The “Law” of Navigation

In the last ten years I've been trying to understand why Wales and England have such a unique situation with regard the public using rivers and lakes that aren't tidal. When I started out the commonly held doctrine was that all inland water is
In the last ten years I’ve been trying to understand why Wales and England have such a unique situation with regard the public using rivers and lakes that aren’t tidal. When I started out the commonly held doctrine was that all inland water is “owned” by someone. However, dig a bit and its pretty clear that the water is owned by no-one, just like wild brids and fish belong to no-one. If the water was owned, every flood would lead to the downstream neighbours seeking compensation from the upstream owner. The early law, or at least the “charter” laying out the intention of the Law, the Magna Carta, confers a Right to enjoy the waters. Despite many parts of this document being repealed, the one relating to Navigation is still in force today. There is a well developed history that indicates that this was observed until a Humphry William Woolrych wrote a treatise in 1850 on the Law of Water. In this he held the opinion that there is no Public Right. However, in Law, nowhere in statute is Navigation prohibited. Academic research papers today argue strongly that Woolrych made some significant errors in his logic. This is currently unchallenged. In fact those countries that formed their own legal system from the basis of English law (like America) hold true to the original intention of law. All of these were prior to Woolrych. In the UK, in 1976, there is a notorious piece of case law Rawson vs Peters. In this case, a canoeist was paddling on a piece of water that an angling club chose to argue it “owned”. The angling club brought a trespass case against the canoeist citing damages to their fishing rights. Unfortunately the canoeist did not turn up in court, and without any defence Lord Denning had no choice but to awarded nominal damages (50p) to the angling club on the grounds of trespass. This piece of case law is now the one piece of law upon which the argument that inland water is not Navigable (swam, canoed, rowed, paddled, etc) by the Public. What is often overlooked though, is in his direction Lord Denning refused to grant an injunction restricting the canoeists right to Navigate. What this single peice of case law actually says, therefore, is that without providing a defence to trespass Denning had no choice but to award damages but, and this is the pivotal piece of information, he would not control Public Navigation. I’ve read lots and lots of old Railway Acts and Highways Acts (pre Woolrych) that make clear that bridges should “have a span that allows the passage of lighters” this to me is indicative of the intention in law to allow Navigation. Lighters were cargo carrying barges and the construction of these is evident along many inland rivers way, way above the tidal limit. There is anecdotal evidence that Navigation was taken by farmers floating bales of wool down rivers, families using the rivers as modes of transport and many recreational events centred around major water courses. The indication is that this was taken as of Right. Even in living memory there are accounts of this being the case until someone holding fishing rights asserted it was “their” water alone. I’d also question why for example, on canals and the Thames that angling clubs don’t control the Navigation rights. I accept that these waterways have explicit laws permitting Navigation, but the title deeds I’ve seen for fishing rights are always silent on this area. By now the entrenched, passionate opinion of the Law by those with game fishing rights has much acceptance. Those that hold or are influenced by very lucrative fishing rights argue they control Navigation and those that use the water don’t believe that the Navigation is controlled by those with angling rights. Financially, it is a David and Goliath argument. It is a sweeping generalisiation, but most fishing clubs with game fishing rights are very well financed, often underwritten by a membership of wealth. Those that want to go splash in the water, largely don’t want an argument and represent themselves. As such, many can be easily intimdated by a solicitors letter. As the number of people wanting to enjoy the outdoors increases the 1976 position is questioned more and more. As the discussion goes into more and more detail I can’t but think that this argument, this battle line, is one drawn on very shaky ground. There are some, in my view, very questionable statements being made by some riparian owners. These are increasingly gaining interest from modern day legal commentators and these tests will inevitably help redefine case law. The general Public and Governments of England and Wales now buy into a commonly held view which may not actually have foundation. There is a lot at stake. But that is only my opinion.    

Prizes and Events

Its been a funny month, frantically busy at work, lots of miles in a van, but not as much training as I would like. Really pleased to receive my prize from Trail Running Magazine for the video I posted on YouTube. See my blog post for the video. The rucksack I got sent is the TNF Enduro rucsac. My immediate thought was that technology and design has come along way since I bought my last running rucsac. Even unladen the sac is stable, close fitting and super light. I decided to load it up and give it a long run whilst I was out searching for my
Its been a funny month, frantically busy at work, lots of miles in a van, but not as much training as I would like. Really pleased to receive my prize from Trail Running Magazine for the video I posted on YouTube. See my blog post for the video. The rucksack I got sent is the TNF Enduro rucsac. My immediate thought was that technology and design has come along way since I bought my last running rucsac. Even unladen the sac is stable, close fitting and super light. I decided to load it up and give it a long run whilst I was out searching for my “wall” more about that in a bit! I headed out, up through Coed y Brenin and out on to the moors by Trawsfynydd, I mixed the route up with a bit of road and a bit of trail and the sac was easily adjustable. I struggle a bit with the mesh pockets on the side of the sac, but this is my range of motion issues from kayaking, throwing and crashing bikes and not a big criticism of the sac. I’m keen to see if I can get a front pack to fit onto this as that will sort my carrying issues out for Marathon des Sable. Like my blog about the Salomon XR Crossmax trainers, the biggest compliment I can give the bag is that I didn’t notice it. I’ve been trying out various bits of nutritional stuff to try and help me out. Since Trail Marathon Wales in June, and the cramps I got after about 20 miles, I realised I’ve got to get my feeding strategy right. I’ve been trying electrolytes from Shotz – http://shotz1.com/ that I find pretty tasty and easy to glug down. They definitely get into the system quickly and I think keep me going longer. I’m trying to sort some energy gels that I find easy to get down. I’ve tried a few over the years and I don’t enjoy them but they definitely work. First of all I wanted to know where my “wall”is now I’m a bit older. The wall is effectively where all the stored energy (glycogen) in your muscles runs out and the body struggles for an energy pathway. Knowing where this point is helps inform you what your feeding strategy needs to be in longer races. I do things the simple way, to find my wall I skipped brekkie, only took a bit of water and went out running. My track is here. From 35km on I knew I was coming close to feeling the effects, and then at 37km it came at me like a steam train. My vision distorted, I started struggling with co-ordination and in my “Mary had a little lamb” voice check my speech was definitely not clear. I got home, blithered around the kitchen making some self made isotonic 50:50 Orange Juice and Water with a few tablespoons of sugar and a pinch of salt. Glugged this down with some crystalised Pineapple and felt normality return. I now know that when I’m relatively well prepared I can deal with 30km without extra fuelling. Hope I can stretch that out a bit! That run was the third day of the Strava Speedgoat 50km challenge. The aim was to run 50km in three days in “celebration” of the trail race in the states. I was pretty chuffed to rack up 79km and finish the challenge in 15th (out of 1282). Just heard that we’ve definitely got a place at the Original Mountain Marathon, and before then I’ve got the Helly Hansen “Beauty and the Beast” trail marathon in late September. For someone who isn’t mad keen on races its looking good. I’m also hoping this year to finish all of the Meirionydd winter series fell races for the first time. I often managed one or two but never the whole series. Finally, a quick update on 2012 miles in 2012, logged 1327 Miles so far. Starting to feel like it should be possible to get back on track. I’ve caught up from my month and a bit off so pretty chuffed. Head back down and on with life.