The wilds of Lappland were left be hide on the flight to Bristol, and the temperature when I arrived was colder that the Sub-Arctic. In fact the UK had been in the grips of a 4 week cold snap, dry and freezing. My humble accommodations at the prefect Winter paddling Devonshire location on the bank of the River Dart within the National Park, was extremely cold and very uninviting. At least I had White Water Safety and Rescue courses to work on!!!
These course are always fun, running through core techniques for rescue and setting up a number of scenarios within the terrain of advanced paddling, and hopefully whilst learning without the water conditions found on advanced rivers. We also look at safety elements in terms of group dynamics and how a group of paddlers can be more team like, without kayaking being a team sport. Will King’s face as the vertical pin dummy, says it all on this just above 0℃ day.
No sooner than we packed away on the Erme, the heavens opened and our month long cold snap was over. Let the days begin. And the next day, was vintage Dartmoor days. The following 2 weeks have been ace, with lots of paddling, including a favourite, the mighty Plym, which namesake runs into the city on the coast, Plymouth.
On these Winter weekends, Deb Pinniger and myself are normally busy running all manner of courses, these included technique, river leadership and rescue skills weekends. When conditions are good, I really enjoy the days on the water, especially as Dartmoor is made from granite, so the combination of bedrock and round boulders makes for some excellent play features for creek boats. Here we are with some paddlers on a course, firing it up on a nice little grind rock spin spot, great fun for all.
Part of the Winter programme are British Canoe Union, (BCU) qualification and training courses. The BCU has a wide reaching programme of progression for its 25,000+ members, and as you can imagine with such a large membership, making everyone happy is quite the challenge. These days the BCU are overhauling their coaching scheme and although they started this transition well, its all a bit rudderless from the paddling public’s point of view these days. Shame as a lot of effort has gone into the scheme, yet with several good people on the bridge, they will no doubt sail through these choppy waters. I wish them well and hope they continue to listen to what is said out there.
Below, we’re enjoying the easier delights of the Lower Walkham on the western flanks of Dartmoor. A cruiser run into a relatively remote valley with patch work fields, old growth forest and some fine looking granite built houses, a very English scene.
And another very English scene is this gentleman, he and his type can be found anywhere in the countryside, shouting and bullying anyone who will listen about why they are not allowed to be there and that what they are doing is illegal, in fact criminal. Now in all my years paddling, some 26, I have never felt what I was doing is criminal let alone illegal. And after researching this matter for England at University, and have a good comprehension of the legal situation. So when the above gentleman fired it up, I outlined the legal position and he quickly went on to start bullying others why they are not allowed to be there. After several minutes of myself outlining the legal situation, he calms down for a moment, and it is revealed that he simply does not like us and what we are doing and if we got out elsewhere, in fact he shows us where. As it appears he’d be happy as he’ll not actually see us, thus if you don’t see it, you do not need to be bothered with it! A strange position, why doe he not come over and speak normally.
The legal situation in England for access to rivers is at present unclear. The banks of the river are owned by the land owner, and in fact land boundaries are often drawn to the centre of the river bed, yet the water flowing over the river bed is owned by the Crown, ie the state. The Crown makes no claim to access to water, and only charge a fee for extraction. The problem we have in England and Wales, is that to get on the river you should seek the permission of the land owner. Often the land owner will grant permission, yet in some locations there are fishing right to sections of water, other people can own these and probably pay a fee to the land owner, and in turn bear influence on whether the land owner will grant permission to get to and from the river. Its a very foolish situation and unique to England and Wales, where as in Scotland they have seen the good sense to change the law to accommodate the recreational demands of a modern society. In all my travels, there are few water access restrictions, those rare cases are based on conservation demands to very rare nesting birds or time restrictions to allow fishing at both dawn and dust. I would hope we’d get there in the UK, but politically the powers at be seam to be willing to uphold the status quo, in spite of the its ridicules outcomes.
Alas enough, I must get back to this editing.