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Last Updated: Sunday, 21 November, 2004, 17:03 GMT
Canoeist demo over river access
Canoe generic
Canoeing events at Llangollen have been cancelled due to access rows
Hundreds of canoeists have protested in Llangollen this weekend to call for greater rights of access to rivers.

A number of canoeing events due to be held there this winter have been called off because of rows over access rights.

Around 500 canoeists from across the UK marched through the town's one-way system while police held back traffic.

Up to 50 also held a protest canoeing event on the River Dee on Saturday but anglers say the access they want could not work.

The canoeists claims that only 2% of rivers in Wales and England are open to the public.

Anywhere else in the world, canoeists would be welcomed as a valued contribution to the local economy
Chris Wright

They want the recently introduced "right to roam" legislation for the countryside broadened to include rivers.

Llangollen was picked for the protest as last winter a number of canoeing events had to be called off because organisers have failed to reach agreement with local angling groups over use of parts of the river.

The canoeists also claim that Llangollen is losing out on thousands of pounds that visitors to the events would spend.

Adventure sports

But the anglers have said that the canoeists are demanding too much and that the kind of access they want simply could not be made to work.

Kayak coach Chris Wright, of Snowdonia-Active, a Welsh Development Agency backed cluster of adventure sports outfits in north west Wales, said most people did not realise that inland waterways were not as open as the rest of the countryside.

He said the adventure sports industry was worth 140m per year to north west Wales alone.

"Those are all environmentally sustainable and low-impact activities. We believe the rural economy is suffering or at least is not as good as it could be.

"Anywhere else in the world, canoeists would be welcomed as a valued contribution to the local economy.

"If you stop and ask people in the street, they probably think that people can go on to the rivers of England and Wales. But they don't understand the complexities of land ownership and fishing rights.

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