Following a long campaign by canoeists to obtain unrestricted access to inland waters, the Sustainability Committee of the Welsh Assembly Government (WAG) held an inquiry during 2010 and produced a report with a number of recommendations. Amongst other things, the SusComm report confirmed the legal position as follows:
- “The public right of navigation that exists on tidal waters does not apply to non-tidal waters, and consequently there is no general common law right of public navigation either in non-tidal rivers, or on inland lakes.”
- “Unless a public right of navigation exists, or the owner of the river bed, and/or owner of the fishing rights where appropriate has given permission, then anyone who travels along the stretch of water is committing trespass.”
Ministers have urged riparian owners and those who control fishing rights to enter into voluntary access agreements with canoeists and have indicated that, if there is little progress in making inland waters available for paddlesports, they will consider changes to the law. They have however made it clear that they support access arrangements which involve payment of a reasonable fee, for example “where club-based facilities are subject to membership or obtaining permits”.
Against this background the Society decided at a general meeting in September 2010 to create a canoe section, which would allow members to engage in paddlesports on club waters at times when it would not conflict with fishing and in ways which will not disturb migrating and spawning fish.
Members at the general meeting decided that canoeing members should be subject to the same sort of arrangements as fishing members, who pay membership subscriptions and have to comply with rules designed to protect the facilities and the interests of other members.
We own or control most of the fishing in the River Tawe from Ynysmeudwy downstream to Morriston. We intend to allow canoeing members to use those waters where we are the owners or where riparian owners have given us permission to allow canoeing.
The uppermost boundary of our water is the Cwmdu Brook, Ynysmeudwy. Then downstream both banks, to the upper limit of the Inco Recreation Ground. From the lower boundary of the Inco Works downstream both banks to the Beaufort Weir, Morriston, EXCEPT FOR:
- water on the left bank between Clydach and Ynystawe owned by Ynystanglws Farm; and
- water on left and right banks above Tir Canol bridge owned by Ynysforgan Farm.
The maps on our Fishing page show where we have fishing rights.
If we receive applications from prospective canoeing members, we’ll provide maps showing those stretches where canoeing will be allowed.
The rules which will apply to canoeing on our waters are as follows:
- Paddling is allowed:
- during the fishing season (3rd March to 17th October) – only when the river level is above 1.5 metres on the gauge at Ynystanglws;
- outside the fishing season (18th October to 2nd March) – only when the river level is above 0.6 metres on the gauge at Ynystanglws.
- NB that online level indicators are updated infrequently. Levels must therefore be established by actual inspection of the gauge at Ynystanglws.
- Except in emergency, access and egress are allowed only at the points shown on the map provided.
- Except in emergency, paddling is only allowed in a downstream direction and obstructions such as weirs must be passed without delay in order to minimise disturbance of migrating fish.
- Members must avoid disturbance of fish at or migrating to spawning areas and must observe any guidance about this given by Society or Environment Agency bailiffs.
- Members must wear the means of identification provided when paddling and, when requested by a bailiff appointed by the Society, must produce their permit for inspection.
- Members must avoid damaging gates, trees, hedges etc. All gates must be closed. No litter to be left on banks. No fires allowed. No dogs to accompany members onto the water.
- Members must also comply with any other relevant legislation.