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ShePaddles ambassador on paddleboarding, access and wildlife

Charlotte Ditchburn, a British Canoeing ShePaddles ambassador, feels the holistic benefits of paddling in our blue spaces and wants greater access to them so we can all enjoy our beautiful country.

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Charlotte Ditchburn is a British Canoeing ShePaddles ambassador

“Paddling makes me feel free, free from the stresses of my working week, free from my social commitments and free from any expectations from others,” said the writer and explorer of public rights of way.

“I love the feeling of letting my worries float away as I glide across glass like water, immersing myself in nature, there’s no better feeling.”

Charlotte is very much behind Clear Access, Clear Waters, our campaign for fair, shared and sustainable open access on water for all.

“Working together to raise awareness of the lack of access to waterways in England and Wales is something I’m very passionate about,” she said.

“I love to explore the mountains and moorlands on foot but I have also recently discovered the joys of exploring blue spaces on my paddleboard. This has sparked my ambition to increase the number of places for us all to paddle.”

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Charlotte sharing the experience with her pet dogs

The Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000 opened up open access land for walking, climbing and running but access to inland waterways was left out.

This is something that Charlotte is trying to change as current laws are preventing her exploring more of our waterways.

“I have found finding places to paddle hard, from not knowing what the rights of navigation are on stretches of water, to not knowing where a landowner may come and accost me whilst trying to enjoy a paddle is a big barrier to me getting out,” she said.

“Finding rights of way to access waterways that do have the right to paddle can be difficult too.

 “Discovering routes that are maintained to a standard that allows me to carry my paddleboard down to the water, or routes that provide important links to portage around obstacles, can also be difficult.”

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Charlotte said spotting otters was a great experience

However, despite the issues, Charlotte believes it should not prevent people getting into paddleboarding, kayaking or canoeing, especially when it comes to wildlife.

 “The highlight of my wildlife sightings whilst paddling has got to have been spotting an elusive otter on the Outer Hebrides,” she said. 

 “I’ve spent many hours of my life otter spotting from the land, but it was truly magical seeing one dip and dive in the crystal clear Scottish waters. 

 “On other occasions I’ve seen the blue dart of a kingfisher, [seen] roach and rudd swimming beneath in the river waters and been dazzled by colourful dragonflies. 

 “It’s amazing how wildlife carries on around you as you paddle, if you just take a moment to pause and take in all of your surroundings there will be plenty of activity you may have never noticed before.”

 Charlotte said she has seen wildlife washed up on the shores as a result of pollution and so protecting our blue spaces is something she is passionate about.

Big Paddle Cleanup Website Graphic

British Canoeing shares Charlotte's passion for protecting the environment. We have organised the Big Paddle Cleanup for 4-12th June. Find out how to get involved, here.

You can read more about Charlotte through her website https://prowexplorer.com/ and on instagram https://www.instagram.com/publicrightsofwayexplorer/