There will not be anarchy

Charles Clover declares himself to be a canoeist, in addition to a keen angler, but in his comments in the Sunday Times on the same day of the concluding part of Griff Rhys Jones’s epic journey along the UK’s waterways, he shows his true colours.

What Charles seeks is to limit canoeing on our rivers, a situation helped by the current stranglehold which landowners, farmers and fishing organisations have been able to selfishly maintain over the last few hundred years.

His Times piece hints at such a desire, but in the follow-up interview on today’s Radio 4’s Today Programme he actually states it.

“The Canoeist is a splendid person as long as you don’t have too many of them, or too much canoeing.”

What a pitiful attitude to have, at a time when so many others are fighting to increase participation in sport. We have the Olympics coming to London in 2012, which offers a unique opportunity. We desperately need to increase the number of young people in particular who are engaged in sport, when societal trends and defective policy have resulted in years of decline in participation, if we are to avert a large-scale public health crisis in years to come.

As I’ve stated before, canoeing is not only a great form of exercise, but is relatively cheap to take part in (important in a recession) and gives paddlers a greater appreciation of the waterways and coastlines along which they paddle, and of the effects of human behaviour upon these natural ecosystems.

Far from damaging the environment, greater participation in canoe sport is beneficial to individuals, society and the environment itself. Confining paddlers to only a third of the navigable rivers in England and Wales not only limits participation, but also results in increased pressure on those rivers which do allow it. Griff sums this up well at the end of the Today piece, saying of canoeists,

“If they were spread more evenly around these miles and miles of river, then they would barely be seen at all”

Charles may well be a canoeist as well as an angler, but his views on canoeing echo his general sentiment on rivers – he wishes to keep it for himself rather than sharing it with others.