There is an ongoing argument in the UK between paddlers, who want to paddle anywhere they like, and landowners and anglers, who say they cannot.

The situation regarding river access is mixed up in outdated and illogical River Access Laws. The current position is laid out with riparian ownership, maintaining that the owner of the river bank owns the water to the halfway point across the river and its bed. This has led to a situation that the majority of water in the UK is private with no right to roam. 

Historically the common people were given the river land in the Magna Carter but subsequent legislation reduced our current access to just 3% for paddling, swimming, or wading.

The fishing lobby is keen to maintain their interests and consequently, this is not an open and sensible debate with plenty of ‘smoke and bluster’ about paddling harming fish stocks. There is open access in Scotland, ironically one of the best fishing locations in the world.

Top Tip: A license from British Canoeing will provide you with permission to paddle the canals and waterways. Wherever you paddle leave only bubbles, no trace at all and be considerate.

River Access For All

Their objective is simple. Paddlers, swimmers, and others should be able to enjoy the pleasures of our rivers through river access. You can sign up at


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