to enjoy the countryside.

This ultimately led to Lord Addington and Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson supporting 13 amendments to the Bill at the ‘Committee Stage’ which pleasingly led to two hours devoted entirely to addressing the access related amendments that had been prepared. A landmark for British Canoeing’s Clear Access, Clear Waters Campaign. 

Alongside the Agriculture Bill, British Canoeing has been working hard to influence the scheme that will replace the present payment system to farmers. ‘ELMS’ (Environmental Land Management Scheme), defines what farmers will be paid for, so we have been working hard to ensure access infrastructure to water is included. 

British Canoeing has also worked with a coalition of other outdoor recreation partners on the Environment Bill, supporting proposed amendments to improve access to the natural environment.

This Autumn, British Canoeing became part of a coalition, led by Surfers Against Sewage to campaign for  an end to sewage pollution; the #EndSewagePollution Coalition. In November, British Canoeing and a selection of the coalition members handed over a petition to the Secretary of State, which calls for much tighter controls on the discharge of sewage into our waterways.

Preserving protecting and enhancing the health of our rivers

In 2018 we pledged to:

Continue to act to protect and improve the health of our rivers, and will work to protect, preserve and enhance the natural environment. 

We did:

Events have been limited this year which has had a big impact on our planned work with volunteers. British Canoeing continues to take a lead strategic role alongside key stakeholders such as the Angling Trust and Environment Agency to combat invasive species. This has led to the production of a national Floating Pennywort Strategy which will provide guidance to enable volunteers and organisations to develop Catchment Action Groups to combat invasive species.

To ‘test the strategy’ British Canoeing is working on a pilot project on the Thames engaging canoe and angling clubs; along with other pilot projects led by volunteers on the River Stort, Kennet and Medway, all of whom play a key role in the surveillance and management of floating pennywort.

The strategy will deliver the recommendations following the Environmental Audit Committees findings in 2018 and is supported by Lord Gardiner of Kimble (Biosecurity Minister and Under Secretary of State for Defra).

The Team has been working with the Medway Valley Countryside Partnership to produce a guidance document on the removal of floating pennywort and a joint publication on biosecurity at paddling events with Defra, Canoe Wales and the North Wales Wildlife Trust.

Throughout the year we have continued to celebrate the work of our Clear Access Clear Waters Community Champions for their outstanding commitment to raising the profile of paddlesport through their environmental work.

Despite the challenges of COVID-19 over 90 paddle clean ups have been registered this year and 10 canoe clubs have participated in the national Surfers Against Sewage Autumn Beach Clean: Summit to Sea campaign, joining thousands of other ocean activists protecting our seas and rivers from the wave of plastic pollution. 

Inspiring more people to be active outdoors – reconnecting them with the environment

In 2018 we pledged to:

Commit to inspiring more people to be active outdoors; connecting people with their environment and promoting the benefits on mental and physical wellbeing

We did:

We’ve enhanced the information shown on PaddlePoints, providing more information on access points and facilities. We also have a river page and information on licencing.

The Paddlecast podcast series were launched and hosted by Etienne Stott MBE. If you missed them the first time, they are all on the Paddlers’ Portal on the British Canoeing website.

So where next?

Over the next twelve months we will:

  • Continue to campaign for clarity in legislation, once our petition has reached 10,000, we’ll be delivering it to government. 

  • Publish our plans to support a green recovery

  • Support you with paddle clean ups and champion the great work you are doing

  • Provide new support in the fight against invasive non-native species and promoting Check Clean and Dry, so you can help keep your waterways thriving for wildlife and enjoyment.

How can you help us secure fair, shared, sustainable open access for all?

From paddlesports to swimming, rowing to angling, more people than ever before are wanting to enjoy our rivers for recreation. The Covid-19 crisis has brought this into even sharper focus as we all seek space to be physically active for our own wellbeing. The health of our nation is inextricably linked to that of the environment around us.

It is absolutely vital we act now, as one, to secure fair shared sustainable open access on our waterways and actively protect our environment.

Take action to secure fair shared sustainable open access on water. Become a CACW Campaigner here.