Access to Inland Waters

Afonydd Cymru (AC) recognises that there is increasing demand to use Wales’s inland waters for all forms of recreation and during the pandemic there has been increased participation by paddlers, anglers, outdoor swimmers, and walkers. The positive effects of accessing green and blue spaces upon people’s mental and physical wellbeing is being increasingly evidenced. Afonydd Cymru wants to work with all partners to support initiatives that enable people to enjoy these spaces sustainably whilst recognising the rights and needs of all stakeholders.

Historically, individual Rivers Trusts have helped to set up Access Arrangements to facilitate paddling on certain rivers where there is no existing Right of Navigation. These arrangements exist on the Rivers Usk, Wye and Dee and owners have granted access during agreed seasonal periods and access arrangements and facilities have been established by local Rivers Trusts.

In 2018, Welsh Government asked Natural Resources Wales (NRW) to explore ways to increase access to Wales’s rivers and lakes and an Access to Water Subgroup was formed to advise. This group focussed on finding ways of facilitating increased access for anglers and paddlers whilst safeguarding the rights and needs of all users and land and riparian owners. This included recognising that access to water requires management and incurs a cost for maintenance, parking and facilities which should be met by all recreational users of the river. Afonydd Cymru was represented on this Group and endorsed the recommendations of a report which was submitted to the Minister in 2020. To date, the recommendations of this report have not been progressed.

More recently, there has been increased demand for wild swimming and the call for designated Inland Bathing Waters. This has further highlighted the long standing and damaging impacts of agricultural pollution and unconsented sewage discharges on both the ecology and water quality of our rivers. Afonydd Cymru’s campaigning to prevent such pollution is key to ensuring the necessary water quality to carry out safely this activity and that of other water users as well as to protect our wildlife.