Canoeists Explain Access Rights Stretching Back Hundreds Of Years

In November Darley Abbey-based Midland Canoe Club hosted a media team who were recording for BBC Radio 4’s ‘You and Yours’ programme and  also filming for the East Midlands section of the BBC Sunday Politics Show.

Club members and coaches Mark Cresswell-Cast and John Chamberlin were in supporting roles as British Canoeing’s chairman, Professor John Coyne, and its ‘Places to Paddle’ manager Ben Seal (also an MCC coach) were the main interviewees.

The occasion was part of preparation for the national launch of British Canoeing’s new ‘Access Charter & Campaign championing the case for ‘fair, shared, sustainable access on and along English Waterways’, which was also formally launched in Parliament  with a video presentation fronted by adventurer and wildlife presenter Steve Backshall.

And the Canoe Club has some right royal ruling for its case.

Many years ago a senior member carried out extensive research on access rights to the Derbyshire Derwent, and the club has on its wall one of the outcomes of this research in the form of a charter from King John in 1204 – nine years before he agreed the famous Magna Carta which laid the foundations for many rights we still know today.

The salient sentence from this two-page document reads:  ‘And the Derwent shall be open to navigation by the length of a perch on each side of mid-stream.’

The ancient measurement of one ‘perch’ approximates today to five metres which means this ‘navigation’ is a 10m-wide centre-channel throughout the length of the River Derwent, from source to its confluence with the River Trent.  No evidence has yet been discovered that this ruling was ever repealed.

The radio programme was aired on Wednesday November 28nd is available on iPlayer, which the tv excerpt should also be on.