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Canoe protest over river access

17 June 07 15:00 GMT

Canoeists have staged a protest at the Welsh Game Fair to highlight what they say is a lack of access to Welsh water.

For four years, canoeists have staged exhibitions at the event in Gelli Aur, near Llandeilo, but have now been told they cannot use the River Tywi.

They claim the decision by the county's fishing federation was in response to their pleas for more rivers to be open.

But the federation called the protest a "puerile public display" and "a cheap stunt".

Members of the Amman Valley Paddlers' Club took part in Saturday's protest, which was supported by the Welsh Canoeing Association.

Paddlers' club secretary Craig Jones said: "We've been going there for four years and we've done a lot of good work.

"We've always been on good terms - this year we have been told we can't go on the river. It's unfortunate."

He said the peaceful protest was aimed at highlighting restrictions canoeists and other water users faced.

"There is very little access across Wales - one or two rivers have access agreements - the situation is awful for all river users."

The Carmarthenshire Fishermen's Federation said it appreciated some local canoeists were aggrieved.

But in a statement, it added: "If they had reacted properly in a more reasonable manner, then we are confident that an acceptable resolution could have been achieved without resort to such a puerile public display.

"It is obvious to us that they have been encouraged and exploited by the Welsh Canoeing Association in a cheap stunt to further their campaign for free access to all inland rivers, which are largely privately owned by angling clubs."

A spokesman for the canoeists rebutted claims the protest would lead to "upset and unnecessary disruption of the game fair".

He said: "We had about 50 people there and lots of children and a broad section of canoeists.

"There was no chanting, no shouting. We were very happy with the way the police handled it."

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